THE SERIES "Scream"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday night at 10 on MTV

WHAT IT'S ABOUT An A-lister at Lakewood High is . . . well, you know what happens to her. But whodunit? Surely not sweet Emma (Willa Fitzgerald, "Royal Pains"), or her pal Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus) -- struggling over when or how to come out of the closet. Or Noah (John Karna), or Brooke (Carlson Young) or the new kid, Kieran (Amadeus Serafini). Or . . .

Based on . . . well, you know what.

MY SAY Requisite film geek Noah is, of course, the one explaining how a hugely successful slasher franchise might be adapted to a TV series: "You love [the characters], you root for them," he explains. "So that when they are brutally murdered, it hurts . . . "

He's right -- to a point. What he doesn't say is that the math doesn't add up. One victim each week over a 10-episode season is a high mortality rate, which doesn't give much time to build that emotional bond.

Instead, Tuesday's launch may offer clues of what really to expect: a lot of head fakes, false alarms, crank phone calls and solo walks down dark streets by foolish teens who don't yet realize the kind of danger they're in. Plus, there are some socially resonant story lines and the usual dive into the murky waters of high school psycho-socio-sexual-dynamics.

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"Scream" is exactly what you'd expect. It may also be exactly what you want. Too much gore would curdle this, too little and it ends up feeling like just another day at West Beverly High. With one episode to judge from, the balance feels about right so far.

GRADE B