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