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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rise is a series about a high school drama teacher and his students. A major plot point of the first season is their controversial theatrical production, which makes waves in the downtrodden Pennsylvania steel town. Expect romantic complications: Two characters have an affair; one is married to someone else. A closeted gay teen plays a role in which he's expected to kiss another boy. Expect kissing, flirting, dating, references to sex. A woman is groped by a co-worker and dismisses her daughter's telling her that it's "sexual assault." A group of girls call another girl's clothing "slutty." A teen has a drinking problem (which his parents openly address, with love). Characters, including a transgender character, are treated with respect and dignity, given support and understanding by adults and peers. Language includes "hell," "ass," "son of a bitch," "damn," "crap," and "suck."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When English teacher Lou Mazzuchelli (Josh Radnor) talks his way into taking on the drama department at his blue-collar high school, he hopes he can help his students RISE to the challenge of putting on the sexy, meaty musical Spring Awakening. What he doesn't know is that his little production will affect his entire depressed Pennsylvania town. With bright lights like troubled Lilette Suarez (Auli'i Cravalho), damaged Robbie Thorne (Damon J. Gillespie), and conflicted Simon (Ted Sutherland) in his cast, Lou has his work cut out for him. But when they all pull together to become, as Lou puts it, "a sacred troupe," something magical might just happen.
Is it any good?
With a bunch of high schoolers under the direction of a passionate teacher, this drama has the setup of Glee, but it's sweeter, deeper, and more sympathetic. The emotional beats are much more similar to Friday Night Lights, which is not a surprise, since Lights executive producer Jason Katims is also at the helm of this show. And at the helm of the cast is Mazzuchelli, whose big, searching eyes and compassion for his students will immediately win viewers over. Soft-hearted viewers might even well up.
They might also find themselves getting choked up during the rehearsal and performance scenes in Rise, when the talented young cast -- particularly Cravalho and Gillespie, who have voices beautiful enough to raise chills. If you saw Moana, you already know Cravalho can sing, and as a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, she's tender and easy to root for. All the characters are, in fact, and not just onstage, but at home too, where we follow them to find sick parents, strict Catholic parents, absent parents, and siblings with big problems and special needs. It won't take long before you'll want to spend more time in Rise's world -- and sing along.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of sports in their community and how it compares to what they see on Rise. Are high school games as big a deal in your town as they are on the show? What kind of pressures do the athletes (both the ones on TV and the ones in real life) face? What are some of the consequences of those pressures?
How do parents and other adult role models help kids learn what success means? What defines success in your community?
- Premiere date: March 13, 2018
- Cast: Auli'i Cravalho, Rosie Perez, Amy Forsyth, Ellie Desautels, Josh Radnor
- Network: NBC
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Arts and Dance, High School
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Empathy, Perseverance, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-14
- Available on: Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: February 18, 2020
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