While Fox’s Red Band Society drama deals with the grave topic of ill-stricken teenagers in a Los Angeles children’s hospital, the potentially grim subject matter didn’t daunt network executives, the show’s executive producers said today at TCA. Commenting on the recent string of illness-centered dramas, including The Big C, and Chasing Life alongside the ABC Studios-produced Red Band Society, series EP Margaret Nagle said, “Teens and twentysomethings aren’t about the immortality as seen in Twilight. Rather, they’re more focused on dramas that deal with mortality. They’re very forthright about these things. The way that the show can work is that it has to tonally go to that place of teen life, i.e. My So-Called Life. Even M.A.S.H. was an influence with this series. Those shows were willing to go to a place with their material that were off-center, and off-center was where they thrived.”
Nagle further expounded on how Red Band Society went to Fox saying, “(Executive producer) Steven Spielberg knows everything about teen hospital wards. He’s so involved in this area and on the ground. He knew there was a place for this show and where he wanted the show to be.”
In avoiding the opposing narrative sides of the hospital genre — either most patients are dying or most are getting miraculously well — Nagle said, “85% of all kids with any one of these diseases in a children’s hospital ultimately recover. The show is about that time spent in a hospital and how that changes you.” Many of the under-18 cast spoke about how the series was akin to John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club, which set up teen archetypes that aren’t always what they appear to be. The story arcs in Red Band Society’s first season will unspool over four months in season one.
While the series, which stars Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, is based on the Spanish show Polseres Vermelles, Nagle drew largely from her life in creating the show. Not only does she come from a family of doctors, but a good deal of her childhood was spent in a children’s hospital visiting her younger brother Charlie, who went into a coma following a car accident. Season one of Red Band Society centers on a comatose young boy, also named Charlie. “My brother said he could hear when he was in the coma and could also smell,” said Nagle. Today, the real Charlie is an outsider artist.
Also mentioned at the panel today: actor Griffin Dunne has a recurring role as Ruben Garcia, the hospital hypochondriac whose relationship with Spencer’s Nurse Jackson grows. Dunne also will direct some episodes.
Executive producers also include Darryl Frank (The Americans) and Sergio Aguero (Y Tu Mama Tambien) as well as Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Red Band Society premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 9 PM, following Hell’s Kitchen.