“Skeptical” may be an understatement for how I felt going into FOX’s newest show, “Red Band Society.” Riding the wave from summer hit “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Red Band Society” centers around terminally-ill teens who live in a hospital during long-term treatment. According to the show’s producers, the series is reminiscent of cult-classic “The Breakfast Club,” following kids at pivotal points in their lives who create unique bonds in an unlikely place.
Red Band Society
Wednesdays 9 p.m.
The decision to use Charlie (Griffin Gluck, “Private Practice”), a young boy in a coma, as the narrator is an interesting choice, though not entirely convincing in the premiere. While it’s definitely a bold decision by the producers, having a narrator in and of itself seems outdated, as it was a key technique used in ’90s sitcoms. With time, however, the perspective of an omniscient narrator in a story with so many intertwining plots may provide more fluid storytelling. But the producers will need to utilize his position with certainty and decisiveness early on in the show.
“Red Band Society” ’s commitment to delivering inspirational moments is reminiscent of the once great, early seasons of FOX’s “Glee.” The series negotiates the line between sweet and cheesy with finesse, and even when it uses Coldplay as the background music for a montage of touching moments, it did not come off as cloying. That is saying something. The attachment to characters and the effective editing allows viewers to overlook such a clichéd music choice.
With Octavia Spencer (“The Help”) starring as Nurse Jackson (or as her coffee cup proclaims, “Scary Bitch”), coupled with the producing power of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television, “Red Band Society” is full of promise. Or at the very least, the star presence gives weight to the series.
While some moments produced actual laughs, some of the one-liners in the first episode elicit groans. But as is common with many new shows, the first few episodes are about finding chemistry and working out the kinks. With a show trying to strike a balance between being sincere and entertaining, this may take some time. But if the series can continue to channel “Glee” in its prime, a hit could be born.
With new episodes, “Red Band Society” will hopefully continue to look at the idea of the “true self.” In a monologue, Leo (Charlie Rowe, “Pirate Radio”) talks about how sickness makes you even more yourself than before. This idea of body detachment from soul and personality is not one often touched on by mainstream television. The concept of self over physical body has the potential to contrast with the many image-based messages that American society is bombarded with.
“Red Band Society” revisits a lot of elements from proven hit shows, but if it remains true to its original components, there lies tremendous potential for a touching yet entertaining show.