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Series / Red Band Society

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"Everyone thinks that when you go to a hospital, life stops. But it's just the opposite — life starts."

Red Band Society is an American comedy-drama television series on FOX developed by Margaret Nagle. The series premiered on September 17, 2014, put on hiatus after the tenth episode on December 3, 2014, and effectively ended on February 7, 2015.

Based upon the Catalan drama series Polseres vermelles, the series is a dark dramedy focused on a group of teenagers living together as patients in a hospital's pediatric ward.

Interestingly, one of the show's executive producers is none other than Steven Spielberg.

Red Band Society was highly anticipated to be a major headliner for FOX in the 2014-15 season. It instead got Screwed by the Network, having been scheduled on Wednesday nights at 9:00pm alongside ABC's (who, coincidentally, co-produced Red Band Society) Modern Family, CBS's Criminal Minds and NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Ratings were abysmal, and fell further behind when FOX preempted the series for two weeks to cover the 2014 MLB World Series. FOX lost confidence and canceled the series after ten episodes. On January 31, 2015, FOX decided to air the eleventh episode, finally letting the series end a week afterward.

Red Band Society provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Jordi's "dead" mom.
    Kara: Note to self: ask about her skin-care regimen.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Dash hooks up with Mae but is frequently teased for his devotion to Leo.
  • Amicable Exes: Emma and Leo, once you get past all the snark.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Jordi's cancer necessitates a leg amputation. Turns out Leo's already been through it. Though it turns out he gets to keep his leg after all, because the cancer has spread to the soft tissue, rendering amputation pointless.
  • And I Must Scream: Charlie is a relatively lighthearted example. When Kara comes up with the incredibly insensitive idea of blowing cigarette smoke right on his face, his only reaction is to narrate, "You gotta wonder what I did to deserve this." He does get some revenge later, farting loudly while Kara's nearby.
    • As of the seventh episode, Charlie's eyes have opened. The following episode clarifies that he can communicate by blinking, but still can't wake up.
    • Charlie is finally fully conscious by the series finale.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: A non-fatal example: When Kara has her accident, the entire cheer squad stops to take photos, except for one girl who is actually concerned for her.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love:
    Leo: You're the one who insisted we should just be friends!
    Emma: Well, I changed my mind, all right? I don't want to be friends!
    Leo: Great! Neither do I! (kisses Emma)
    Charlie: That, my friends, is a declaration of love.
  • Anthropic Principle: The show's very premise runs on it, with our having to accept that the Society members are all sick enough to have to live in the hospital, yet not sick enough that they're kept from doing things that make for interesting stories (starting right from the pilot where some of them steal a car to buy beer). Critics are quite divided on how much the stories themselves make up for this.
  • Anti-Hero: Leo, Kara and McAndrew aren't bad people, but they're the most flawed of the main cast.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Leo knows Kara's hiding a lot behind all her meanness.
    Leo: Can you ever just give it a rest?
    Kara: If I could, don't you think I would?
  • Been There, Shaped History: Ruben Garcia claims to have helped plan Woodstock when he was 16.
  • Berserk Button: Kara has two: Don't insult cheerleading and don't pity her for her condition, though she never becomes violent over either one.
  • Black Comedy: Given that some of the main cast is explicitly stated to be dying, this shouldn't come as a surprise. Most of Emma's snarky comments are of this nature; Leo is barely able to deal with it, while Jordi is actually impressed.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Kara, Emma, Brittany. Though Charlie says of Kara "that blonde of hers is almost all extensions".
  • Breakfast Club: The kids. Made abundantly clear by the extensive Shout Outs to the film in the seventh episode.
  • Break the Haughty: Kara has an enlarged heart, which would eventually require her to get a heart transplant. Unfortunately, her unsavory habits put her at the bottom of the transplant list.
    Charlie: How do you tell the girl who needs a heart that she never really had one to begin with?
  • Brick Joke: During their first meeting, Kara suggests the salted ice-cube diet to Emma. In the next episode, Kara catches Emma trying it out.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Naday, the outside specialist recommended by Nurse Jackson to help with Charlie's case. Half of the eighth episode has the hospital staff convinced that he's a fake, but he later explains what he's doing to Nurse Jackson: motivating Charlie to wake up by mending his parents' strained relationship.
  • Camp Gay: Kenji, one of the nurses.
  • Cool Old Guy/Erudite Stoner: Ruben Garcia, a hypochondriac "rich hippie" who has a wing of the hospital named after him, and plans to donate all his money there after he dies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of the cast, but the most prominent example among them has to be Emma.
  • Dogged Nice Girl: The pep squad girl, who seemed to be the only one concerned about Kara when she passed out, but probably just saw an excuse to perform mouth-to-mouth.
    • Brittany seems to be headed this way for Dr. McAndrew. By the ninth episode, they've slept together, but Adam considers it as just a one-night stand. Brittany responds by giving him a black eye.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Kara is not a big fan of being shown compassion or pity for her condition. Thanks to her, Leo comes to realize that he'd rather not be known as the cancer survivor/soccer superstar.
  • First-Person Smartass: Charlie is the Narrator and quite the Deadpan Snarker.
    Jordi: (talking to Charlie while unconscious) You're the kid in the coma.
    Charlie: Yeah. Unfortunately, that has become my most identifiable characteristic.

    Daniella: Such a cute boy.
    Charlie: (narrating) Try "devastatingly handsome".

    Kara: (to Nurse Jackson) In case you haven't noticed, Veggie Boy here isn't much of a conversationalist.
    Charlie: (narrating) I prefer "Veggie Young Adult".
  • Go into the Light: After his death, Hunter still can't do this because he still has to fully convince Kara — while she's receiving his heart — to live on.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Kara, probably the most obnoxious among the cast, is also the only smoker. She apparently got it from her mom.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
    Brittany: I've just had a crap day — sorry for cursing.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Leo and Dash to an extent. Emma even starts to suspect that Dash is in love with Leo.
    Dash: If I was in love with him, I would be clear about it! Cause men are direct!
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Why Kara's red band is from Leo's skin graft operation.
    Leo: Cause I believe, like skin, there are layers to you that have yet to be revealed.
    • Dash turns out to know a lot about interior design, enough to successfully convince a realtor that he's an interior designer Lately he's also showing signs of being The Heart of the group. Hunter actually regards him as the real leader of the Red-Banders.
  • Holding Hands: More than a few scenes between Emma and Jordi have them doing this. At the end of the fifth episode, even after Jordi knows Emma's back together with Leo, he still reaches out for her hand while Leo's nearby.
  • Hospital Hottie: Brittany. To the point that a few frat boys think she's a stripper when she retrieves Leo from a fraternity house he and Dash sneaked into earlier.
    • Adam McAndrew also qualifies. The image above even says so.
    • Dr. McAndrew's ex Erin (who also happens to be the Chief of Surgery — his superior) is played by Mandy Moore.
  • How We Got Here: Lampshaded by the aptly-titled episode "How Did We Get Here?", which starts with Adam going to work with a black eye, Kara straddling an old guy, Jordi and Dash in bed with a girl between them, and Leo's prosthetic leg on fire.
  • Hufflepuff House: The rest of the kids at the hospital, which includes several guest stars scheduled for the future.
  • Ignored Epiphany: After spending a whole episode giving Nurse Jackson grief over an upcoming drug test, Kara's results are clean and Nurse Jackson tells her how surprised she was 'And I am never surprised'. Kara smiles as Nurse Jackson leaves... before immediately swallowing a pill that she dug out of her bag.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Leo initially wants to get his physical therapy over with so he can get back to playing varsity soccer and try for a scholarship from Stanford. Kara's Homecoming debacle later leads him to realize that he'd rather just be a regular guy. By the tenth episode however, Kara convinces him to consider going back to playing soccer.
  • I'm Standing Right Here:
    • Jordi's introduction to Leo.
    Leo: It's not just them; it's their parents, their grandparents, their stupid friends...
    Dr. McAndrew: I happen to know, with this patient, you're not gonna have to worry about that.
    Leo: (just as Jordi enters the room) So, what, he must be a total loser.
    • Later, after Kara regains consciousness with Nurse Jackson and a doctor watching over her:
    Doctor: She needs to be wearing a heart monitor.
    Nurse Jackson: Assuming she has one.
    Kara: Hello? I can hear you!
    Nurse Jackson: I know, babe.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: In "Know Thyself", Hunter shows the Red-Banders a surgery in progress and tells them that no matter what friends you make in the hospital, when you have surgery, you're alone and if the surgery goes wrong and you die, you're alone for that too. Later, Kara admits that he's right about that, but argues that dying alone doesn't mean having to live alone.
    • The next episode has him refusing to accept his sister's offer to donate half her liver to him. Kara at first views this as suicidal stupidity, but later empathizes with his perspective that his sickness is taking all control of his life away from him, and choosing a donor is one of the few things left that he can still decide on.
  • Jerk Jock: Leo to some extent, who's occasionally prone to suddenly lashing out at others without warning.
    • Kara's new... acquaintance Hunter seems to be this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Nurse Jackson prides herself on acting like a self-professed "Scary Bitch" around her hospital colleagues (her coffee cups are even labeled as such!), but is genuinely concerned for her patients' well-being.
    • Kara at times, especially in the Pilot. She still lets Charlie's dad know what Charlie said to her while she was unconscious, even though she was unsatisfied with the the beer he bought her and she really had no reason to get Nurse Jackson to send up pizza for Charlie like he asked. Leo seems to see something in her.
  • Like Is, Like, a Comma: Nurse Jackson calls Brittany out on this.
  • Loophole Abuse: Charlie's dad lost his visitation rights due to being the driver at Charlie's accident. So he goes to the hospital his son is in as a volunteer instead.
  • Love Triangle: Leo/Emma/Jordi has all the makings of one. Dash can see it coming too. Charlie describes it succinctly as "a trifecta of unrequited love".
    Leo: That's not the band I gave you last night.
    Emma: Yeah, um... I lost the one that you gave me. It slipped off my wrist.
    Leo: So who gave you—
    Emma: Jordi.
    Dash: Damn! (Emma and Leo glare at him) Oh. My bad. I mean... (whispering) damn.
    • Erin/Adam/Brittany, as of "How Did We Get Here".
  • Magic Realism: Everything involving Charlie, a boy in a coma who knows everything going on in the hospital and who the others can share dreams with.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Kara calls this trope by name in episode 8, when describing an ex-girlfriend of Hunter.
  • Missing Mom: Jordi insists to the hospital staff that his mother is dead. She later turns out to be the woman Dr. McAndrew just had a one-night stand with.
  • Mood Whiplash: Charlie's snarky commentaries tend to lessen the impact of some otherwise emotional scenes throughout the series.
    "Oh man. I don't think I can stand to watch this. Good thing my eyes are closed."
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kara. Also Jordi's mom, whose outfits always show off her cleavage.
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: Dash tries to invoke this on Brittany. He tries this again later on Delaney Shaw.
  • Narrator: Charlie, a nine-year-old patient in a coma, who is somehow still aware of everything going on within the hospital. Even more strangely, when Kara, Jordi, and Leo were unconscious, they managed to have conversations with him!
    Charlie: Yeah, this is me, talking to you, from a coma. Deal with it.
  • Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Somehow, being in a coma allows Charlie to communicate with people who are passed out.
  • Nice Girl:
    • Brittany, the new nurse.
    • Emma, underneath all the snark. Best seen when she tries to help smooth things over between Kara and her parents, despite Kara having been her usual rude self to Emma.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Leo wants Emma back, and thinks supporting her budding relationship with Jordi will help his case. When the two of them discuss their previous relationship later, a misunderstanding causes him to inadvertently friend-zone himself.
  • Odd Friendship: Kara has this with all of the Red-Banders, to the extent that she can be called their friend.
    Emma: (to Kara's moms) "Friends" is a strong word. I'd say we're more like acquaintances.
  • Oracular Urchin: Charlie seems to be one. See Narrator above.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: After Nurse Jackson gets used to Kara's incessant use of the call button (and her attempt to use Charlie's as her own), she realizes something's wrong when Kara signals only once before falling into unconsciousness, knowing that she usually tended to mash the button repeatedly. The next time Kara sends out a message, she resorts to using masking tape on her window.
  • Parental Issues: Where to begin?
    • Jordi doesn't know who his dad is, and says to the hospital staff that his mother is dead. It turns out she's alive and well; just not a very capable (and willing) mother. Meanwhile, his abuela (grandmother) believes he has "demons in his leg".
    • Emma used to be very close with her family, until her eating disorder made them focus on her condition instead. The tenth episode further clarifies that her mother kept Emma's grandmother's anorexia a secret.
    • Kara's parents are divorced, and her mother married the nanny.
  • Put on a Bus: Word of God said that the show is more likely to have the kids get better and leave the hospital than to have them die.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • After insulting the pep squad girl, Kara is angrily told that no one else wanted to come because everyone hates her. She doesn't mind though. In fact, she confesses to Leo that she would rather be hated than loved. At Homecoming, she is quite upset when people start treating her nicely because of her condition, calling her kind and electing her Queen on a sympathy vote. Leo saves the day by giving her one of these speeches calling her a complete bitch, which prompts her to smile and kiss him. Later, Leo has another similar speech, this time for Emma regarding her jealousy at Kara.
    Emma: Why did you go up there and defend Kara?
    Leo: Cause she was having a bad night.
    Emma: She deserves a bad night, Leo — she's a bad person!
    Leo: Maybe, but nobody deserves to be pitied. You don't understand that because... well, no one pities you, Emma! You don't have to be in this hospital! You don't have to be here.
    • Emma returns the favor in the next episode, accusing him of "slumming it" with her and really wanting to be with Kara because he can't be anything other than an "alpha male American Dream."
    • Kara gives one to Hunter outlining exactly what an idiot she thinks he is for not accepting his sister's transplant offer.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Jordi gets himself assigned to Dr. McAndrew simply by walking into the hospital and claiming to already be a patient of his, knowing that he can't be turned away at the ER.
  • Relative Error: In Episode 8, Kara goes all Clingy Jealous Girl over seeing Hunter having an argument with another girl. Turns out, the girl is his sister and the argument in question was about his refusal to accept a transplant from her.
  • Running Gag: References to Kara's heart, more specifically people joking about her seeming lack of one even within earshot of her.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Kara's biological mother has this attitude, and believes she can get Kara bumped up the transplant list with this in mind. With a little nudge from Emma, Kara later admits to her mothers that she'd rather figure out for herself how to make her way up the list.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Nurse Jackson switches Charlie's blood sample with that of another patient to delay his transfer to another facility. While it does buy him enough time to finally open his eyes, it also gets her suspended.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • Nurse Jackson knows that Charlie's dad is visiting the hospital as a volunteer despite having lost his right to see his son. So does Kara, after having had a conversation with Charlie himself while unconscious.
    • Emma is the only other person who knows that Jordi let his mom win so that she would stick around for a while longer.
    • Dash lets Kara in on his "art project", as well as his true reason for doing them.
  • Serious Business: Jordi and his mom play five-hand poker — him betting his medical rights (he gets emancipated if he wins), her betting her right to be his mom. Jordi decides to let her win.
    Charlie: As if the stakes weren't high enough, they're also playing for jellybeans.
  • She's a Man in Japan: The equivalent character to Kara in the original Catalan series was Ignasi, who was "the handsome guy" of the group.
  • Shipper on Deck: Charlie is amused with Kara and her interactions with "Water Girl".
    Charlie: (rapping) And we're back with Water Girl once again/Kinda obvious she wants to be more than a friend...
    Water Girl: (walking towards Kara) Oh, you're okay! I'm so relieved!
    Charlie: Aww, kiss her! You know you want to!
    • While Emma is faced with a Love Triangle, Dash always insists that she pick Leo. Later on however, when she agonizes over it yet again, Dash advises her that she should address her own self-esteem issues first before deciding to be with someone. After Emma's condition grows worse, Dash outright tells Leo to "set her free".
    Dash: As long as she has you to focus on, she doesn't feel the need to focus on herself.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Smurfette Principle: Emma used to be the only girl in Leo's circle of friends, until Kara came along. Charlie lampshades this.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Emma provokes this out of everyone she talks to. The rest of the cast do give as good as they get from her.
  • Sorry That I'm Dying: During a discussion on Shakespeare's Henry V, Leo implies that this may be why he decided not to get serious with Emma, or make friends with anyone else.
    Teacher: Henry's a total pleasure seeker, right? But he has no close friends. Why?
    Leo: He's going to war, and getting too close to anyone's a bad idea.
    Teacher: Explain.
    Leo: Cause then, it won't be hard to say goodbye.
  • Team Mom: Emma has some shades of this, lampshaded by Kara. Red-Banders aside, Nurse Jackson serves this role.
  • This Is Reality: In "Know Thyself", Hunter shows the Red-Banders a surgery in progress and tells them that they're at the hospital for that reason only, not to "fall in love, or form secret societies that band together around a tough nurse with a heart of gold."
  • Title Drop: The seventh episode marks the first time the Red-Banders identify themselves as the "Red Band Society".
  • Totally Radical: This series provides The New '10s equivalents — "awesomesauce", "YOLO", "cray-cray", etc.
  • True Companions: Leo invokes this as he gives out his red bands by reciting the "Saint Crispin's Day" speech (the Band of Brothers Trope Namer) from Henry V.
  • UST: Between Emma and Leo, then Emma and Jordi, and even with Leo and Kara.
  • Wham Episode: "What I Did For Love". Hunter gets a new liver, Leo and Kara have sex, Jordi is forced to deal drugs to expedite his emancipation and get surgery, and Emma relapses and falls unconscious on her first night back home. On the bright side, Charlie can now move his fingers, after secretly getting Dr. Naday and Nurse Jackson to kiss.
    • "The Guilted Age". It says a lot when Dash seems to be the only Red-Bander who ends the episode relatively unscathed. Emma is hospitalized again, with her anorexia having made her physically sick now. Jordi's emancipation appeal is denied, after which he confesses to Nurse Jackson about dealing drugs to expedite his request. Hunter's body rejects the liver that was transplanted to him, and he dies on Dr. McAndrew's table — leaving his heart to Kara, who doesn't feel like she deserves it after having slept with Leo. Worst of all, Leo's cancer returns, and he and his parents learn this just as he was about to be discharged.
  • Wham Shot: At the end of "Know Thyself", Charlie's eyes are open and he's blinking.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The Camp Gay Latino nurse's name is Kenji, which is a Japanese name.
  • World of Snark: There are a lot of Deadpan Snarkers: Charlie, Emma, Kara, and Nurse Jackson, just for starters.
  • You Are Not Alone:
    • Jordi becomes a patient in the hospital due to his cancerous leg requiring an amputation. During the "goodbye party" for his leg, Leo gives him the red band from his own amputation surgery, invoking this trope as he hands the red band over.
    • Kara invokes this in "Know Thyself:"
    Kara: (to Hunter) You don't need to be one of us, but when you fall, we're gonna be there anyways. We may all die alone, but it doesn't mean we need to live alone.

"You can't always get what you want...
But if you try sometimes, you just might find—"
Charlie: You get what you need.
Kara: Wait — what was that?
Charlie: I said, "you get what you need"!
"Waiting for Superman", the series finale