Red Band Society: A Light and Cheesy Take on a Dark Subject

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Not a single person I know has ever called a hospital as a “fun” place. The idea of a prime-time TV show that focuses on the lives of sick kids at a hospital also sounds mildly sobering. But the new FOX TV series Red Band Society aims to change that. The dramedy focuses on a group of teenagers living together as patients in a hospital’s pediatric ward, offering a more light-hearted side of an otherwise serious topic.

The pilot aired on Sept. 17. Here, we met the characters. The series has unique narration: Charlie, a young boy played by Griffin Gluck, is in a coma, but can hear everything that goes on. From his viewpoint, we are introduced to the characters.

  • Octavia Spencer as Nurse Jackson (far left), a hardheaded nurse with an attitude and little patience for troublemakers.
  • Dave Annable as Dr. Jack McAndrew (far right), a doctor who sort of looks like a cross between Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale
  • Nolan Sotillo as Jordi Palacios (in a striped shirt), a newcomer to the hospital who needs to have his leg amputated to stop the spread of his cancer
  • Charlie Rowe as Leo Roth (bottom left), a “veteran” of the hospital who has a knack for getting in trouble. He has cancer and is an amputee.
  • Astro as Dash Hosney (bottom right), Leo’s partner in crime and jokester
  • Zoe Levin as Kara Souders (top center), a mean and prissy cheerleader who has an enlarged heart and will need a heart transplant
  • Ciara Bravo as Emma Chota (right center), a young girl with an eating disorder

As I watched the pilot, I honestly couldn’t help but laugh at some of the jokes. Not because they were funny, though. They were just downright corny. At some points, the actors themselves don’t seem to be able to understand what they’re delivering. Dash Hosney, for instance, seems to have an interest for online lingo. You can catch him saying “awesomesauce”, as well as “buzzkill” in an annoyed teenage voice as he gets busted for smoking medical marijuana. Charlie, the boy in the coma, delivers life lessons like he’s reading out of a storybook. Kara Souders, the cheerleader, is simply just obnoxious (although the director probably initially wants us to hate her, and she does have a change of heart). And Leo, at the end of the episode, hands out his red hospital bands for his numerous surgeries to his new friends (that part was actually kind of sweet). Then he proceeds to ruin the moment by saying “We the few, the happy few, we are a band of brothers”, like they’re the Three Musketeers.

Apparently, critics also had mixed opinions on the pilot. On Rotten Tomatoes, the show currently holds a rating of 59%, with the consensus: “Its premise may be questionable and its lighthearted tone is occasionally overbearing, but Red Band Society succeeds on the strength of its young characters.”

While my initial thoughts on this show are leaning more towards negative, the show deserves praise in some areas. I did enjoy how the series put a positive spin on such a sad topic, and re-humanizes the concept of people living in a hospital. I also enjoyed the concept of Charlie narrating the action, and especially one scene in particular: Kara goes unconscious and has a strange dream where she gets a moment to speak with Charlie. Charlie tells her to tell his dad that the reason he is in a coma is not his dad’s fault. When Kara wakes up, she has a better understanding of what Charlie is going through.

I will probably dig deeper into this series to see if my first impressions are trumped by newer episodes, and I am eager to discover what character development may lie ahead for the members of the Red Band Society.

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