Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pilot Review: Red Band Society

Red Band Society (Fox)
Premiered September 17 at 9pm

This was another show that was available to preview this summer, but busy times and preparations for the wedding didn’t permit me to get to it until the night it premiered. I’ll start off by saying that this show, regardless of what I think about it, perfectly fits Fox’s brand. It has that fitting ensemble feel and a certain childishness about it that makes it appeal particularly to teenagers while offering some accessible points for adults as well. It’s reminiscent in a way of a less ambitious “Glee,” a story about a group of kids just trying to get by in an unusual setting. In that sense, I think it could very well be a hit. If my wife hadn’t so enjoyed the pilot, I doubt I would be returning for another installment. Some of the characters are decent if a bit overdone, like Leo and Emma, while others, particularly evil cheerleader Kara, are painfully irritating and way too over-the-top. I’m also not sure what to make of comatose Charlie, who serves as the series’ narrator and manages to communicate with the patients whenever they end up in the “in-between.” As for the adult cast, we have a recognizable slate of Octavia Spencer, Oscar-winner for “The Help” caught in an all-too-familiar role that’s probably a good fit for her, Dave Annable, who got his start on a short-lived Fox show, “Reunion,” and Griffin Dunne, most recently seen as the Rainmaker on “House of Lies,” as the lone adult patient. This show has the potential to be entertaining, and it’s certainly nowhere near as grating or unbearable as many other shows with similar premises.

How will it work as a series? Setting the show in a hospital means a confined environment for the kids and the likely presentation of many challenges for them to surmount. Additionally, it offers the promise of a revolving door of other patients who come to the hospital for shorter stays to alternately dramatize and trivialize the lives of the residents. There’s plenty of potential for storylines here.
How long will it last? The ratings for the pilot were not great, but it’s hard to know how the show will do when an original episode premieres that wasn’t sampled online for months beforehand. This is the first show that Fox is launching this fall, and while it’s been hard for them to find hits, I think this one would be a positive one in which to invest. At this point, however, I don’t think it’s going to make it.

Pilot grade: B

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