Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.
The Show: Red Band Society, Fox in the U.S. and Canada, Wednesdays at 9/8c
The Pedigree: Red Band Society comes from Steven Spielberg’s production company and was written and executive produced by Margaret Nagle (Boardwalk Empire, Side Order of Life). It’s based on a Catalan series. Jason Ensler (Hart of Dixie, Cult) directs and is also an executive producer.
The Cast & How You Know Them: The ensemble cast includes Octavia Spencer (The Help), Dave Annable (Brothers and Sisters), Griffin Gluck (Private Practice), Nolan Sotillo (Prom), Charlie Rowe (Neverland), Astro (The X Factor), Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush), Zoe Levin (The Way Way Back), and newcomer Rebecca Rittenhouse.
The Premise: Told from the perspective of Charlie, a young boy in a coma, Red Band Society is a coming-of-age dramedy that follows the lives of teenagers with various illnesses who are living in a hospital long-term.
What Works: I had few expectations going into this pilot and wound up really liking it. I know it’s a cliche, but it made me both laugh and cry, and that’s what I’m looking for in a show. The pilot was genuinely affecting but also really funny in an unexpectedly edgy way, and the acting and writing combined to make me invested in the characters immediately – including some of the adults as well as the teens. The chemistry is great, and I didn’t even mind the love polygon the show seems to be setting up. And hey, I’m always a sucker for a surprise Henry V subplot. I can’t wait to see more.
What Doesn’t: The “narrator in a coma” conceit wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, but it’s still definitely the weakest part of the show for me. Any show about sick kids will have to tread very carefully in order to not fall into fake-seeming sentimentality nor emotional manipulation for the sake of it, and I can’t tell after one episode whether this one succeeds. The kids so far fall into somewhat stereotypical categories – mean girl, cheerleader, etc. – but that’s true of almost all pilots, so I hope their characters will become more complex as the show progresses. And in a long-term sense I’m curious how many hospital-bound plots (focusing mainly on the patients, rather than staff) they can come up with before straining credulity, but that’s a problem for season three or four.
Our Favorite Line: “Your taste in music is so average it hurts me. Why not scoop some vanilla ice cream on your white bread?”
You Might Like This if you liked The Fault in Our Stars or Chasing Life, and if you like some irreverent humor mixed into your tearjerkers.
If You’re Interested: Red Band Society premieres tomorrow, Wednesday, September 17th, at 9/8c on Fox!
(Photo courtesy of Fox.)