Preview: Red Band Society 1×1 (Fox)

The Breakfast Club for sick people

Red Band Society

In the US: Wednesdays, Fox. Starts 17th September

It’s not exactly news that US TV is a vast, sprawling mass that churns through shows with unrelenting speed, requiring it to look around wherever it can for potential new sources of ideas. It’s been mining books, films and comics with increasing regularity, as well as the rest of the world’s TV. For decades now, it’s been working its way through the best (and sometimes worst) ideas that UK TV has had to offer, and has since spread out to other countries including Canada, Israel, Scandinavia and Mexico.

But it seems like it’s well and truly sucked the life out of those countries, because now it’s working its way down to some much less well travelled. Right now, the new hot country is Turkey, whose Son (currently available on Netflix, in case you’re interested), The End and The Edge are being worked into US shows as we speak. But just about to hit the airwaves over on Fox is Red Band Society, an adaptation of Catalonia’s Polseres vermelles. Yes, Catalonia. That’s not even a proper country (yet).

Quite why Fox had to go all the way to Catalonia, though, isn’t clear because thanks to a few changes made to the original show, as the name suggests, this is now essentially The Breakfast Club, the only difference being that the show is set in the paediatric ward of a hospital and all the kids are severely sick. Nevertheless, this group of kids who would normally all be at odds with one another in their respective cliques at school are all going to be forced to socialise with one another, make friends and perhaps learn a little about life and each other at the same time.

The changes are at least instructive. While most of the characters are the same – for example, we have a smart kid who’s been in hospital for a while, a handsome kid who’s just turned up, a girl with anorexia who might be into both of them and a kid who narrates the whole show but who is in a coma and can only communicate with one other character – we have an attempt at greater diversity that paradoxically reduces everyone down to stereotypes. There’s no kid with Asperger’s but we do have a streetwise black kid; the main nurse is now sassy and black (Octavia Spencer); and the handsome kid who doesn’t want to make friends is now a mean girl cheerleader, who of course has to have fights for male attention with the only other girl in the group.

But despite these efforts this is really no Breakfast Club. There’s no Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald or Ally Sheedy among its cast members (even if anorexic girl does dress like Sheedy) to lift the show to new heights. The adult likes of Spencer, doctors Dave Annable and Griffin Dunne, and nurse Rebecca Rittenhouse have little to do beyond be the teachers of the piece that the kids must obey, abuse or run ring rounds, rather than have anything to do in and of themselves. And despite the constant threat of deaths, amputations and more, there’s no real emotional depth to the show and even within the space of the first episode, suggestions of any real conflict and edge are carefully sanded off before the final credits.

It’s not without its charms and some of the kids are even likeable. But ultimately, how much you’re going to enjoy Red Band Society is really down to how much time you have for teen angst and standard indie set-pieces, such as precocious kids trying to show how intellectual they are by reducing Shakespeare down to little more than textese to demonstrate his continuing relevance and how smart they are. Which ain’t really my thing – but it might be yours.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.