TV Reviews

Rise aka Friday Night Lights meets Glee

NEW SHOW ALERT!

We’ve got a new show for all you Friday Night Lights/Glee fans out there.

I just finished watching the Rise pilot and I think I’m going to stick it out.

Rise’s basic premise is that Ted Mosby met the mother, settled down in economically depressed Stanton and after 17 years of being bored at work, tries to ‘Eric Taylor’ the school’s Drama program. He then goes on to change the lives of Troy Bolton and the rest of the Glee kids.

That’s a bit unfair of me, I’m being a tad bit sassy – but this show is basically every show I’ve loved in the past melded into one and although I would love some originality, I’m ok with it.

The show is produced by Jason Katims – the guy behind Friday Night Lights and Parenthood – and a producer from Hamilton.

It feels like this show fits nicely into all those different shows. One critic said it was like a venn diagram middle point and I would have to agree.

The show opens with a very gritty Friday Night Lights style B-roll drive through the town. I don’t hate it, but again it’s more of the same.

We meet Ted Mosby aka Josh Radner who plays high school English teacher Lou Mazzuchelli. He’s got three kids – of which, the eldest is brooding ala Julie Taylor and is maybe an alcoholic; and a wife who is trying really hard to be Connie Britton but just isn’t as cool.  He’s super burnt out after spending 17 years doing nothing and decides to take over the drama department. This doesn’t feel great, he basically steamrolls the latina woman who has been there for years, but for the sake of the show I’ll go with it. I don’t know if I love this character yet but he’s the main one so here’s hoping he improves as the season goes on.  The whole show is focused around him mentoring all the kids:

 

There are quite a few kids to Mentor.

Up first is Robbie/QB1, football player and clearly the show’s ‘hot boy’ character. He’s got this silent but brooding Tim Riggins thing going on, but he’s so good at singing that he feels more like Troy Bolton. He’s got stage presence like Smash Williams and Chad Danforth (I thought he was going to yell ‘What Team! Wildcats!’ at one point) and so Mr. Mazzu scoops Robbie for the show. There is some minor blackmail and threats between Mazzu and the football coach -Coach Strickland – so this kid becomes a pawn in the teacher’s power struggle. He’s also got a sick mom which gives this character some much needed depth. Damon J. Gillespie plays Robbie – and even if this show doesn’t make him a massive celebrity, it will be enough to launch a successful career.

Lilette Suarez (Auli’i Cravalho aka Moana) joins the theatre troop as lead actress/Robbie’s love interest. She’s great, her mother not so much. Mommy dearest has been hooking up with (the married) coach Strickland… who’s kid Gwen Strickland –   Lilette stole the lead role from. There is a great scene between her and her mom – I think this relationship again feels a bit cliche but I’m hoping this is just the pilot and we’ll develop from here. I’m just pumped to see how the relationship between Robbie and Lilette progresses. These two have chemistry and I hope we get to see them explore this.

 

 

We get introduced to the rest of the theatre kids with a weird little audition montage. Much like all shows about theatre kids have these montages.

We meet Simon, the frequent lead of the show who comes from a very traditional Catholic family. By being cast in a role that involves a love scene with a boy (gasp!) he’s afraid of embarrassing and letting down his family, because he’s not gay… sure kid. Of course, Mr. Mazzu sees that this might be great for him and pushes him to take the role.

Michael/Margaret, played by non-binary, trans-masculine actor Ellie Desautels might be the best character here. Ellie does an incredible job with this character in the pilot and this is the first character in the whole show that feels fresh. I really hope Michael becomes a major character – from what I’ve read apparently that doesn’t happen in the first season, so here’s hoping they get a Landry style upgrade as the season’s progress.

Lastly, we get introduced to Maashous Evers – the jughead of the group – who lives in the auditorium’s projection room. He ends up getting taken in by Mr. Mazzu so we know he’ll be a major character as the show progresses.

I think I liked this show – but I think I liked it because it was everything I liked from a bunch of different shows mashed together.

It feels very High School Musical, there are lots of the team building speeches and a big choice between sports and the musical.  I half expect Robbie to start singing Get’cha Head In the Game, which to be honest would be great.

I think I agree with the Vox review – the show would have been much stronger if Lou Mazzuchelli wasn’t the teacher. There are a lot of people commenting about how this adaption from Drama High, straightwashed this character – but I think the main issue is that he’s just not likeable in the same way that Coach Taylor was. I would also argue that this is a bit miscast. I think I would have bought more into Mazzuchelli if it wasn’t Josh Radnor.

Obviously, the pilot ends with the principal trying to stop them and a big coming together moment. Everyone is united and they are all RISEing above all the barriers to their lives and the show. They burn stuff and all stand up for their teacher. It’s all the cheese you could ever want. They all beleive in Lou, I just wish I could too…

Will I keep watching? Yes and I’ll give you all a full review at the end of the season.

Rise airs on Global every Tuesdays at 9. 

 

Bonus fun:

For some bonus fun here are the kids doing a Macklemore cover… which is equal parts awful and great. Like it might be so bad it’s good, but I just don’t know if it’s bad enough to qualify as good. Jury’s out.

I love Build. I just really love these long deep interviews. Again, not loving Josh Radnor, would have loved this with the cast of kids rather than him but that’s ok. I’ll take what I can get.

 

 

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