'Rise' Review: NBC Hits The Mark — Sort Of
'Rise' Review: NBC's latest high school musical series starring Auli'i Cravalho, Josh Radnor, and Damon J. Gillespie might mix 'Glee' with 'Friday Night Lights,' but it's so much more than that. 'Rise' is an endearing drama, filled with teenage angst and heartfelt moments. But, has a few major storytelling issues from the start.
''Rise' Review: NBC Hits The Mark — Sort Of
NBC's Rise is about to become your new favorite show. And that's not just because the Rise premiere airs immediately after the This Is Us season 2 finale and you're already going to be emotionally vulnerable. Just make sure you stick around past the pilot episode. Rise showrunner, Jason Katims, who is also the creator of hits like Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, has done it again with a killer cast of endearing characters, including Moana's Auli'i Cravalho and How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnor. Admittingly, Rise reminds us of a modern take on Glee meets Friday Night Lights as well as every other stereotypical High School Musical story, but Katims has managed to make it his own. Wondering if Rise is the show for you? Check out our Rise review, which will detail what Rise is all about as well as what we love about the show and a few things that could be better.
'NBC 'Rise' Review: Synopsis And Cast
Rise, which is loosely based on Drama High, is about the struggling community of Stanton, Pennsylvania, that is woken up when Lou Mazzucchelli (How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radner), dedicated teacher and family man, takes on the high school theater program to put on a production of Spring Awakening. Mr. Mazzu goes head to head with Tracey Wolfe (Rosie Perez), who was head of the theater department until Mazzu very suddenly took it from her. However, the pair go on a journey to make it work.
The cast of Mr. Mazzu's production, which also seems to double the size of the cast of Rise itself, includes a number of familiar characters. And we don't just mean familiar actors. To be completely honest, we couldn't help but give nicknames to each new character as they popped on the screen. Why? Because we've seen these characters before. And because the first episode introduces new characters so often that you probably won't remember everyone's face until the second or third episode. But, I digress. We'll get to that later.
Lillette Suarez (Moana's Auli'i Cravalho) is the poor diner girl who auditions for the first time and immediately scores the lead role. She also catches the eye of football star, Robbie Thorne (Damon J. Gillespie), who clearly meant for the stage through his performance at the school's pep rally. Surprise, surprise. He lands the lead role. Gwen Strickland (Amy Forsynth) is the theater's star and is initially posed as Lillette's rival, losing the lead to her as well as her father, football coach Strickland (Joe Tippett), to Lillette's mother, Vanessa Suarez (Shirley Rumierk).Simon Saunders (Ted Sutherland), who the audience is supposed to recognize as gay, pretends that he is not because of his intolerant parents. Michael Hallowell (Ellie Desautels) is a proud trans character who is prominent in the series from the start. Although, we would have loved to see Michael take on more of a leading role to drive the story forward. We see that Rise is trying to be inclusive, but we want more.
While much of Rise's story lies with the high school students and the play, we get some drama in the Mazzuchelli household as well. Taylor Richardson plays Kaitlin, Lou's wife. Marley Shelton plays Gail, Lou's daughter, and Casey Johnson plays Gordy, Lou's alcoholic teenage son.
Phew. That was a lot of characters. But, we can't forget about Barb! I mean, Stranger Things' Shannon Purser, who plays Annabelle.
'NBC 'Rise' Review
Overall, Rise starts off incredibly rushed and a little chaotic, as it stuffs 4 episodes-worth of material into a single episode, filling in gaps with montages that could have been filled with character-building moments. While we give props to post-production for sifting through so much, introduction to each character was a mess. We found ourselves asking "what happened" and "who is that again?" a dozen times during the Rise premiere. Then, by the end of the first episode, we were simply expected to believe that Mr. Mazzu was some inspiring savior to these kids without actually being shown why. Sure, he seems wonderful, but he needed to earn the audience's praise. He is no Coach Taylor.
This all being said, it does get better and the pacing is noticeably slower after the premiere. As frustrating as that is, the premiere dives right in to tell the story that they are trying to tell throughout the 10-episode season. We have no doubts that people will like this series. Hell, we bet it'll even become a hit. The story is dripping with drama for every character, much like any musical theater performance, and it'll pull at your heartstrings like no other. Well, other than This Is Us, of course.
So, give Rise a shot if you want. You won't regret it. So, when does Rise premiere?
'Rise' Premiere Date And Time
Wondering when Rise airs? The new NBC series premieres on March 12, 2018, at 10|9c. This is a special time, since the premiere airs after the season finale of This Is Us. Rise will air at 9|8c starting the following week. So, mark and correct your calendars! Happy watching!
Read These Next: