Pilotitis 2014: Red Band Society

Octavia Spencer stars as Nurse Jackson on Fox's Red Band Society.
Red Band Society (Photo: Alex Martinez / Fox)

Sorry Nurse Jackson, but Red Band Society is unreal. You totally meant to make some daughters cry. (I apologize for this intro a million times.)

Show

Red Band Society, which airs Wednesdays at 9pm on Fox.

Premise

What is life like for the tweens and teens who are permanent residents in a hospital? This tug-at-the-heartstrings drama follows the kids and staff (including Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable) at the pediatric wing of a Ocean Park hospital. Oh, and the story is narrated by a 12-year-old boy in a coma (Griffin Gluck).

Lineage

Steven Spielberg is on of the executive producers, though his track record has been very hit-and-miss. The show is based on the telenovela Polseres Vermelles. It was originally pitched to ABC by Marta Kauffman (Friends) a few years back, but didn’t advance.

Who is Red Band Society For?

People who nod poignantly at aphoristic bumper stickers. The pilot is chock full of those little nuggets.

What Works

The premise of Red Band Society is intriguing. Octavia Spencer is fine as the firm but fair Nurse Jackson.

What Doesn’t Work

The scripts must have been sitting around since the original pitch, because all the hip jive that the kids are spitting is dated to the point where I expected a visit from a rapping granny. All the kids are wise beyond their years, which is annoying enough when there’s just one kid like that, but eight? Ugh. Couple this with the fact that the boy in the coma is narrating a significant portion of the program makes Red Band Society more of a radio play than a TV show.

The music choices are rather odd, including the Who’s “My Generation” and Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” and nothing contemporary.1 Maybe it’s the Red Band ’70s Preservation Society?

Does This Pass the Bechdel Test?2

Yes! Awful cheerleader Kara (Zoe Levin) and recovering anorexic Emma (Ciara Bravo) talk about food, smoking, drinking, and drugs. But not boys!

Verdict

Red Band Society is not my bag at all, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt. The stakes of the show are undercut by high school level irony—will the heartless girl get a heart transplant? for example—and is cringe-worthy at best. Honestly, I’m surprised ABC didn’t pick this up, since it feels so off-brand for Fox.

  1. Aside from Coldplay in the “this is the thesis of the pilot” moment at the end of the episode.  
  2. 1. Two named female characters 2. have a conversation 3. about something other than a man.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles

Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it “TV Camp.” After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv