It seems like every channel you flip to today has TV shows that are darker and more edgy than ever before, with plenty of gore, violence and sex. What if you just want to sit down and watch a feel-good show? That’s where FOX’s new fall dramedy Red Band Society comes in.
Yes, this is a series set in a hospital — more specifically, the pediatric ward. But whereas shows like Grey’s Anatomy center on the doctors, Red Band Society, for the most part, centers around the patients.
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Now, you may be thinking, that seems a tad depressing. And while there are storylines about their illnesses and medical issues, that’s not the sole purpose because this show is more than that. It lets us see how these kids live their day to day lives in a hospital — and, frankly, they’re still kids and teenagers, and act as such, despite where they are. There’s a bond with this group that holds everything together.
Let’s start with 16-year-old Jordi Palacios, played by Nolan Sotillo. He’s the newbie. Jordi shows up at Ocean Park Hospital and needs surgery because he has cancer in his leg — and there’s one doctor in particular he seeks out.
Pretty soon, Jordi’s introduced to the other teens: there’s 16-year-old Leo Roth (Charlie Rowe), who appears to be the leader of the group. Dash Hosney (Brian Bradley, aka Astro from The X Factor season 1), also 16, has cystic fibrosis and is Leo’s best friend. Emma Chota, 15, is dealing with an eating disorder. Also new to the hospital is Kara Souders (Zoe Levin), a cheerleader who ends up at Ocean Park after a cheerleading accident.
Twelve-year-old Charlie (Griffin Gluck) is also in the pediatric ward — he’s the narrator of the show and also happens to be in a coma; though, as he puts it, he can still hear and smell everything.
On the adult side, we have Nurse Jackon, played by the fantastic Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer, Dr. Jack McAndrew (Dave Annable), the top pediatric surgeon in the country, and Nurse Brittany Dobler (Rebecca Rittenhouse), who is still pretty new to the hospital.
As I said before, despite the fact that this show is set in a hospital, the teens still act their age, go to school, have crushes on each other, get in trouble — the sort of behavior you would expect from teens. For example, Leo and Dash are caught smoking pot by Nurse Jackson. They try to come up with some lame excuse. But Jackson knows better, and she’s not going to put up with it: “If you’re gonna lie, lie well.”
Check out the below promo to find out more about these characters, with interviews by writer Margaret Nagle and executive producer Steven Spielberg:
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While watching the pilot, I noticed something striking. Red Band Society feels a lot like Glee — if you took out the music and moved it from a high school to a hospital, that is. The show features a lot of stereotypical characters as Glee does. Kara is the typical stuck-up cheerleader, a la Quinn and Santana. Emma is the smart know-it-all (she says she’s destined for greatness — sounds like Rachel Berry, doesn’t it?) who doesn’t smoke or do drugs. Nurse Jackson is definitely brash — I guess you can say she’s Society‘s version of Sue Sylvester, or even Bailey from Grey’s Anatomy.
But what Glee has proven over the past five years is that these characters don’t necessarily stay that way forever. We’ve witnessed their development and gotten to see a deeper level to all of them. Kurt’s not just the stereotypical gay kid. He has layers to him. Sue’s not just the out-of-control cheerleading coach/principal hell-bent on destroying the glee club. She has a softer side. Same with Quinn and Santana.
And when it comes to Red Band Society, I can already tell that we will be seeing the same sort of growth and development with this group of characters. In fact, we already see a bit of it in the pilot.
There are also a lot of great one-liners, especially by Nurse Jackson (see the quote above about lying as just one example). When another nurse says that a patient needs a heart monitor, Jackson replies, “Assuming she has one.” It’s obvious that Octavia Spencer is one of the big draws of this show, and I can’t wait to see everything that she brings to this character over the course of the first season (and beyond, if it’s renewed).
Charlie, as the narrator, says at one point, “Here’s the weird thing about a hospital: you become friends with kids that you’d never know in a million years.” He also says, “Everyone thinks that when you go to a hospital, life stops. But it’s just the opposite; life starts.” This is the heart and core of the show. Red Band Society is not about illness, it’s about this group of teens who end up coming together and bonding in a way that wouldn’t have happened in any other situation. The red bands they wear are a symbol of that bond.
So if you’re looking for a feel-good show to watch this fall, one that has a lot of heart to it and a great blend of comedy and drama, then be sure to check out Red Band Society. It’ll be airing opposite Modern Family, Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU, which is tough competition. But I hope viewers will give it a chance, and I hope FOX will give it a chance as well.
From watching the trailer (which you can see below), I found the show appealing, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it on a weekly basis. The pilot, however, has me on board. So if you’re at all unsure about watching it, then at least check out the premiere and see if you find it as enjoyable as I did.
Will you be tuning in to Red Band Society? Do you think this show has a lot of potential? And how do you think it will do in the ratings?
Red Band Society premieres tonight at 9pm on FOX.
(Image courtesy of FOX)