Red Band Society tells stories about a group of teenagers, who are all patients in a Los Angeles based pediatric hospital. They live, study, and love in the sterile halls of medicine. The first episode doesn’t shy away from the fact that is actually the first episode. It can be watched like an instructional manual about the main cast, a who is who, and also a why are the individual characters in the hospital to begin with. For easy reference names pop on the screen, just so we, the audience, won’t get confused.
With the handy TV trick of a voice-over (very Meredith Grey-esque) throughout the episode the audience becomes familiar with the important faces and their relationships. Interestingly enough, the snarky VO is done by Coma Boy, aka Charlie (Griffin Gluck, Private Practice), a patient who has been in a coma for a while now, and who can communicate with his fellow Society members when they are also in an unconscious state of mind – passed out or under anesthesia.
The story of the first episode begins with the start of Nurse Jackson‘s (Octavia Spencer) shift at the hospital. Her coffee cup has Scary Bitch written on it, letting the audience know that she is not one to mess with. Obviously throughout the episode we come to realize that while her hard shell gets her through the day, she is actually quite a nice person because she cares about her patients.
Jordi (Nolan Sotillo), a 14 year old boy, sneaks his way into an appointment with Dr. McAndrew (Dave Annable, Brothers and Sisters), one of the best surgeons in the country. He has oscio sarcoma, and was diagnosed by his doctor in Mexico, where he lives since his mother passed away a year ago. He needs to get his leg amputated, and, if necessary, receive chemo therapy afterwards. McAndrew is reluctant to admit the patient, but Jordi charms his way into a hospital bed and a surgery appointment the next morning.
He becomes the roommate of Leo (Charlie Rowe), a longtime patient at the hospital – at least his amazingly, angsty-ridden room decoration points towards it. His leg also had been amputated due to cancer, and he is not happy about becoming Jordi’s go-to legless person. But obviously he accepts Jordi and introduces him to the life in hospital with his best bud Dash (Astro), who has Cystic Fibrosis. Emma (Ciara Bravo), an eating disorder patient and extremely smart girl, rounds out the regular trio. She and Leo have this thing going on between the two of them. But right now, it seems to more fun to tease each other and make each other jealous.
And boy, is there a reason to get jealous. Kara (Zoe Levin), an extremely bitch cheerleader, gets admitted to the hospital after she passes out at practice. Turns out, she has an enlarged heart, and needs a transplant. Hearts are rare to come by, but if you snort and inject any possible drug on the market – like Kara does – it puts you at the bottom of the donor list, meaning that her stay will be a long one.
Leo and Dash want throw a small party for Jordi on the roof to celebrate Jordi’s last night with both of his legs. The five heroes come together and Leo hands out red hospital bands. And thus the Society is born. It is this promise to stick together, in this strange, strange world.
The last scene of the episode is beautiful, and a tiny bit of a tear jerker. Jordi is pushed in his bed to his operation. Half-way there he gets up and runs one last time through the halls of the place that will become his home for an unforeseen time.
Five hormonal teenagers, navigating not only their illnesses but also normal teenager life – essentially, drama will ensue. The first episode was cute, a little bit cliche, a little bit too much on the quirky side. I am curious how they are going to delve into the different characters’ story lines, because every one of them has tons secrets. I hope they are not going to persist on the cliche characteristics of Nurse Jackson, the scary bitch, and of McAndrew, the handsome doctor. We don’t know much about them yet, but I hope that is going to change as well. The show relies heavily on music to clearly indicate to the audience how they are supposed to feel. Thanks for that. Now, change it to being less obvious.
As a side note, a question came up as I was watching the pilot. The only parents we see in the show are Kara’s, who have to learn from a doctor what her daughter has been doing to her body. Where are all the other parents? Most importantly, Jordi might not have a mother anymore, but he has guardians watching over him. How did he, a teenager, make it all the way to L.A. from Mexico without going noticed? How can a doctor just admit a minor and schedule surgery without talking to someone in charge? Maybe I am just to picky when it comes to obvious things.
Never judge a TV show by its pilot. So much is going to change in the first few weeks. So far, this episode -like any other pilot – was a set-up for more to come. I am definitely curious, and will watch the show, once it premiers on FOX, September 17.
Check out the trailer below.