When Fox unveiled its first look at its upcoming dramedy Red Band Society, featuring Oscar-winning Octavia Spencer and set in a hospital’s pediatric ward, viewers immediately seemed to label the show as too depressing to watch. But creators of the series want audiences to know that the series is far from your typical tearjerker. While the show may take on serious and sometimes sad subject matter, producers describe the format as a blend between the classic John Hughes flick The Breakfast Club and the recent Netflix smash hit Orange is the New Black.
Red Band Society is based on based on the Spanish drama Polseres Vermelles and focuses on six young patients staying in the hospital long-term for treatment of a variety of diseases, as well as the staff who oversees their care and helps guide them through their time at the medical center. “It’s really about that time you spend in the hospital, how it changes you and what you learn,” executive producer Margaret Nagle explained during the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday, per Variety. “There are serious things that these kids have to face, but this is not a show with a body count.”
It may be difficult to see how the show could overlap with the likes of The Breakfast Club and OINTB, given the stark difference in theme. But like the ’80s coming-of-age film, Nagle says each of the characters start off seemingly embodying one teenage stereotype but end up establishing entirely different relationships with themselves and with each other as their journey progresses. “It’s definitely as complex and funny as ‘The Breakfast Club,’” Spencer, who plays the hospital’s lead nurse, said.
Nagle even revealed that she’s hoping a Breakfast Club alum will make a cameo as a pathologist in a future episode. But Hughes’ classic movie wasn’t the producer’s only source of inspiration. She also admitted to taking cues from My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks, and one of the biggest and most beloved series on TV these days, OINTB. “Like Orange is the New Black we’re also going to go into backstories about our characters and playing around with the timeline as we come into our present,” she said, per Variety. “When you’re in a set environment, like Orange is the New Black is, you need to go out of that environment and find out how did they get there.”
Those flashbacks will give viewers further insight into each character but also allow the story to take place over a longer period of time. Time will move slower for the staff and patients at the hospital, just as it does for the women at Litchfield’s Correctional Facility. “Episode 2 is Day 2. Episode 3 is Week 1,” Nagle said. “So by the end of Season 1, we’ll be four months in the hospital.”
Its character-driven drama and unconventional narrative format could go a long way to bringing a story that originally sounded somber into a genuinely engaging and lively series. In any case, the more we learn about the upcoming show, the clearer it becomes that Red Band Society will be far from the bleak saga many were expecting. The show premieres September 17.