The Critical Care ward of Los Angeles’ Ocean Park Hospital is home to a number of teens, each facing a life-threatening illness, from heart transplantation to cancer to cystic fibrosis. Among the residents are thoughtful amputee Leo; new kid Jordi, who becomes Leo’s roommate; hip rebel Dash; brooding know-it-all Emma; snotty cheerleader Kara; and Charlie, who narrates the program from within his coma. Trying to rein in the teens’ wild antics are tough, “seen-it-all” Nurse Jackson, gentle intern Brittany, and top pediatrician Dr. McAndrew.
Reminiscent of comedies from M*A*S*H, to John Hughes movies like The Breakfast Club, to Fox’s Glee, Red Band Society shifts rapidly – often in the same scene – between wacky comedy hijinks, emotional teenage soap opera, and serious drama literally dealing with matters of life and death.
In some ways, this is the most family-friendly new program of the entire fall season, dealing sensitively and honestly not only with the drama of facing death, but with other typical teen concerns like being popular, struggling with body image, eating disorders, family problems, and first love. For presenting an inspirational perspective on such issues, as well as those of life and death, Red Band Society is to be commended.
At the same time, parents should be aware that the teens are hardly paragons of good behavior. In just the first episode they steal a car, smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and lie about their age to buy beer, while adult character smokes pot from a bong. Language on the show includes uses of “ass,” “bitch,” “balls,” and talk about “getting laid.” In addition, some of the insults used by Kara and Emma are shocking for their heartlessness and cruelty. When asked about the limits to which the show can go in such scenes, series writer/producer Margaret Nagle exulted, “We’re so fortunate we’re on Fox. Anytime we talked to the network, they say, ‘Can you edge it up?’ We think we have this happy, inspirational scene, and Fox says, ‘Make the ending dark and twisted.’ ” Lurching between over-the-top emotion, zany comedy, and genuine and forthright examination of serious issues, Red Band Society is at once both challenging and inspirational.
Red Band Society premieres Wednesday, September 17th at 9:00 p.m. ET on Fox.
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