[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: “Red Band Society” (FOX)
The Pitch: “Teens who might have nothing in common otherwise are brought together in group that equalizes them and allows them to support each other… You might remember another recent FOX show like that.” “Ah. Ampu-Glee.”
Quick Response: Yes, Margaret Nagle's “Red Band Society” is based on a format from Spain, but the comparisons to “Glee” are inevitable and unavoidable. And rather than even trying to avoid those associations, FOX and ABC Studios brought in Alfonso Gomez-Rejon to direct and since Gomez-Rejon is basically the in-house director for Ryan Murphy, you get a show that sounds and feels like “Glee” (minus the songs), but also looks and is paced like “Glee” (minus the songs). There's a lot of snarky, reference-based humor, but then there's also a lot of effective earnestness and it helps that so much of the young cast — Charlie Rowe, Ciara Bravo and Nolan Sotillo in particular — comes across as freshly scrubbed, unaffected and likable. [This was also true of much of the “Glee” cast back when the show began and we saw how fast many of them lost those qualities.] Although you could stop and wonder why Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable felt drawn to what are clearly supporting roles, you can also stop to be grateful, because Spencer puts gravity behind even the smallest pieces of tossed-off sass, while Annable is understated and grounded. Oh and the hospital set is terrific, practically a character on its own, as the cliche goes. Tone is everything with a show like this, where it's necessary to find laughs and warmth to offset the potential for inherent darkness and melancholy in a children's hospital scenario and Nagle does a reasonably good job. The corny platitudes don't weight the story down and even if certain characters aren't funny enough — “X Factor” veteran Astro's Dash comes across as too glib in the pilot — they aren't jarring. Given the similarities to “Glee” and several other properties, “Red Band Society” is a bit over-pleased with its own audacity — “This is me talking to you from a coma. Deal with it,” the voiceover narrator announces, as if this were somehow a notable deviation from the norm — and there are Big Questions we probably aren't supposed to ask, but eventually will ask if the entertainment stops being diverting. But this is still a pilot with a lot of upside.
Desire To Watch Again: This pilot was a nice reminder of the early version of “Glee” that I didn't dislike and, if I'm being honest, I like this pilot a lot more than I liked the “Glee” pilot. Because I'm absolutely stuck in the “Glee”/”RBS” comparison, I have similar trepidation, because I moved onto hate-watching with “Glee” relatively early on and that was a less over-saturated time. I watched “Glee” for three seasons before bailing, but I'll cut the chord faster here if it goes bad. However, its Wednesday 9 p.m. time period isn't one where I'm over-invested, so I'm betting I go at least a half-dozen episodes here to see how it progresses.
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Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Gotham'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Constantine'
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Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Black-ish'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'The Flash'
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries