NBC's new drama Rise comes with the bragging rights that it's from the producers of Friday Night Lights and Hamilton, and that's honestly the best way to describe the musical theater saga. It's the story of a small town living for their high school football team while their struggling theater program fights to give the non-athlete kids a voice and a chance.
Rise is inspired by the book Drama High by Michael Sokolove and has been adapted for television by Friday Night Lights creator Jason Katims and names Hamilton producer Jeffrey Sellers as an executive producer as well. It stars Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) as Lou Mazzuchelli, an English teacher who gains a second wind in his teaching career when he decides to take over his high school's struggling theater department.
While Rise is centered on the struggle of Lou and his ragtag group of students trying to put on a production of Spring Awakening, the series also explores the personal lives of everyone involved with the musical, giving viewers an inside look at a small town down on its luck — which is right up Katims' creative alley.
"It was one of those things where I knew this was the next show that I wanted to do literally with the one paragraph description of it," Katims told reporters while promoting the show during the Television Critics Association winter previews. "There was just something I really responded to with telling the story. It had some connectivity to Friday Night Lights in telling this story about a small town and making it feel very authentic."
Rather than focus on the potentially flashy component of musical theater, Katims wanted to dig into the characters behind the production.
"While it had this engine of this musical theater and we could follow that, we could really go into the lives of this blue collar town in Pennsylvania, all of their relationships and family stories — the story of that community," Katims continued. "I was very drawn to that. When I talked to [executive producer Flody Suarez] and Jeffrey about it and saw their passion for this story, it really inspired me to tell the story."
There's one other comparison that might come to mind when viewers finally get to tune into Rise — This Is Us. The two shows share a network and Katims credits the Dan Fogelman drama for reopening the path for heartfelt stories to make waves on broadcast television again.
"Having a show like This Is Us that has had the success that its had has kind of cleared the path in a way for doing a show like Rise and shows like that — shows that are character driven, shows that have a deep emotional core to them and shows that are ultimately just about people," Katims said.
Rise will also benefit from This Is Us by premiering their first episode immediately after This Is Us' Season 2 finale on March 22.
Tune in for Rise first run on Tuesday, March 22 at 10/9c.