Friday, September 19, 2014

TV Review - Red Band Society (Pilot Episode)

Shows and movies about kids with illnesses seems to be a trend in Hollywood today, and will continue to be one, especially after the success of John Green's The Fault In Our Stars. I started seeing trailers and commercials for this show Red Band Society about a month ago. I didn't know much about it, except that it was developed by Margaret Nagle (writer from Boardwalk Empire) and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. I then looked it up and found out the premise.

"Based upon the Catalan drama series Polseres vermelles, the series is a dark dramedy focused on a group of teenagers living together as patients in a hospital's pediatric ward."

I was interested. A Dark Dramedy, with a decent premise that hasn't been done to death? Count me in. It even had a big name attached to it in one of the lead roles (Octavia Spencer as Nurse Jackson). So when I heard all of this, I was interested.

Then the reviews of the pilot came out.

I was hearing a bunch of mixed opinions. Some critics really dug the show, and some didn't care for it at all. So I almost skipped the pilot. I was gonna wait it out and see if the reviews got better as the season progressed. But late last night, I had the pilot DVR'd, so I said fuck it, and gave it a watch.

I'm all in.

Before I get into my review of the episode, let me just give a quick run down of all the characters in the show.

As soon as the show starts, you realize that the show has a narrator. The narrator is a kid named Charlie (Played by Griffin Gluck). You don't know much about him, except for the fact that he is narrating the whole show while in a coma. You don't know how he got in this coma, although they do reference an "accident" a few times, yet never go into detail, but it's only the pilot so I'm sure that will be slowly revealed as the show progresses.

So the show starts off at a high school where this cheerleader named Kara (Played by Zoe Levin) is at Cheer practice, and is doing some stunts, when she blacks out and falls to the gym floor. Instead of calling 911, all the kids take out their phones and start taking pictures and video and put them on Instagram. Except one girl finally does call 911 and Kara gets sent to the hospital.

Quickly you find out that Kara is a stuck up bitch. No seriously, she is. She is your typical "Stuck up popular cheerleader" type, and while Zoe Levin really has the character down, it sometimes feel a bit to over the top. For the most part though she makes it work.We will get back to her in a bit.

Then the show introduces us to 2 more characters,  Leo and Dash. Leo (Played by Charlie Rowe) is a cancer patient who had cancer in his leg and had to get it removed, so now he is confined to a wheel chair and crutches. Dash (Played by Child Rapper/Actor Astro) has a problem with is lungs. I don't know if its specifically cancer, or if they even go into that, I honestly forget. But anyway, you quickly find out that these guys are the troublemakers of the show, as the first scene they show them smoking weed in a supply closet.

They then get caught by one of the shows main characters, Nurse Jackson. Nurse Jackson is probably one of the best characters so far. She has most of the funny punch lines in the episode, and Octavia Spencer really nails this character down. You quickly see that she is hard on all of these kids, but she does care about them in the long run and only does it to keep them in check.

You then get introduced to a few other characters, Such as Jordi (Played by Nolan Sotillo) who becomes Leo's new roommate and also has cancer in his leg, Dr Jack McAndrew (Played by Dave Annable) who Jordi tracks down because he's the ONLY doctor he wants to operate on him. Then you also have Emma (Played by Ciara Bravo) who has an eating disorder and is an ex lover of Leo's, and then finally you have Nurse Brittany (Played by Rebecca Rittenhouse) who is the new nurse on staff that tries too hard to get along with everyone.

Now that we got all that out of the way, I'll go into my overall thoughts. Pretty much, this episode explains sort of the back story to all the characters, and you find out why they are all in the hospital. They all end up getting together to throw a party for Jordi, who is getting his leg amputated the next day. Thats how they all pretty much get together in this episode. They all get together on the roof of the hospital and they all quickly form a bond with one another. Leo gives each of them one of his many "Red Bands", which are just bands that he kept from each surgery/procedure he has had since he's been in the hospital. Hence the name, "Red Band Society".

The actors on the show are for the most part very solid and all the kids have good chemistry together. The weakest one of the group to me is Nolan Sotillo, who plays Jordi. I don't know if it was just me, but he seemed like he was reading his lines from a script half the time.

Some of the love/sappy stuff is done well, but at times it can seem way over the top. I get that with the audience this is targeting (Teenagers), they have to put that stuff in there, but some of it is just a little too much. They did a good job in this Pilot of giving everyone equal screen time and letting you get to know each characters traits and personality. They did a great job of making these characters feel real and not too over the top.

I won't go too much into some of the stuff that gets revealed in the episode, but the stuff they do with Kara is great. Even with the little time spent in the hospital, she already is starting to reflecting on herself and why she acts the way she does. Plus, things really get put into perspective when she finds out her condition. I already really dig the angle they are going for with her character and can't wait to see how it progresses.

I'm also really interested to see how the Charlie character plays out. I'm guessing he will be in a coma for most of the season (if not the whole thing), but I'm still interested to hear about the accident, and for them to expand on a certain plot point I wont spoil. And Octavia Spencer is great in this show so far. Also really excited to see her character get revealed a bit more.

I honestly can't say much more, as this episode was basically just the set up for the overall show, and also I don't want to spoil anything. Overall, this Pilot episode wasn't perfect, but it was still a great way to start out. The cons are very minor. The over the top love plot lines are noticeable, but everything else surrounding those plot points are so good that you kind of just give it a pass. This did everything a Pilot should do, and did it very well. They got me very interested to see how each character is fleshed out. I will for sure be tuning in every week.