Red Band Society

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Red Band Society TV Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Likable teens tackle tough circumstances in moving dramedy.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Viewers see teens respond to unthinkable adversity by forming strong relationships with peers and mentors. The show points out the equalizing force of the hospital setting, which forces the teens to shed normal status dividers ("populars," "losers") and relate to each other on a more human level. Often they break rules in ways that should yield greater consequences than they do (smoking in a hospital closet or "borrowing" a car to buy beer with fake IDs, for instance). A mean girl is influenced to change her behavior in a positive way, although the transformation takes time and no one escapes her scathing judgment. Bathroom humor includes farting and belching. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

All of the teens are emotionally flawed in some way and occasionally make poor judgment calls, but they rise above those flaws to become each other's support system. Despite facing life-threatening circumstances, they never stop hoping for the future, and they're always there for each other. Adults are excellent mentors, balancing compassion and tough love in a way that endears them to the patients they care for. 


The show deals with the harsh realities of catastrophic illness and injury among the teen cast, but its focus is on the characters' relationships rather than the medical side of the story.


Teens talk about wanting to have sex, and some encounters turn physical. In one scene, two teens meet at a party and wind up in a bedroom making out, with the girl partially undressed (down to a bra on top, still covered on the bottom) and attempting to remove the guy's pants before he stops her. In another, a teen sets out to buy condoms, saying he wants to help his friend get laid. Recurring characters are lesbians who are very affectionate and talk about romantic encounters. Colloquialisms like "sport wood" reference erections and other sexual topics. Teens flirt with each other and, in some cases, with adults.


"Bitch," "ass," "hell," "sucks," "jackass," "damn," and "friggin'." Insults include "slut" and "d - - k."


Cultural references to Twitter, Instagram, and hashtag.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens smoke cigarettes and pot and drink beer, and a main character's history of recreational drug use plays a role in the story even if it's not seen.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Red Band Society deals with illness, injury, eating disorders, drug use, and other serious issues in an uplifting way. Teens face the realities of life and death by leaning on each other, and their kinship overshadows differences that normally divide this age group. Adults are strong role models who put the kids' needs first. A main character narrates the story from a coma. Teens break some rules in mild shows of rebellion such as smoking and drinking in the hospital, and the consequences are negligible. Strong language ("bitch," "ass," "hell") is a concern, and some encounters between teens turn physical with making out and some partial nudity (girls in bras, for instance), but no sex. This fantastic series has excellent messages about perseverance, friendship, and conquering adversity. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 and 16-year-old Written byamyskis October 1, 2014

Turned it off after 20 minutes of listening to my daughter watching it.

The previews looked great but the show started out with two boys in a closet smoking weed then over the next few minutes I caught some teen boys buying beer and... Continue reading
Parent of a 14-year-old Written byTornadoCreator August 8, 2018

Heart-wrenching but genuinely beautiful.

This show is one of the best teen dramas I've ever scene. It doesn't make the teens out as perfect angels; they make mistakes, some quite severe, but... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byRelevantUsername November 12, 2014

It's kind of funny that I have to write this...

As I was going through reviews of 'Red Band Society' on IMDB I stumbled across this website and started to read the reviews that others have posted be... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byPurpleheart16 June 30, 2020

My #1 favorite show

I loved this show so much as I have a strong connection with hospitals and illness. I think that it shows that even when people are sick they can still enjoy li... Continue reading

What's the story?

RED BAND SOCIETY is a drama series based on a true story about a group of teens who share their ups and downs as long-term hospital patients. At the group's center is Leo (Charlie Rowe), a cancer survivor who becomes an unexpected mentor to his new roommate, Jordi (Nolan Sotillo), when Jordi arrives to start a similar course of treatment. Leo's friend Dash (Astro) refuses to let cystic fibrosis dampen his zest for life and often is the ringleader in planning fun for the group. Despite coping with an eating disorder, Emma (Ciara Bravo) continues an on-again, off-again relationship with Leo, but it's complicated by the arrival of Kara (Zoe Levin), whose heart condition inspires a change of attitude for this long-time mean girl. And then there's Charlie (Griffin Gluck), who narrates the story from a coma but manages to touch the lives of his ward mates nonetheless. Overseeing the group are the sharp-tongued-but-kind-hearted Nurse Jackson (Octavia Spencer) and compassionate pediatric surgeon Dr. McAndrew (Dave Annable).

Is it any good?

Red Band Society is an uplifting reminder of the indomitable human spirit, and the fact that its message is portrayed by teens makes it all the more exceptional. These characters are far from perfect angels, and each battles his or her own demons -- both physical and emotional -- as the story progresses. But surprisingly that doesn't dampen their appeal; instead it makes them more relatable as they muddle through not only the normal coming-of-age tragedies and joys but also the uncertainties of fighting for their lives at the same time. It's tough to say which is the more positive message: that the kids never give in to self-pity or helplessness or that they use their common circumstances to overcome differences and form unexpected bonds that see them through the tough times.

With the likes of Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television and Emmy winner Spencer on board, it's tough to say where this series could go astray. The story will move you, and the cast's performances are inspired. And, although their connections are rooted in their common life battles, the nitty-gritty of the hospital experience and treatment plans takes a backseat to the teens' relationships with each other and with their compassionate mentors. That said, be sure your kids can handle the implications of the characters' situations -- and their sometimes age-inappropriate behavior with regard to smoking, drinking, and physical encounters -- before you tune in with them. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the characters' struggles compare to their kids' own. Do the teens' relationships seem real? To what degree are your tweens' friends integral to their ability to conquer challenges? 

  • Are social castes real in your tweens' experience? How malleable are titles such as "jock," "popular," and "nerd"? Do any opportunities exist to challenge these definitions? 

  • What role do mentors play in your success? Why are good role models important to have? Who are some of your tweens' role models? What is it about them that they'd like to emulate? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love teen drama

Character Strengths

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