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Sunday, April 27, 2014

PILOT REVIEW: Black Box

BLACK BOX










Starring: Kelly Reilly, Ditch Davey, David Ajala, Ali Wong, Laura Fraser, David Chisum, Siobhan Williams, with Terry Kinney, and Vanessa Redgrave

Created by Amy Holden Jones
Written by Amy Holden Jones, Directed by Simon Curtis

Black Box is a new drama focusing on an interesting topic not often explored on TV: bipolar disorder. Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly) is a brilliant neurologist who secretly has bipolar disorder. She talks regularly to her therapist, Dr. Helen Hartramph (Vanessa Redgrave) and her brother Josh (David Chisum). In the pilot, she reveals her condition to boyfriend Will (David Ajala) but it's still a secret from those she works with including showboat new surgeon Dr. Ian Bickman (Ditch Davey). Rounding out the main cast is Josh's wife Regan (Laura Fraser), co-worker Dr. Ina Lark (Ali Wong), and Josh and Regan's daughter (or is she?) Esme (Siobhan Williams).

THE GOOD: This show is really an interesting look at bipolar disorder. It's cleverly crafted and Kelly Reilly convincingly plays Catherine both as an intense neurologist and an unhinged woman suffering from a debilitating disorder during manic episodes. There was a lot going on the pilot and lot of characters to introduce but the show did it effectively, which can be hard to do with first episodes. I felt like we got to know each character well and they set up several plotlines including Catherine's troubling relationships with Dr. Bickman and boyfriend Will as well as the family element and the conversations with her therapist. That is a lot of ground to cover in one episode yet I didn't feel lost nor did I feel like they shafted some story and character development.

THE BAD: There were some procedural elements in this show that caused some eye rolling from me. First of all, there was an unnecessary amount of medical jargon thrown around and that always just seems like a show is trying to brag. Secondly, is Catherine the only doctor who can really figure things out? For example, no one else in the medical center was able to handle the boy with the brain tumor except Catherine? Seems like it's trying to play her as the hero too much when in reality, she would be one of many brilliant minds. The jazz music was interesting and gave the show a unique feel but it too often made me feel like I was eating lunch at Panera.

BOTTOM LINE: I feel like ABC completely blew it with the advertising for this show because it was not what it seemed. They tried to play up the scintillating side for the Scandal audience, but that is really not what the show is about. Judging from the pilot, it is more about bipolar disorder than anything else. That may be a turn off to some people but I find it pretty interesting!

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