Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pilot Review: Rise

Rise (NBC)
Premiered March 13 at 10pm

There are shows that come along every once in a while that are authentically inspiring and attain a following taken in by the way in characters on the show are so transformed by radiant personalities combatting difficult circumstances in the show’s world. One such series was “Friday Night Lights,” defining a town’s livelihood by the spirit captured in its high school football games. It’s no surprise that creator Jason Katims would want to create another series like that one after taking a bit of a break for family dramedy with “Parenthood” and “About a Boy.” This show, which is also based on a nonfiction book, “Drama High” by Michael Sokolove, aims to portray a high school that lacks the right kind of enthusiasm and direction and is irreversibly transformed into something great and enduring through the implementation of a boundary-pushing drama program. The problem is that this feels entirely manufactured, employing a similar look to “Friday Night Lights” but a far less effective feel. Part of the woes might come from casting Josh Radnor, best known for being a great straight man on long-running comedy “How I Met Your Mother,” in the lead role, but it has more to do with the fact that the way the school is portrayed doesn’t make it seem genuinely in need of saving, and Radnor’s Lou is so set on being the inspiration that his eventual success is sure to feel self-congratulatory. He also doesn’t have a great handle on his home life, and he’s already in way over his head getting everyone in the play to demand that the show go on as only they want it to. This is a show that feels manipulative in the way it wishes to guide its audience and far from genuine.

How will it work as a series? The students are indeed the only ones clamoring for this show to happen, supported by Lou and Rosie Perez’s Tracey, and they’re going to come up against plenty of resistance in the process of putting it on from all the parents, administrators, and fellow students who just don’t get it. But we already know they’ll be inspired and successful, which makes it more or less enticing?
How long will it last? Reviews are mixed, more positive overall than how I felt after watching this pilot. The ratings were moderately good to start, following an episode of “This Is Us,” the show that’s probably most comparable to it on the air right now. Taking over its timeslot now that the season is over should mean good things, and therefore I’d expect a second season to be ordered soon.

Pilot grade: C

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