The ‘Scream Queens’ Reality Show, Explained

The ‘Scream Queens’ Reality Show, Explained

The past few decades of horror have given way to some of the most iconic scream queens, from Jamie Lee Curtis to Neve Campbell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and more, but in 2008, a reality TV show set out to find the next big scream queen. Combining America’s Next Top Model-like reality TV with horror, the James Gunn-directed show Scream Queens slashed its way onto VH1 in 2008, giving horror fans the chance to become horror’s next leading lady in the Saw franchise.

First announced in June 2008, Scream Queens went on to premiere on October 28, 2008. The series brought together a group of 10 aspiring actresses all vying for a breakout role in Saw VI, Kevin Greutert’s 2009 installment to the popular horror franchise. Contestants competed in three various tasks – an acting challenge, an acting class, and a director’s challenge – before each episode’s elimination. Saw actress Shawnee Smith, who portrayed Amanda throughout the franchise, and Slither and Guardian’s of the Galaxy director James Gunn served as judge, with John Homa serving as the contestants’ acting coach.

After Tanedra Howard was crowned Scream Queen and won the “breakout role” in Saw VI in the first season, Scream Queens returned for a second outing in the following year. Gabby West was crowned winner and won a role in Saw 3D, the seventh installment in the Saw film series directed by Kevin Greutert and written by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan.

Scream Queens only ran for two seasons, and while it was dubbed “an extremely 2000s series,” looking back on it years later, it faced some criticism. Eliza Janssen wrote for Flicks that “the explicit cruelty and bodyshaming of Scream Queens can’t be denied.” Some of the challenges the contestants competed in had them “eat a piece of fruit as seductively as possible,” with Homa instructing the contestants that “looking sexy onscreen is just as important as looking terrified.” Meanwhile, an opening montage for the show declared that the ideal scream queen must be “vivacious, vulnerable, feminine and bold.” The show also raised eyebrows when, in the debut episode, Smith told one competitor that she wasn’t pretty, but she was good enough to win the week’s Leading Lady. Smith told another contestant that her being pretty made up for her not being talented.

Although a short-lived show, Scream Queens did manage to launch careers. After winning Season 1 and appearing in Saw VI, Howard went on to return to the franchise in Saw 3D: The Final Chapter. She has also appeared in Love… Another Four Letter Word, Reggie Gaskins’ Urban Love Story, Oscar, Laugh Central, Station 19, Good Luck!, and most recently, Keep Me In Mind, per her IMDb profile. West, meanwhile, has credits in The Last Ghost Dancer, Last Night, Friends Forever, Sueprstore, and more, according to IMDb.

Other contestants on the show also found some success. Christine Haeberman, who came in third place in Season 2, appeared on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars as a model of Carmen Miranda, while Season 1’s Sarah Agor appeared as “Brittany” in the 2010 slasher film Hatchet II. Other contestants went on to appear in everything from Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta to the comedy-drama Rosewood.

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