After much anticipation, NBC’s musical drama “Rise” premieres on March 13. Based on Michael Sokolove‘s nonfiction book “Drama High” about a Pennsylvania high school’s theater program, the series hopes to follow in the Emmy winning footsteps of previous musical hits like “Fame” and “Glee.” And it has an impressive pedigree to back it up.
“Rise” was created for TV by Jason Katims and Jeffrey Seller. Katims is best known for creating “Parenthood” and “Friday Night Lights”; the latter was also a high school drama based on a nonfiction book — though that one was about football instead of musical theater. That series earned its only Emmy nomination for Best Drama Series in 2011 for its fifth and final season, and Katims won an Emmy that year for writing the finale episode. Seller is also an award-winning producer, but for the stage. He’s a five-time Tony winner, including Best Musical victories for “Rent” (1996), “Avenue Q” (2004), “In the Heights” (2008) and “Hamilton” (2016); he also claimed Best Play Revival for “Private Lives” (2002).
The cast is led by “How I Met Your Mother” star Josh Radnor as teacher Lou Mazzuchelli and also features Oscar nominee Rosie Perez as a fellow teacher and “Moana” breakout Auli’i Cravalho as one of his students and performers. They’re hoping to repeat the recent Emmy success of the show’s NBC lead-in “This is Us,” which brought awards back to network TV after the broadcast outlets had underperformed in recent years. And musical TV has succeeded in the past. “Fame” won nine Emmys over the course of its run from 1982-1987, and it earned three nominations for Best Drama Series (1982-1984). And more recently “Glee” won six Emmys and earned a pair of nominations for Best Comedy (2010-2011).
“Rise” is getting generally positive reviews from critics, scoring 62 on MetaCritic and 75% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. Fans of “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood” will “find a lot to love here.” The musical performances by the young actors are “irresistible,” and it boasts Katims’s “signature emotional heft.” Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more in our TV forums.
Dave Nemetz (TVLine): “This is Jason Katims country. The ‘Friday Night Lights’ and ‘Parenthood’ creator’s distinctive imprint is all over ‘Rise,’ from the shaky-cam cinematography to the off-the-cuff dialogue, and if you loved Katims’ past shows, you’ll find a lot to love here, too.”
Maureen Ryan (Variety): “‘Rise,’ a moderately winning drama that follows those familiar contours, will instantly draw comparisons to ‘Glee,’ though it eschews that program’s slick sheen and barbed sarcasm … And for all its flaws — and ‘Rise’ has a number of them — when these kids open their mouths to sing, the NBC drama is nearly irresistible.”
Robert Lloyd (Los Angeles Times): “It wants you to feel, by gad, and feel you will … It is predictable, sometimes down to individual lines; the title itself gives the arc away. But predictability is part of what makes musical theater tick; it delivers the thrill the crowd comes for, dramatic tension leading to inspirational release.”
Melanie McFarland (Salon): “The final product viewers will see next week fulfills most of the obligations placed on it by a broadcast television audience and, moreover, by the ‘This Is Us’ audience, which will be left without a weekly cry fix after Tuesday. ‘Rise’ may not scratch that itch initially, although Katims’ signature emotional heft is present in every moment.”
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