TV Review - Red Band Society

Nolan Sotillo (left) and Charlie Rowe
play cancer patients in "Red Band Society"
This show is based on or is a remake of another show. Yet, it had the same value as the recent Shailene Woodley film and was like The Fault in Our Stars, the TV series. Instead of being about two sick kids who fall in love, it's about five sick kids, and their various relationships and how they cope with their various illnesses.

The show also gives us glimpses into the lives of the hospital personnel who treat and take care of the kids. For contrived reasons, the five kids all practically live at the hospital or require extended care. The four personnel in question include Dina Jackson, played by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help and Snowpiercer). Dina Jackson is the head nurse in the pediatric wing of Ocean Park Hospital in California. Her second-in-command is Kenji, played by Wilson Cruz (My So-Called Life and Noah's Arc), a male nurse who is gay and sassy but has a far warmer bedside manner than Dina.

The personnel also includes Dr. Adam McAndrew, played by Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters), the very handsome oncologist in pediatrics and his attending nurse Britney, played by Rebecca Rittenhouse. Adam is the one we follow outside the hospital briefly to get a quick look at his social life. Yet, mainly we are trapped in the hospital all the time or are never able to venture far from it.

The hospital personnel are supporting characters. The main cast are the five teenagers. There actually is a sixth, prepubescent teen. However, he's in a coma and his character has no likelihood of waking up soon. His name is Charlie, and he's played by Griffin Gluck (Private Practice). In order to keep the character involved, Charlie narrates the thoughts, feelings and actions of the other five kids.

After the first episode though, Charlie's narration is obvious and annoying. It's interesting to have it in the first episode to help establish the characters and the situation, but it soon becomes very superfluous.

The five kids are three teen boys and two teen girls. The eldest seems to be Leo, played by Charlie Rowe, a cancer patient with an amputated leg and a bald head due to chemotherapy. His ex-girlfriend is Emma, played by Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush), who has a serious eating disorder. Leo's best friend is Dash, played by Astro (Earth to Echo), a black kid with cystic fibrosis, a breathing, sweating and digestion disease.

Leo, Emma and Dash have lived in the hospital for a while. They encounter two new patients. One is Kara, played by Zoe Levin, a cheerleader who passes out in school and realizes she needs a heart transplant. Dina is referred to as a "scary bitch" of a nurse, but Kara is even more of a bitchy character, supremely so. The other is Jordi, played by Nolan Sotillo, a Mexican boy who also has cancer in his leg and seeks out Adam because he's a top oncologist in the area, but he arrives without any parents. Later, his mother arrives. She's Eva, played by Catalina Sandino Moreno.

Both Kara and Jordi have to get accustomed to life in this hospital, learn the dynamics and befriend the three mainstays. There is of course some drama. Mainly, it's petty jealousy. Leo and Jordi bond because they have similar illnesses. This makes Dash jealous because he and Leo spent more time together. Emma and Jordi bond as well, which makes Leo jealous because he still has romantic feelings for her.

The show is a remake of the Spanish series Polseres vermelles, created by Albert Espinosa and Pau Freixas. The remake was developed by Margaret Nagle (Boardwalk Empire) and initially directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Glee), and it feels very clean and pristine. It feels like a bit of a teenage soap opera where the illnesses are almost incidental. The true ugliness of this situation is avoided at almost all cost. Thus, it falls short of its promise and becomes rather boring.

It almost has the vibe of a romantic comedy. One of the greatest movies about a children's hospital, focusing on children with cancer was A Lion in the House (2006). It was a documentary whereas this isn't, but there are some series that do attempt that kind of reality. This one doesn't. It's too cute to really be taken seriously.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DLS.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Wednesdays at 9PM on FOX.


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