Review: Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is anchored by a warm and loving conversation between Joan Didion and her nephew Griffin Dunne. It wanders from the present back through the decades of her life and work. Continue reading “Review: Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold”

Review: The Whistleblower

The Whistleblower is a 2010 film starring Rachel Weisz. I recently watched it for the first time. The drama is based on the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and exposed the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal. Continue reading “Review: The Whistleblower”

Show Some Support for Season 1 of Black Box

Season 1 of Black Box is 10 episodes in. I want to comment on the series before the season is over, because I hope it will be renewed.

Black Box is about Dr. Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly), a brilliant neuroscientist who hides her bipolar disease from her peers. Her therapist is played by Vanessa Redgrave. Honestly, they had me at Vanessa Redgrave. She’s the reason I started watching the show, although I’d seen Kelly Reilly in Flight and knew she was good.

They had me at Vanessa Redgrave
They had me at Vanessa Redgrave

I thought Black Box got off to a rocky start. There was an excessive amount of exposition in the first episode. Compared with fast and tight, exposition-free pilot episodes like, for example, The Fosters, it was noticeable. It put me off.

I stuck around and am glad I did. The storytelling is stronger now that the initial setup is done and the episodes can just get on with it. The performances from everyone in the cast, particularly Kelly Reilly, are strong and convincing.

Let me describe some of the threads in Catherine Black’s life.

She has a child that her brother and sister-in-law are raising as their own. The teen thinks Catherine is her aunt.

She’s in therapy because she’s a mess, especially if she goes off her meds. And she does go off her meds. If she needs to be extra smart to solve a particularly troublesome medical problem, she’s likely to go off her meds so she can tap into her manic mind.

A great guy
A great guy

She’s engaged to Will (David Ajala), a very nice guy.

a sexy surgeon
An irresistible surgeon

She’s attracted to her brilliant coworker Dr. Ian Bickman (Ditch Davey). She acts on the attraction.

The weekly medical story lines involve some strange patient cases. It might be a psychological problem, a neurological problem or a bit of both. In the most recent episode, Dr. Black dealt with a man who was convinced he was dead and a girl with rabies. Sometimes the cures involve surgery, or brilliant deductions and diagnosis on Dr. Black’s part, or teamwork with the other doctors in the practice where she works.

In a show where the players are frequently asked to portray mental illness, there is never any demeaning or ridiculing. Cases and illnesses are treated with respect.

An external factor that I like about the show includes the fact that the creator is a woman, Amy Holden Jones. If you look up Amy Holden Jones in IMBD, you’ll see that she’s responsible for writing and directing some films you may be very fond of such as all the Beethoven movies, Indecent Proposal and Mystic Pizza. Additional women are on the writing staff, are used as directors, and the showrunner and one of the producers is The L Word’s Ilene Chaiken.

Every episode of the season is available on Hulu. You can see clips on ABC.com. If you looked at this show early on and gave up, I urge you to give it a second chance. And if you haven’t tried it yet, take a look. It needs eyeballs in order to be renewed. Give it some eyeball time, please.

All images © ABC Television

Will You Watch Black Box?

The new series Black Box, set to begin on ABC on April 24 looks like something I’ll like. Will you be watching?

Kelly Reilly in Black Box
Kelly Reilly and David Ajala in Black Box

The series stars Kelly Reilly as Dr. Catherine Black, a neuroscientist who works on the cutting edge of brain research. Dr. Black suffers from mental illness and attempts, somewhat imperfectly according to the previews, to hide this from her scientific colleagues.

Vanessa Redgrave in Black Box
Vanessa Redgrave in Black Box

Her psychiatrist is played by Vanessa Redgrave. Any time Vanessa Redgrave wants to take a part in anything, I’m ready to watch it! Having her in something is like having the goddess herself included.

Also in the cast are Ditch Davey as Dr. Ian Bickman and David Ajala as Will, Catherine’s boyfriend.

So, let’s add this up.

  1. A leading character in a TV series has a mental illness. It isn’t what the story is about, it’s just who she is. Okay, Homeland has been there before, but this is network TV.
  2. There’s an interracial relationship. It’s just her relationship, not a big thing.

This could get interesting!

The series is written Amy Holden Jones, who wrote Indecent Proposal, Beethoven, and Mystic Pizza. It’s co-produced by Ilene Chaiken from The L Word, who also holds the title showrunner for the series.

There are some clips and previews for the show at ABC-TV.