Hos­pi­tal drama more Break­fast Club than Grey’s

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Brad Oswald

IF Red Band So­ci­ety be­comes, as some ob­servers are pre­dict­ing, the sleeper hit of the new TV sea­son, then Grif­fin Gluck will nec­es­sar­ily be­come — both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively — this fall’s sleeper star. In this new youth-ori­ented hos­pi­tal drama, Gluck — a ninth grader with an ex­ten­sive list of cred­its that in­cludes Pri­vate Prac­tice, The Of­fice, United States of Tara and the big-screen fea­ture Just Go With It — plays a kid in a coma who also hap­pens to be the se­ries’ nar­ra­tor and most as­tute com­men­ta­tor. Red Band So­ci­ety, which pre­mières Wed­nes­day at 8 p.m. on Fox, shares many of the at­tributes of past teen­fo­cused TV of­fer­ings, such as Bev­erly Hills 90210, Daw­son’s Creek, The OC and Gossip Girl, in that its char­ac­ters are uni­formly at­trac­tive, gen­er­ally moody and some­how man­age to be, at the same time, both the cool kids and the out­siders. But in Red Band So­ci­ety, rather than hav­ing money or cars or clothes or en­ti­tled at­ti­tudes to unite them, the kids at the cen­tre of the story share sick­ness — they’re all pa­tients at Los An­ge­les’ fic­tional Ocean Park Hos­pi­tal, and they’re all quite se­ri­ously ill. Charlie Hutchi­son (Gluck), who was in some sort of ac­ci­dent, has been in a coma for an ex­tended pe­riod; Leo Roth (Charlie Rowe) has been bat­tling can­cer through mul­ti­ple surg­eries and hos­pi­tal stays; Dash Hos­ney (Astro) suf­fers from ad­vanced cys­tic fi­bro­sis; and Emma Chota (Ciara Bravo) is be­ing kept un­der ob­ser­va­tion as doc­tors try to help her get her anorexia un­der con­trol. As the se­ries opens, another teen is about to join the group — mean-girl cheer­leader Kara Souders (Zoe Levin), who col­lapses in the mid­dle of a tirade­filled prac­tice ses­sion, much to the de­light of her team­mates. Rather than call­ing 911, they all rush to use their smart­phones to snap pic­tures of the fallen snark queen to post on­line. Even­tu­ally, one stu­dent does call for an am­bu­lance, and Kara is rushed to the ER. She ar­rives at Ocean Park just as no-non­sense Nurse Jack­son (Oc­tavia Spencer) is start­ing her shift. A notso-sub­tle hint at what she’s like is con­tained in the words “scary bitch” that have been scrawled on her cof­fee cup by an ob­vi­ously trau­ma­tized barista some­where close by. With Jack­son and res­i­dent hunky doc­tor Jack McAn­drew (Dave Annable) look­ing on, Kara quickly be­comes a dis­rup­tive force, while dif­fi­cult loner Leo is forced by his care­givers to of­fer support to newly ar­rived fel­low can­cer pa­tient Jordi (Nolan Sotillo). There’s a lot of fairly pre­dictable teen be­hav­iour — hor­mone-di­rected and party-in­clined — all of which is heard and com­mented on, in voiceover fash­ion, by co­matose Charlie. When Jordi’s di­ag­no­sis con­vinces Leo and Dash that it’s time for a group­bond­ing event, the en­tire un­der­age crew (mi­nus Charlie, of course) kicks into se­cret-party-plan­ning mode. There are a lot of nice per­for­mances and mo­ments in the pi­lot of Red Band So­ci­ety — par­tic­u­larly the work of Rowe and Sotillo as un­likely al­lies, and the hard-nosed con­tri­bu­tion of Spencer as the nurse who can wither any smug teen’s bravado with a sin­gle glance. The prob­lem with this hos­pi­tal — and it’s a prob­lem that many other hos­pi­tals would prob­a­bly like to have — is that it’s all far too an­ti­sep­tic. It’s a se­ries about sick kids in a health-care fa­cil­ity, but there’s re­ally lit­tle sense of cri­sis or ur­gency in what’s go­ing on. It feels more like The Break­fast Club, with th­ese kids serv­ing a slightly more dif­fi­cult kind of de­ten­tion, than a story about young peo­ple who are lit­er­ally in a fight for their lives. But if view­ers, par­tic­u­larly in Red Band So­ci­ety’s youth­ful tar­get de­mo­graphic, are look­ing for a feel-good drama in an un­con­ven­tional set­ting rather than a gritty and re­al­is­tic hos­pi­tal show, then this is a se­ries with oo­dles of break­out po­ten­tial, both in its sto­ry­line pos­si­bil­i­ties and its stars’ ap­peal. A sleeper hit? You can bet Grif­fin Gluck sure hopes so; th­ese could be the eas­i­est “act­ing” pay­cheques he ever earns.

PHO­TOS BY AN­NETTE BROWN/FOX

From left, Brian Bradley, Nolan Sotillo, Grif­fin Gluck and Charlie Rowe; be­low, Dave Annable pushes Sotillo.

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