Currently streaming on Paramount+ is the teen musical comedy series, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies. The series – set a few years before the events of Grease – stars Marisa Davila, Cheyenne Isabel Wells, Ari Notartomaso, Jason Schmidt, and Jonathan Nieves, and follows a group of students at Rydell High School.
In the series, the year is 1954 and Jane Facciano is a friendly, good-natured student, who has suddenly found herself gaining a bad reputation. After going steady with class president Buddy, some of her classmates have started to spread the rumour that Jane “goes all the way”, and this upsets her greatly.
To make matters worse, Buddy worries about how this rumour will impact him personally, and suggests that until things die down, it would be best if the pair publicly distance themselves. At first Jane struggles with Buddy’s suggestion, but soon she moves on with the help of some new friends.
And together with these friends, Jane attempts to run for class president to replace Buddy. The girls also form a tight-knit group of gal pals who wear pink coats and look out for each other.
As a big fan of Grease, I was somewhat interested in the concept of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies. Sure, the title sounded a bit cumbersome, but since hit musical show Glee went up its own arse (and then died a death) a few years back, there has been an opening for another high school TV musical, and it made sense that a Grease spin-off could plug that gap.
OK, so Disney+ has a musical show in the form of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (another series with a cumbersome title), but this isn’t quite reaching the same kind of audience Glee did; nor does it have the same cross-generational appeal as Grease. Forty-five years on from its release, Grease is still an all-ages crowd pleaser, and this certainly provides the groundwork for a series that can work for a broad audience.
However, having sat through the first few episodes of Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, I’m not sure this series is the show I hoped it would be. It feels a bit too dated for young viewers, at times a little too corny for older audiences, and at least for now, it offers up a pretty bumpy ride.
I’ll get this out of the way to begin: The opening episode of the show (We’re Gonna Rule the School) is pretty bad. The story feels hollow and somewhat directionless, the acting is all over the place, and every scene comes across as far too stagey for its own good.
At times this first episode does manage to capture the tone of the original movie, but it fails to move beyond pastiche. It also fails to make any of the characters seem interesting, or even mildly realistic, and based on this initial instalment alone, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies gets off to a rocky start.
The good news is, that moving forward, the series displays significant signs of improvement. From the second episode onward (Too Pure to Be Pink), the theatricality is downplayed, the characters start to become more rounded, and there are hints the show is starting to find its groove.
The songs also land much, much better in episode two. There’s a sense the show understands it can be more than just a carbon copy of Grease, it merely needs to use Grease as a springboard, and this moves it a touch closer to something more worthwhile.
With episode three (So This is Rydell?) things improve again. The songs become stronger, the show finds a bit more depth, and it becomes a much better watch.
This doesn’t suddenly make Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies must-see television by the way, but a series that corrects some of its missteps quite quickly, and then improves, is at least worth giving a temporary pass to. It’s a shame the series didn’t start at this level, but hey, it got here in the end.
However, even though it does improve episode-by-episode, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies still feels like it is missing something. The series lacks the fun of the movie, and you can’t help but feel that re-watching the film would be a much more enjoyable experience.
Having watched a handful of the episodes available on Paramount+, I personally have little interest in sticking with Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies beyond what I’ve already watched. I want to like the series, I really do, and the songs are good, but it just doesn’t work for me.
I do, however, commend its continual desire for self-improvement and I am impressed that it moves from being bad, to not-so bad, to OK in quick succession. This isn’t enough to win me over, but others may find it a good excuse to keep going, and this is a fair reason to watch more.
Thank you for taking the time to read this review on It’s A Stampede!. For more reviews, check out the recommended reads below.
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