Under The Cable Box: Red Band Society

Red Band Society
In Under The Cable Box, Braintree High News’s Serena Wong will preview and review some of the new and returning TV shows hitting the airwaves this Fall

by Serena Wong
BHS News

In a Los Angeles hospital, a teenage boy is about to go into surgery, a girl struggles with her eating disorder, another teenager is waiting in the hospital with a broken arm, one deals with the daily routines of cystic fibrosis, and another hobbles through each day–literally. He only has one leg. Another is in a coma, seemingly not noticing anything but notices everything at the same time. What do they all have in common? They’re all critical parts of FOX’s new TV drama Red Band Society. Based off the 2011 TV series bearing the same name, the show gives a glimpse into the lives of teenagers in the hospital. For them, life doesn’t stop. It just goes on.

The cast is made of almost all fresh faces, save for Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer, who is best known for her role in The Help. Spencer’s role as Nurse Jackson requires her to assume a matronly role, for which she can be seen as a casual antagonist. As the nurse, she is required to keep tabs on all of the ward’s patients, even if it does mean interfering with their plans. While she may be the one offering heartfelt pieces of advice at the episode’s close, the lines don’t seem to be delivered with much honesty, and seems to be more accurate when Spencer is delivering snappy one-liners or comebacks to the hospital’s patients.

Leo Roth, the hospital’s longest-staying patient, has gone through hospital life so far with a bald head, an extremely dry sense of humor, and one leg. All he truly wants to be is normal. Played by Charlie Rowe, Leo is a completely closed-off boy with a penchant of going through life like he’s going to die the next day, relying on no one except for his best friend, Dash Hosney (played by rapper Astro). Rowe delivers his lines with a punch, making cheesy emotion seem like actual sentiments. In the beginning, he doesn’t seem like the one to make connections, but he is the one who dreams up the idea of the show’ title–a red band society–all of its members sporting a red band of Leo’s, one each for the surgeries he’s gone through.

Jordi Palacios, played by Nolan Sotillo, is perhaps the only one besides Dash who seems to reach out to Leo. Having no family, Jordi checks himself into the hospital to try and save himself from the cancer in his leg, requiring an amputation of said limb. Jordi and Leo quickly become good friends, bound by the operation of losing a leg and its aftermaths. Sotillo masterfully portrays a character who has two sides, one of which only comes out in the show’s vulnerable moments. Jordi seems to be an open character, amicable and friendly, but he is perpetually lonely in his moments alone, because when all is said and done, he has no one. It is in those moments when one has to feel sympathy for the boy with no family, cancer in his leg, and no one to help him through.

Of course, no drama with teenage boys would be complete without girls. In this case, it comes in the form of Kara Souders and Emma Chota. Kara (played by Zoe Levin) is a high-schooler’s typical mean girl: the blonde, perfect, biting cheerleader who seems to be loved by everyone. Of course, that all comes crashing down on her when the broken arm that landed her in the hospital reveals an enlarged heart, putting her in the potential danger for death unless she can receive a transplant. Kara deals with the impending situation in the best way she knows how: to respond to everything with another quip. The most vernacular word to describe her would be “bitch”, it is true, but when she does dish her scathing remarks, they usually cut right to the point, without any beating around the bush. It’s a beautiful honesty in such a cruel remark.

Emma Chota (Ciara Bravo) draws quite the comparison to Glee’s Rachel Berry. Her lines are done in the same jerky, detached way whenever Emma interacts with others. Her likeness to Lea Michele is also admirable, albeit with a more serious demeanor. Chota gives off a vibe of being constantly serious, which is most likely attributed to the reason she’s in the hospital–an eating disorder caused by the stress of her academics. She seems to be the most stoic of the teenagers,stubbornly refusing to act like she cares, but revealing a soft side in her truest moments. Chota has serious potential to play a heroine later in life, the strong, unattainable character who discloses nothing verbally but reveals everything in her eyes.

Watching over the five of them is Charlie, the youngest of them all, but also the wisest. Played by Griffin Gluck, Charlie is the boy in a coma, being the omniscient soul that occasionally remarks on their actions, usually with a direct remark that seems too mature for this young boy.
While the show works hard to build up the platonic relationships between characters, it also seems to build up the romantic ones too easily–or at least, to drop hints about who is going to embroil themselves in a romance with who. It hints at a relationship between Leo and Emma in the first few minutes, but it is seen later that Emma and Jordi may embark on a relationship together, with Leo and Kara working at some semblance of a comradeship at all. Nevertheless, the writers mimic the language of a teenager with aplomb, constantly supplying the actors with one-liners and cutting bits with the occasional swear. Every now and then, a character will get overly emotional, but then again, what teenager doesn’t? The writing seems to be the best element of the show, bringing its characters together.
The show has just started, but it seems to be something that holds promise, especially with its the new actors. Those who watch it should look forward to smirking at banter while feeling at the same time.

Red Band Society airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on FOX.