Monday, September 15, 2014

2014 Pilot Preview: "Red Band Society"

“Ok, it does hurt, but not in the way that you think it will. They give you awesome painkillers for the physical pain. What hurts is not that it’s gone. What hurts is remembering it was ever there. But then with time, that memory stops hurting too.”

“Red Band Society,” based on a Spanish TV property, premieres Wednesday, September 17 on FOX. Thanks to a campaign where FOX made the pilot available for a few days as a reward for fan charitable contributions, I’m brining you an advance review. The pilot was definitely high quality, with engaging, memorable characters. I will not, however, be watching or blogging “Red Band Society” on the regular. It pushes some emotional buttons that I just can’t deal with on a week-to-week basis. I want to encourage networks to make more pilots available to us peons in advance, though, so I thought I’d do FOX a solid and tamp down those emotional triggers just this once. While seeking out more information on “Red Band Society,” I came across a headline about how this and “The Fault in Our Stars” is the type of story teens really want to read/watch. That certainly doesn’t fit teenage me. It would have set off anxiety attacks like nobody’s business. When I was a teen, I preferred MTV (both the videos during the day and Real World and Road Rules at night), the Phillies, and the Flyers.

Like I said, the pilot was very high quality in the character development department. If the series continues at this level, it should be good television in the “eat your vegetables TV” sense that “Friday Night Lights” was. It will tear you apart emotionally on a regular basis if you like that sort of thing. We don’t cover a lot of eat your vegetables TV here at MTVP, because my ethos in running the blog is that since we don’t get paid for it, we should just blog whatever we find fun to blog. “Red Band Society” is about a hospital ward for kids with serious or terminal illnesses. The interactions between the kids are charming, but you can’t call “Red Band Society” fun because, you know, really sick kids. Part of me also questions, in the effort to cut all the “sick kids” seriousness, how realistic the show actually is. These kids have huge, elaborately decorated rooms, have the run of the hospital, and even have a classroom.

Anyway, let’s talk about some of the characters. The show is told through to point of view of Charlie, a kid who has been in a long-term coma following an accident. He still hears everything that goes on in the ward, though, and he is only too happy to tell us about it. He also appears to the other kids when they are unconscious. Leo mentions that Charlie gave him advice when he was under anesthesia for his leg amputation surgery. Brittany speaks to him when she passes out due to her own health condition. Through the episode, we learn that Charlie’s dad was with Charlie when the accident happened, and he was then banned from seeing his son. He pretends to be a music therapy volunteer at the hospital so he can still see Charlie. It’s kind of ridiculous when you think about it too much.

The ring leader of the (conscious) kids is Leo. He’s been at the hospital for a while fighting osteosarcoma, and he has lost a leg in the course of the battle. Leo is smart and driven, but he’s also feeling that teenage urge to live a little. His best friend is Dash, a cystic fibrosis patient who enables Leo’s more rebellious tendencies. Leo’s love interest is a girl named Emma who is in the eating disorders clinic. Can I say again how ridiculous the medical aspect of this show is? The staff in the eating disorders clinic don’t even watch Emma eat all her meals. Another character is able to eat part of Emma’s lunch (because it’s better food, and the other character is spoiled like that) and Emma gets the credit. Leo and Emma had a relationship previously, but they have broken up, and it’s clear that Leo wants to get back together.

Another major character amongst the kids is Jordi. Jordi has osteosarcoma like Leo. He wasn’t supposed to be a patient at this particular hospital. He did some research and found out that Dr. McAndrew (more on him later) is the best, and he wanted to be treated by the best. He goes into the ER and claims to be a patient of Dr. McAndrew. McAndrew is paged, and after a long conversation, agrees to take Jordi on as a patient. Leo and Jordi become roommates, and Leo ends up showing Jordi the ropes of life at the hospital. He kind of regrets it when Jordi and Emma start getting along pretty well. It’s pretty clear, though, that Emma is just hitting on Jordi to make Leo jealous. Leo ends up hosting a big party for Jordi up on the roof of the hospital the night before Jordi is supposed to have leg amputation surgery. I get the sense that while they’ll probably fight over Emma throughout the course of the series, they will always be kindred spirits.

The other major teen character in the show is Kara. She’s a cheerleader who finds herself at the hospital after fainting at practice one day. She’s pretty much the caricature of a high school mean girl, so nobody at school actually likes her very much. She also is a pretty frequent cigarette smoker and drug user. That last characteristic is what caused her to faint. She has an enlarged heart, and she’s going to need a heart transplant sooner rather than later. Thanks to the drug abuse, though, getting a new heart is going to be easier said than done. Kara’s at the hospital for the long haul, and it looks like she’s going to be torn between trying to be the queen bee of her new home and trying to treat others with more kindness.

As for the adult characters, there are three worth mentioning. First there’s Dr. McAndrew. He seems like he could be kind of a womanizer in the “Grey’s Anatomy” mold. Hence the “Mc” last name. Then there’s Nurse Jackson. She’s a little clichéd in the sense that she seems like a hardass, but on the inside, she really cares about the kids on her floor. She puts a lot of thought into roommate pairings, and when Kara puts a sign in her window asking for pizza (she thinks the smell of it might wake Charlie out of his coma), Nurse Jackson has a bunch of pies delivered. There is also Ruben Garcia, an eccentric benefactor to the hospital who lives in the hospital because he is a hypochondriac. He serves as a sounding board and friend to some of the kids.

So if you’re looking for a teen drama that has a good mix of lighter moments and very high stakes (these are all kids with serious medical conditions, after all), “Red Band Society” may be worth a watch. Like I said, I personally don’t think I could deal with the emotional wringer this show is likely to put viewers through, but if you’re a fan of real “eat your vegetables” television, you’ll probably be just fine. The pilot at least put a lot of thought and effort into developing the characters. This gives me hope that it isn’t just meant to be a teen angst-fest. The characters are well-drawn and fully three-dimensional. We can only hope that continues throughout the series.

No comments:

Post a Comment