TV Pilot Review: “Red Band Society” Doesn’t Jump Off the Screen
On paper, “Red Band Society” sounds like a potential home run for FOX. Based on a Spanish show of the same name, it is a dramedy set in a hospital around a group of teens suffering from illness banding together to help get through their problems, featuring Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer as a tough-as-nails but passionate nurse and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Ideally, this would have filled the hole of “Glee” in regards to teen viewership. But despite all that it had going for it “Red Band Society” is dead on arrival, bringing nothing new or interesting to the table.
For a dramedy, it has little of either. These kids are suffering from serious illness, but the story and the characters all treat them like a high school drama would treat getting detention. That will probably change as the first season continues, but the pilot failed to set any real dramatic tone. Any hopes to be an edgy comedy comes to a screeching halt when all the jokes made by these kids are as dull as a butter knife. The only bit of humor came when one of the patients, Dash, attempts to get a young attractive nurse to pop his cherry.
That scene is also the reason Dash is the only interesting character. The other main kids, Leo, Jordi, Emma and Kara are inconsistent and uninteresting. Leo is the closest thing we have to a lead, but there is nothing going on in his arc. Jordi is the new guy who is about to have major surgery to remove his leg, and though he has a couple of nice final moments to enjoy being bipedal, he is too calm and mature about it all for a kid no older than 16. The girls are both stereotypes who never drop the act to become interesting – Emma being the hipster and Kara the diva cheerleader.
But perhaps the most annoying character, and the most annoying thing about the show is Charlie, a coma patient who also serves as the narrator. Early in the episode they make it clear that being in a coma doesn’t mean you don’t hear what’s going on, but the problem with having Charlie serve as the show’s narrator is that they made him omnipresent. Okay, he can hear things that are going on around him, but shouldn’t that be limited to his room?
His coma hasn’t made him a ghost who can roam the halls and see everything and know what everybody is thinking. He’s also the youngest character on the show, which makes his wise sayings all the more painful because no nine-year-old would say things like this, regardless of the experiences he’s gone through.
The adults are no better; in fact they are absolutely irrelevant. The head doctor, Dr. McAndrew, lets Jordi become his patient simply because he won’t take no for an answer, and then proceeds to do nothing for the rest of the episode. And poor Octavia Spencer, after winning an Oscar for her great supporting turn in “The Help,” she is a relegated to a teen show and given no real moment to shine.
This is also the most poorly run hospital in the world. These kids, who for the most part are battling things like cancer and other life-threatening diseases, have the run of the place. They go wherever and do whatever they want, including stealing an annoying doctors car and take it for a spin with no repercussion other than a stern talking to.
The doctors and nurses are just as bad. Nurses ignore a help call from Kara after only one instance of abusing it, and the main doctor, Dr. McAndrew, lets Jordi run off literally as they are on the way to surgery so he can enjoy his last moments with his leg. I’m sorry, are there no other surgeries that you are potentially delaying with this last little frolic? They are trying to create a unique environment for the show, but it still has to be based somewhat in reality.
For example, “Scrubs” was a wacky show with all of Zach Braff’s fantasies and the other oddities that would never take place in a hospital. However, when it came time to get serious and have a legitimate dramatic moment, “Scrubs” knew how to execute that. “Red Band Society” is just ridiculous.
The title refers to the red bands that patients get when they are admitted into a hospital or prepped for surgery, and how these kids are wearing these like a badge of honor and unity. But the show is a mess, and these characters are forced together into this tight knit group because the show demands it, not because any of them earn each other’s trust and friendship. There are small glimpses of what “Red Band Society” can be, but the pilot is not a favorable diagnosis that it will ever get there.
Check out the shows website here.