I have never found a more perfect example of how misplaced direction and intent can ruin a show.
For those who don’t follow Network Television, Red Band Society premiered this fall with a promising pilot that centered around the inhabitants of a children’s hospital.
I find a small amount of Irony in the fact that these kids with Cancer, Anorexia, Congenital Heart Defects, and Cystic Fibrosis will have a happier ending than their show will. But don’t get me wrong, I’d be very happy with a happy ending. But when you place characters in a position of adversity, especially one as adverse as being a mostly parentless dual-citizen minor without health insurance, then you expect them to be dealing with something more serious than the Love Triangle they found themselves in.
This was the root of the problem. Out of all of the stories that could be told about the state of medicine in the US, or dealing with your own mortality before society legally considers you an adult, they instead chose to have the cheerleader fall for the tooth-pick chewing bad-boy.
It was as if the reality of their situation was superseded by what someone thought kids would find important. You could have taken these same exact plots and moved them to any other location and all you would have had to change “Cancer” to “I didn’t get the iPhone I wanted for christmas”.
But this is a common theme in most of these “Youth Dramedy” shows, isn’t it? The inability to let children have Adult problems? And when they do, A La ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’, there is the assumption that someone who is 16 (Who can be tried as an adult in most states), can’t face their own problems.
What is absolutely (and very hyperbolically) killing me about “Red Band Society”, is that every single production element is spot on. The show looks gorgeous, every single one of the actors is great, and the writing, when it is allowed to be, is fun and inventive. This show failed on only one front: It didn’t challenge anyone.
These are children who are fighting for their lives in a healthcare system that is likely bankrupting their parents. An Underweight young woman who is fighting her own Mental Illness surrounded by people fighting very physical illnesses; A Cheerleader with a cocaine addiction; a young man whose cancer has been neglected in favor of folk medicine. You can’t tell me that the show they wrote was the only one they could have written.
We deserve better.