With the season finale of Rise last week, we have also been given the series finale due to NBC’s cancellation of the show. As a series that started off with uncertainty and filled to the brim with plot and several character storylines, it turned into something that showed promise and excitement, enough to keep you watching week after week. Rise ends on a bittersweet note just as it was showing improvement and potential for a second season. Its end, however, is a culmination of all the work and preparation that went on throughout the season and it is a rewarding experience.
Rise is the story of a teacher, Lou Mazzuchelli, who wants to shake things up and take over his high school’s drama department. After receiving the blessing of his school principal, he tries to revamp and excite the program by doing something different. He enlists the help of Tracey Wolfe, whom he just ousted as the existing drama director, and asks her to be his right-hand in organizing the show. Mazzuchelli decides they’re going to put on A Spring Awakening.
Beyond Mazzuchelli, this show is really about the students involved in the musical, and their experiences and struggles as they prepare for opening night.
There’s Simon, dealing with the strained relationship he has with his parents, especially surrounding his sexuality and involvement in the play. Lilette’s responsibilities at home and work are mounting while her single mother isn’t always pleasant. Maashous has been homeless and living secretly at the school until he’s discovered and brought in by Mazzuchelli early in the series.
And the stories continue, as the show’s ensemble is large and the characters are diverse. This, too, has been one of the show’s challenges. Trying to tell so many stories, and show the same plot from different perspectives, can be confusing and lose its way. The show almost did lose its way, in fact, until it got back on track.
Rise is heartfelt and honestly portrays small-town life. It shows how families face challenges, jobs are sometimes hard to come by, and teenagers, in becoming adults, can outgrow where they’ve been raised. The values a town holds can shape and affect these same children, sometimes negatively, and Rise does a good job of handling that.
The cancellation of Rise is unfortunate and will leave a hole in NBC’s programming. It is a shame that the show didn’t garner enough viewers, although there has been somewhat of a cult following, it wasn’t enough to keep it on the air.