The Coincidental Critic

Exploring the art of storytelling.

The Red Band Society Pilot: So Sweet, It’s Almost Sickening (SPOILERS)

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It’s premiere season!  And a new series I’ve decided to check out is “Red Band Society,” the FOX series about a group of teenagers growing up in a hospital.

“Red Band Society” started off with a bang.  It was a premiere of character introductions, new beginnings, and the official start of the Red Band Society.

What I loved about the pilot was the lack of stereotyping.  In most TV shows about teens, the characters are introduced as a stereotype (nerd, jock, queen bee, etc) even if it’s unintentional.  And usually, as these shows progress, these different teenagers unite for a common cause or activity, and the stereotypes are eradicated (at least while they’re together).  A prime example of this is “Glee.”  In “Red Band Society,” this was not the case.  I was unable to link the characters to a specific group or clique.  The were all unique and complex.  The only character somewhat stereotyped was Kara, the cheerleader.  But immediately, the writers got to work, showing us that she didn’t completely fit this stereotype.  This was so refreshing.  The characters were clean slates and were characterized on their actions and dialogue instead of their “type.”

The pilot had some pretty good one-liners.  The first quote that stuck out to me was when Kara spoke to Emma about Emma’s eating disorder.  Kara: “I have cigarettes and diet pills if you get hungry.”  Emma: “I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs.”  Kara: “So unhealthy, right?  Not like starving yourself.”  This line was a slap in the face, yet so powerful.  It acknowledged how serious eating disorders can be.  Another great line occurred when Leo and Jordi were trying to fall asleep.  Jordi lied in bed, his head swirling with the thoughts of his upcoming amputation.  “It’s hard to sleep over the sound of your thoughts,” Leo said.  I loved the humor in this line, and it stuck with me long after the episode ended.  These two quotes were simple, yet filled with humor and meaning.  And there were several other great lines just like these.  I hope to see more great writing in the upcoming episodes.

I loved how the plot of the pilot went full circle.  The story was told by Charlie, but unfortunately, Charlie is in a coma and could rarely interact with the other characters.  I loved how the writers had Leo give the last red band to Charlie.  It tied the whole episode together and connected the narrator with the rest of the characters.

In some scenes, the director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, shifted the camera position so we could view the world from a particular character’s point of view.  One example was when Kara passed out.  When she eventually woke up, we were shown a shot of the nurses looking down at Kara from her perspective.  Another example was when Jordi was being transported into surgery.  During this scene, the camera cut to a shot above Jordi, watching the ceiling pass by as he was pushed through the hallways.  I thought this was a really cool technical approach.  It immediately put the audience in the character’s shoes and made me feel more connected to the characters.

The biggest star in this show is the talented Octavia Spencer.  Not surprising at all, Spencer was absolutely flawless.  Her portrayal of Nurse Jackson was both fierce and heartfelt.  Her acting was amazing.  One scene that highlighted Spencer’s acting was when Nurse Jackson was riding the bus home.  A man looked at her as if checking her out.  Spencer, acting as Nurse Jackson, did a quick eye roll.  It was so subtle, but revealed so much about her character.  She’s independent and stubborn, yet insecure.  Spencer’s portrayal of Nurse Jackson actually made me want to be a nurse.

Alright, now for the red band speech, the reason this show was written.  Leo stood in front of his friends, presenting them with his old red bands, uniting them all in their own secret society.  In his thoughtful speech, Leo was like a poet, speaking phrases such as “like skin there are layers of you yet to be revealed.”  Unfortunately, I found these lines to be too sappy, to the point where it was almost unrealistic.  I couldn’t believe that a teenager would say all of those things.  The dialogue just seemed to be a bit too forced.  This sappiness carried over into some of the other scenes as well.

“Red Band Society” is truly a sweet show with a great message about the joys of life.  I was very impressed with the pilot and look forward to future episodes.  Hopefully, the writers lay off the sap a bit.

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