Rise (NBC, Tuesdays 10/9 Central) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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NBC, Tuesdays 10/9 Central

Mar 13, 2018 Web Exclusive
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If Rise feels like Friday Night Lights meets Glee, that is because it has the former's executive producer Jason Katims and Hamilton's producer Jeffrey Seller as its pedigree. Rise shares part of its premise with Friday Night Lights in that it takes place in a small town where high school football rules supreme. The distinction is, this town is in Pennsylvania, with a teacher, Lou Mazzuchelli (How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnor) who takes over the theater department and tries hard to make it matter, going against a lot of the town's norms in the process.

In the pilot, Mr. "Mazzu" is handed the reins of the theater department, reins that have been snatched out of the hands of its longtime champion Tracy, played by Rosie Perezwho, for once, isn't making every scene about herself but actually lending herself to the script. A script which borrows some of its lines almost verbatim from Friday Nights Lights. Also borrowed from that show is its multiple cameras with their up close cinematography style, giving the show an unscripted, documentary look. Even some of the minor storylines from that show are revisited here, but not well.

As is the case with small towns settings, there are overlaps in the lives of Rise's residents. The football coach's daughter loses her leading role to the girl whose mother is having an affair with her father. This is the same person who keeps Mr. Mazzu's son on the bench during football games while the starting quarterback stars not just on the field but on the stage, advocating for everyone from the transgender student to the closeted gay one, all the while his mother is in a home while his father has replaced her with a trophy wife. So many stories trying so hard to be realistic and important, none of them succeeding.

In this mesh of disasters, the only storyline in Rise of any interest is that of Mr. Mazzu's sullen son, Gordy (GLOW's Casey Johnson), with whom he has a combative and troubled relationship. This relationship becomes ever more strained when Mr. Mazzu brings home the student who does the lighting for the theater productions when he discovers he's living in the lighting booth in the auditorium. That kid slides right into the good son spot, deteriorating the actual father/son relationship further.

The problem is, even with its many storylinesthe back stories of all the members of the multicultural theater cast, Mr. Mazzu's family, the football coach's familyand Rise's attempt at making the viewer a part of this small town's community, it is just too prescribed. The big, heartfelt, Dangerous Minds style lines that are geared at squeezing out tears are so cheesy, predictable, and trite, they cause eye-rolls instead. Film and television always make getting through to high school students seem so easy, which makes it all the more unrealistic. Time to press "stop" on this high school version of Smash and hit "replay" on Friday Night Lights. (www.nbc.com/rise)

Author rating: 4/10

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July 1st 2018

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