Just because your series is populated by sick, hospital-bound children doesn’t mean that you can’t get a few good laughs out of it.
The cast and producers of Fox’s upcoming series “Red Band Society” — which stars Octavia Spencer and centers around a group of teenagers who meet as patients in the children’s wing of a hospital — appeared at the Television Critics Association on Sunday to discuss, among other things, how to make a show about ill youngsters and not have it be a total downer.
“I had a brother who was in a coma and I grew up in pediatric hospitals,” writer/executive producer Margaret Nagle told reporters at the Beverly Hilton hotel. “I found them to be the most uplifting, the most hilarious [places] — the black humor, the fun, the getting to know kids that you would never know in any situation and these walls fall down.”
And no — even though “Red Band Society” will be crammed with kids who could, theoretically, die from what ails them, the show won’t be loaded with strangle-the-heartstrings moments featuring children’s deaths.
“Eighty-five percent of all kids that go to the hospital with any one of these diseases and situations recover. So it’s really about the time that you spend in the hospital and how it changes you. And what if you were able to learn what life is actually about when you were old enough to do something about it,” said Nagle. “It is not a show that has a body count unlike other shows that are on TV. That’s not where the show lives.”
During the panel, numerous cast members likened the series to the John Hughes ’80s staple “The Breakfast Club” in that facades and archetypes collapse when the kids in the hospital actually spend time with each other.
“You think you know who these people are, who these characters are, but who you think they are is not exactly who they are,” offered Wilson Cruz, who plays Kenji Gomez-Rejon on the series, which premieres Sept. 17.
The series’ narration will be provided by Charlie (played by Griffin Gluck), a comatose young boy whose thoughts are heard through voice-over. And while a preteen who’s been relegated to long-term, bed-ridden unconsciousness would seem to have plenty to complain about, Nagle promised that even this situation will provide some laughs.
“It’s always gonna be fart jokes; it’s gonna be right out of the world of a 12-year-old boy, which is what he is,” Nagle noted.