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Fox’s Red Band Society is a hospital dramedy, but writer/exec producer Margaret Nagle wants it to be so much more than that.
Red Band Society focuses on the daily lives of a group of teenagers living in a hospital who become unlikely friends. The depth of the unexpected friendships allows them to survive the challenges of growing up under such intense circumstances. Octavia Spencer stars as a snarky yet caring nurse alongside “hot doc” Dave Annable.
The series, on its surface, is about what kids learn in the hospital while recovering and forming a very Breakfast Club-like group of friends comprised of people the characters never would have gotten to know under normal circumstances.
For Nagle (Boardwalk Empire), the series has an autobiographical component to it, with Griffin Gluck‘s comatose Charlie loosely inspired by her relationship with her brother, who was comatose as a child.
Here are four things to know about the new Fox series:
1. It hits close to home for Nagle, who says she “grew up in a hospital.” “My brother, Charlie, was in a coma for a very long time and he is a remarkable guy. [Red Band Society is] inspired by his story,” she told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. Nagle noted that there are things that the show is helping her work through via Gluck’s character, and that season one of the series would follow his journey. “He was experiencing life while in a coma,” she said, noting that he could hear and smell things at the time. “I shared a room with him growing up. The things he’s talking about in this coma, we’ll join in the journey [and] see his family” as well as how he connects with other patients in the hospital’s Red Band Society. As for a potential second season, Gluck will hand off his voiceover role and it will shift to someone else.
2. It’s based on real stories. Producers Nagle and Justin Falvey said they were meeting pediatric patients alongside stars Spencer, Annable and the rest of the young cast, with many of the show’s medical stories based on people they’ve met or heard about. Co-star Zoe Levin, for example, portrays mean girl Kara, with Nagle noting that “if you’re a douchebag kid, you’re not getting a heart. Her story is loosely based on a kid in Atlanta.
3. The show will play with time in a fashion similar to Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black. With a show set in a hospital and kids seeing no immediate discharge, it was important for producers to flush out that world and go beyond the confines of the facility. To that end, the show will explore how the young patients got there, their relationships with parents and siblings and the personal lives for the doctors and nurses on staff. Wilson Cruz‘s orderly Kenji, Nagle noted, started as a patient at the hospital who was cared for by Spencer’s Nurse Jackson.
4. Don’t expect a lot of death. “There are serious things these kids will have to face, but it is not a show that has a body count,” Nagle said. “That is not where our show lives.” She stressed that 85 percent of all kids in pediatrics — which treats individuals up to age 24 —come in with the serious issues the show’s characters are facing. “There’s always going to be fart jokes. We’re right out of the world of being a 12-year-old boy.”
Red Band Society debuts Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 9 p.m. on Fox.
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