The broadcast networks have more than two dozen shows debuting this fall, including a new Shondaland drama, and a trip to Gotham, a third NCIS and a Flash-y Arrow offshoot. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.
Next up on our list….
THE SHOW | Fox’s Red Band Society (Wednesdays at 9/8c, premiere date TBA)
THE COMPETITION | ABC’s Modern Family, CBS’ Criminal Minds, NBC’s Law & Order: SVU and The CW’s The 100
THE CAST | Octavia Spencer (The Help), Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters), Charlie Rowe (Neverland), Griffin Gluck (Private Practice), Nolan Sotillo, Zoe Levin, Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush), Brian Bradley (The X Factor) and Rebecca Rittenhouse.
THE SET-UP | Spencer stars as Nurse Jackson, the suffer-no-fools “Scary B—-” who lords over the pediatric ward of Ocean Park Hospital, where a veritable Brat Pack of patients from assorted walks of life begrudgingly bond a la (Hey! Hey! Hey!) Shermer High’s Breakfast Club.
THE FIRST IMPRESSION | Some may reflexively scoff at the notion of a “sick kids” show claiming a spot on their DVR, but riding on the heels of The Fault in Our Stars‘ Cineplex success — and boasting a winning (if on-the-nose) mix of the aforementioned seminal John Hughes film and Glee‘s freshman season — Red Band Society has the potential to sneak up on and charm its samplers. Let it, and it will make you smile.
Though Academy Award winner Spencer understandably gets top billing (and she is very good), this drama ultimately will rise and fall with the performances of the younger cast, and several immediately shine. In the pilot — which was penned by Margaret Nagle (Side Order of Life) and directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Glee) — Rowe and Sotillo stand out as cancer fighter Leo and his new roomie Jordi, who’s about to lose a leg to the disease, while Levin gradually brings some shading to the stereotype of Bitchy, Perpetually Uniformed Cheerleader and Gluck entertainingly narrates the proceedings from a coma kid’s POV. (Of the many, many voiceover’d pilots this year, Red Band‘s approach is at least distinct.) Rounding out the adult cast, you have the forever affable Annable (playing a peds doc) and Griffin Dunne (guesting, albeit in too few scenes, as an eccentric ally of the young’uns).
The biggest threat to Red Band Society‘s prognosis may be this: Is the premise, as heartwarming as it is, sustainable as an ongoing series?
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Red Band certainly fills a void in its time slot, where CBS and NBC have a lock on the despicable and deplorable and ABC brings the funny. But in addition to stealing viewers from any of those long-running series, this youth-centric drama also faces the challenge of luring eyeballs away from The 100‘s own PYTs. Fox’s new boss, whomever s/he may be, would be wise to cultivate this show (in success).