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TV Review: “Red Band Society” inspires laughter and tears in the hospital



“Red Band Society” presents itself as a show we kind of want to hate. The clichéd one-liners in the new Fox drama may or may not initiate a few eye rolls, and the stereotypical characters are sometimes cringe-worthy. Despite these small criticisms, the pilot draws viewers into a world to which most people are not accustomed: the adolescent ward of a hospital.

The show, which premiered last Wednesday at 9 p.m., focuses on a group of teenagers, all of whom are checked into a California hospital for serious medical conditions ranging from cancer and eating disorders to broken bones and comas. In fact, the narrator speaks to us through a comatose state. Charlie (Griffin Gluck, “Private Practice”), while unconscious, cannot speak to anyone but the viewers. (He blatantly states to his audience: “Yes, this is me, talking to you, in a coma. Deal with it.”)

In the first episode, we are immediately introduced to Kara (Zoe Levin, “Palo Alto”), the mean cheerleader. Kara falls from a stunt and lands on the ground, unconscious. Instead of calling for an ambulance, her peers take pictures to post on Instagram. Nurse Jackson (Octavia Spencer, “The Help”) is responsible for her well being, but takes no nonsense from anyone, especially someone as rude and demanding as Kara. Later in the show, we find out Kara has bigger problems than just being friendless with a broken arm. Like in most television shows about teenagers, we almost begin to feel sorry for the mean girl, albeit one who pokes the boy in a coma and blows cigarette smoke into his unsuspecting mouth. Almost.

The rest of the gang takes on roles of a typical high school student body: the nerd, the popular, the jock and the new kid. What’s different, and what makes this show unique, is that these aforementioned labels no longer define them. Instead, their diagnoses do. Doctors diagnosed Leo (Charlie Rowe, “Neverland”) and Jordi (Nolan Sotillo, “Prom”) with the same type of cancer that takes a leg away from them. Emma (Ciara Bravo, “Big Time Rush”) suffers from an eating disorder, while Dash’s (Astro, “The X Factor) cystic fibrosis continues to progress.

Like most shows, its pilot starts off a bit shakily because all of the characters need to be introduced and the plot line established. While this is the case for “Red Band,” we root for the show to succeed anyway because, in just one episode, we have already grown attached to every patient. Even though the premiere skimped on the background story for most of the teens, it will be interesting to see whether or not the plot will continue to pull heartstrings, or if it will resort to cheap and easy tricks to inspire tears.

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