Episode #1: "Pilot"
by Dan Tomasik
A coma patient narrates the goings-on among the patients, nurses, and doctors at a hospital.
Is it awful to say sick people are “in” these days? Hopefully not. However, it must be said that certain “sick characters” have been getting a lot of attention. Breaking Bad’s Walter White is a big one, but so are Hazel and Augustus from The Fault in Our Stars. Both have been hugely successful, which will undoubtedly lead to many attempting to replicate their success. At this point, it’s still too small to consider an actual trend, but it’s too big to disregard completely. The question for Red Band Society is whether it can stand on its own, or if it’s going to fall short and just upset a lot of people.
For what it’s worth, the pilot is strong. Funny and witty, but still respectful to the harsh realities of life, this series has good potential. It does veer into corniness at a few points (seriously, poetry recitations?), but it also has a few moments that kick you in the heart. It must be said that the good far outweighs the bad, and the series will only get better as it continues to develop.
For the teen characters, the (as yet unnamed) hospital is somewhat akin to a boarding school. Complete with an actual schoolroom, classes, homework, and kids trying to get out of it. The doctors and nurses have good hearts, but they can put their foot down and tell a sick kid “no” when the situation requires it. Octavia Spencer is the standout here, perfectly at home as no-nonsense Nurse Jackson, identifiable by a coffee cup with “Scary Bitch” scrawled on it. She is scary, she is intense, and she has the power to make your stay pleasant or unbearable. Her greatest adversary will likely prove to be Kara (Zoe Levin), a cheerleader in need of a heart transplant (both literally and figuratively). Imagine the girl you hated most in high school. Now imagine her with the people skills of Dr. House. Take away the part where she saves lives, replace it with the mindset of a high school queen bee. Multiply the drug habits and you have Kara. We are told that deep down she is a good person. This may be, but it’s very deep down.
Tone down the romanticized depiction of terminal patients coping with the inevitable. Not every episode needs to end on a positive note. A lot can and will go wrong in these kinds of cases; the hardest part is not just coping with the disease, but also coping with the endless stream of pity showered upon you.
Also, a weekly wake-up call for Kara to remind her that she is an awful human being who needs to change her ways or she will die.
Episode Score: 8.0
What did you think of the pilot? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Your mention of Kara needing a weekly wakeup call reminded me of the number of drugs in her system...since when are high schoolers using cocaine, weed, cigarettes, and alcohol ("and thats just the preliminary")?