‘Rise’ Review: Josh Radnor’s Overwrought Theatre Drama Is a Frustrating Reversal of ‘Friday Night Lights’

IndieWire | 3/13/2018 | Staff
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Earnestness, sincerity, and optimism are all precious commodities in a culture overrun with snark, but the new drama series “Rise” reaches for profundity and comes up empty too many times to merit an A for effort (or a B, or, well, you’ll see). Created by “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” head Jason Katims (which makes the blunt character-building all the more jarring), NBC’s follow-up (and potential successor) to “This Is Us” feels equally manipulative as it constantly mines for our tears. Through five episodes, it’s stuck repeating storylines better explored in Katims’ past series with characters who wouldn’t make the Top 10 list of either previous ensemble.

Led by Josh Radnor’s English teacher turned theater director Lou Mazzuchelli, “Rise” tracks the reinvention of a high school drama department through the eyes of its faculty and students. Lou gets the ball rolling when he pitches himself for the vacant post, inadvertently stepping on the toes of Tracy (Rosie Perez), a long-term assistant director in the theatre.

Tracy - Lou - Passion - Questions - Methods

Tracy responds to Lou’s passion but questions his methods, but she does seem like a better fit for the post than this random schmo who tells his wife, “I need this. I need something” — all while his son is turning into an alcoholic. It’s unclear exactly how Lou’s family life is doing: At times, they seem like a mess, with Gail (Marley Shelton) hanging on by a thread thanks to the desperate whims of her husband. Other times, everything is fine, and the two look like blissful lovebirds. These shifts are probably meant to illustrate a typical, complicated marriage, but because there’s no base, no clear understanding between the couple, the Mazzuchelli house comes across as the opposite: It feels inauthentic.

The kids are equally underdeveloped, checking off boxes and only breaking the mold when the story...
(Excerpt) Read more at: IndieWire
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