After this summer’s onslaught of below average films and predictions of a halfway decent fall TV line-up, Red Band Society gives a glimmer of hope to hungry viewers. Mixing old tropes of teen dramedy with an original, poignant setting, Red Band Society is at one moment a heartbreaker, and at the next, a laugh factory. Yes, you could criticize the show for having cliché high school characters (mean cheerleader, profound child, teen charmer, nerdy girl, emo dude, etc.), our society obviously finds something fascinating about that period in human growth. This show gives the audience what they want to see, but at the same time shows audiences a reality that is often too hard to watch: children in hospitals.
The pilot opens with cinematic style by introducing each character with a distinct action, then freeze-framing with their name. The voice-over is done by Charlie (Griffin Gluck), a young boy in a coma. Charlie was with his father when he was in the accident that caused his coma, and for that reason, his father isn’t allowed to see him. Though Charlie can’t move or talk, he hears, smells, and observes those on his unit. In his narration, he begins with Kara (Zoe Levin), a typical snobby, mean-girl cheerleader. During cheer practice she mistreats everyone, particularly her underling. She then proceeds to pass out, upon which her teammates rush to their cellphones—to snap pics, not to call 911. The only one who cares is her minion, who calls for an ambulance, then happily gives her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Kara is brought to the hospital, where she rooms with the voice of the show, Charlie. He notes that the hospital is more like a boarding school, and Kara immediately implements her queen-bee ways: being condescending to the nurses as if they are the help and mocking all the other sick patients.
Charlie goes on to introduce the other personalities: There’s Dash (Astro), a suave, hip boy with lung disease. Emma (Ciara Bravo), an anorexic, dark-humored fashionable, smart girl. And Leo (Charlie Rowe), an introspective, somewhat emo-ish kid with cancer who lost his leg and is in a wheelchair. He wears his many red bands from all his surgeries, as if he were collecting wristbands from rave parties.
There are a few teenagers on the unit, and they go to school together in a scene reminiscent of 10 Things I Hate About You. That movie was based off Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, and while this isn’t based off any specific Shakespeare play, they overtly reference Shakespeare by studying him in class and discussing character motivation. Turns out Leo and Emma had a sort of love affair when they first met, but Leo was too afraid of not living to continue their relationship.
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