Red Band Society Season 1 Review “Pilot” & “Sole Searching”

Red Band Society (Fox) episode 1 Pilot (5)

I’ve been reluctant to let Red Band Society into my life. On the one hand, the first two episodes are full of poignant melodrama and character moments, great performances and thoroughly charming entertainment.

On the other, however, it reminds me so much of other shows that have crept into my heart, nested there and then let their worst qualities take over the good. Then comes the backlash, and being a fan starts to feel like more of a war than a weekly escapism (three guesses as to which other show I’m talking about).

Red Band Society is exactly that sort of show, and right now that’s a wonderful thing. It takes courage for a series to be as emotionally uninhibited and blindly saccharine as this and, while that’ll turn a lot of people off from the get go, it’s existence is refreshing for those of us who lap that kind of thing up.

It’s about sick kids, but it’s ultimately a sincere, positive coming-of-age tale taking its cues from both teen dramas and medical shows of old. Red Band Society has been getting attention precisely because its concept shouldn’t work, and the first two episodes go out of their way to prove the detractors wrong.

The first is all about setting up the dynamic between the kids, Breakfast Club-style, and the second builds upon that scene setting with a little more of the day-to-day drama. It might be a teen drama at its core, but there are no classes or school years to create an easy structure. Here it’s more about surgeries and weigh-ins than finals and summer vacation.

But you know what would make the show 300 per cent better? Ditching the coma kid, the voiceovers and the afterlife ‘episodes’ each of the society’s members are having. It’s going for magic realism – I get it – but nothing about this element of the show works for me. A bit like Saving Hope, but with the fantasy bits less integral to the plot.

The first episode is a lot stronger than the first in this regard, with ‘Sole Searching’ upping the clunky voiceover dialogue and weak analogies at expense of everything else.

But it does take a little time building the one-on-one relationships between the girls and guys, and that’ll be important down the road. Shows like Red Band Society take time to establish each member of the ensemble at a time, and I have no doubt we’ll grow to love all of them by the end of the first season.

This is a concept and an execution that’s hard to love and easy to hate, but those who are willing to give it a chance just might find that it’s really something special.

What did you think of the first two episodes? Who’s your favorite character so far? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.