Have you been searching to finally itch that scratch left behind from your “High School Musical” phase? NBC’s new musical drama “Rise” will not only fill that void, but will also exceed expectations. Featuring a diverse, musically gifted cast rivaling the songbirds of hit show “Glee,” “Rise” is a gritty and beautiful show meant for the spotlight.
Although it may not be doing well with critics, “Rise” is especially enjoyable for those who have always yearned to be a part of their high school’s productions. It continues the trend of depicting a mature image of high school students and runs with that concept. If anything, “Rise” can be appreciated for offering one of the most interesting, unique stories that I’ve stumbled upon in a while.
“How I Met Your Mother” star Josh Radnor makes his triumphant return to television as Lou Mazzuchelli, a weathered high school English teacher in charge of a class of unruly, uninterested teenagers. When he takes control of the school’s theatre department, Lou attempts to shake things up and impact students’ lives by putting on classic shows about teenage angst and issues. While casting for roles in the upcoming production of “Spring Awakening,” viewers are introduced to several troubled teens that are sure to evolve thanks to Lou and his guidance.
With its tense premiere scenes and lack of a catchy opening cinematic, “Rise’s” stoic tone becomes immediately apparent. Though only a few episodes have aired, it is apparent that the showrunners are determined to make this a rare high school drama that becomes a national phenomenon. The masterful singing and toe-tapping rhythms come second to the harsh realities that are brought up throughout the first two episodes.
The first episode takes a look at several of the troupe members’ lives as they deal with broken homes, addiction and a multitude of other issues. Much like Disney’s popular musical franchise, the star quarterback is recruited due to his passion for performance, but he also needs to focus on the “big game” and his sick mother.
With great to subpar drama comes a heavily clichéd script that more often than not comes off as over-dramatic and sometimes even nonsensical. Several times throughout episode one, characters stare each other down only to back away silently learning some kind of hidden message that audiences are meant to covertly understand. The amount of eye rolls during inspirational speeches Lou gives are outnumbered by the amount of frustrated sighs at seeing the unpopular new girl slowly falling for the quarterback because he is a truly sensitive soul.
“Rise” makes up for this weakness, though, through the amount of potential it has to be a massive hit with dedicated viewers. Being a musical, emotional songs get right to the center of the main characters’ issues and internal struggles. It will be interesting to see just how much each student and Lou evolve throughout the 10-episode season.
New episodes of “Rise” air on Tuesdays on NBC.