NBC’s new drama Rise follows the lives of the students and faculty involved in Stanton high school’s theater department. The pilot episode starts with a clearly unsatisfied Mr. Mazzuchelli, played by Josh Radnor from “How I Met Your Mother”, taking over the theater program. His taking over the program leads to an expected snowball effect of a not exactly thrilled wife, disappointed students and an understandably angry former theater director, played by Rosie Perez. Things get worse when Mr. Mazzu decides to change their show from “Grease” to “Spring Awakening” with the hopes of making the program something special. This leads to recasting the show where he continues to “shake things up” even at the displeasure of new Assistant Director (Perez). From here the show starts to come together. New students are added and we see a lot of rehearsing before the principal and football coach come in to shut down the show. Robbie Thorne, the school’s star football player, was cast as the lead, and funding was pulled for the program because of the show’s explicit content and Mr. Mazzu was fired as Theater Director. The principal reverses his decision after students led by Robbie Thorne and Perez threaten to quit if Mr. Mazzu isn’t rehired. The episode ends with a great shot of the entire program back together on stage.

Observations from this episode

  1. Rosie Perez is incredible! Every time she is on screen she commands attention. Being opposite a rather mundane Josh Radnor really works because she brings passion and energy. She is a lot of fun in this role and is really good.
  2. The “Friday Night Lights” influence is very strong in the pilot. Jason Katmis was the Executive Producer and Showrunner of “Friday Night Lights”, so it makes sense that there is an influence. However, it can be a bit jarring just how similar the two shows are. The cinematography, music, even the title card are exactly the same. I don’t think it’s to the show’s detriment because that formula works. If you liked “Friday Night Lights” you will at the very least be invested in the pilot.
  3. The pilot shined in its montages. There were a few in this episode and they were edited together wonderfully. They moved the story forward in an effective way, while at the same time introducing us to some great music. Hopefully the show continues to give us these great montages because it was when the pilot was at its best.
  4. The pilot was as musical as I thought it would be. There was plenty of music but there wasn’t big musical numbers as I was expecting. The episode isn’t hurt by not having them but it would be nice to have some more musical moments.
  5. As enjoyable as the episode was, it was overstuffed. There was so much going on in this episode it was hard to grasp on to. Not only were we introduced to several characters, we were introduced to all of their problems. We saw the problems the city and school are facing. The theater program went through 3 different shows and multiple directors. This is all separate from the developing of the show that the program is doing and all the trials that came with that. I see what they were trying to do and what they felt like they needed to do but it was too much too fast. We never really get to sit with one character so we aren’t really connected to any specific character. Hopefully this will change throughout the season. But it feels like they were trying to get the emotional investment from the audience in the first episode with overdramatized scenes. That invest can only come naturally and hopefully that’s what happens as the season goes on.

Image Credit: NBC

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