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Series / Rise (2018)

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Glee, in the font of RENT

Rise is a 2018 TV show from NBC, based on the novel Drama High (itself Very Loosely Based on a True Story), starring Josh Radnor as an exceptionally average high-school English teacher with Dead Poets Society-style aspirations. He takes over the Drama Club in the pilot episode and decides, despite the school being in a small conservative town, to put on Spring Awakening.

The series was ultimately canceled after a single season.

Tropes in Rise:

  • Acoustic License: Inverted in the final episode. People have multiple conversations in the wings as the show runs, sometimes not even bothering to whisper, yet the audience doesn't hear any of it. As any high school drama kid who's gotten yelled at for talking in the wings can tell you, sound carries pretty well from there even if nobody has a mic.
  • Age-Inappropriate Art: The frame of the show is having teenagers put on Spring Awakening, which has some mature topics in it (and a lot of sex).
  • All for Nothing: Unfortunately, the kids putting on the best show in the world does not change the town's ingrained conservatism, make up for the fact they blatantly and very publicly ignored direct instructions, or fix the mire of school politics and budget issues—so the drama club gets cut as punishment.
  • Based on a True Story: The show is loosely (and how!) on the career of high school drama teacher Lou Volpe. Employed by the Harry S Truman High School in Levittown, Pennsylvania, Volpe gained media attention for putting on edgy play material such as RENT and Spring Awakening. However, the show's counterpart for Volpe is straight whereas Volpe is gay in real life. Furthermore, Volpe was fully aware that putting on such risque material in a small town would create controversy and backlash, so he carefully and masterfully handled the PR aspect of presenting such material to a conservative audience and not bullying/pressuring students into doing things on stage they felt uncomfortable with. On the other hand, Mr Muzzo is a liberal strawman of the highest degree who alienates everyone, routinely bullies and intimidates his students, to the point that his "experiment" in presenting edgier high school theater is a total failure that ends with his firing and the closing of the entire theater department.
  • Bowdlerize: Because it's a small conservative town, the principal says the club has to make heavy changes to the book and the songs if they want to perform the show—meaning they have to excise or downplay a lot of important scenes and plot points, robbing the show of much of its impact.
  • Covers Always Lie: This is the promotional banner. It's the show's name logo over a dark and mysterious background with Auli'i Cravalho's face staring dangerously through the rain. It makes the teen musical look like a detective mystery.
  • Downer Ending: Everything Mr Mazzu did ultimately backfires on him as the superintendent privately informs several parents, who Mr. Mazzu has spent the entire show pissing off, that the drama department will be shut down, with the guise of "budget cuts", after the students defy him and perform the play uncensored.
  • Drama Club: The story frame of the show is Stanton's drama club under Mr. Mazzu.
  • Foreshadowing: Lou, in addition to wanting to shake things up and cast new people, says that he didn't cast Simon as Melchior because the show calls for real chemistry between the leads, and Simon has never been able to sell an ounce of sexual tension with Gwen. Turns out that when Simon plays romantically against a boy, suddenly sparks are flying everywhere.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Simon tries to date Annabelle in an attempt to prove to himself that he's really straight—which of course she doesn't know; she just thinks he likes her, and starts to like him back.
  • The Musical: The drama club are putting on Spring Awakening.
  • Precision F-Strike: Even before the principal comes down with orders to Bowdlerize the show, Mr. Mazzu (and probably the writing team) knew that they couldn't get away with performing "Totally Fucked" as-is, so he tells the cast to sing "Totally F'd" instead until the final line of the song. Of course, then they're told they can't do it at all, until they come up with "totally hosed" instead. In the finale they go with Mr. Mazzu's original idea, but it cuts away from Robbie actually saying "fucked" to the principal's shocked face.
  • Two-Teacher School: There's Mr. Mazzu, the drama club director and apparently English teacher, Tracey, the drama assistant director, and Coach Strickland, the football coach. A principal is mentioned but doesn't appear until later episodes.