Hemingway, Silvia Plath, Billie Holiday, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville. These are the names that Dr. Black describes as having “suffered from a fine madness”, and asks if they should have been “medicated into mediocrity”. The obvious desired answer to the question is that no, they should not have been because if they had they never would have done their best work. It’s a question that Dr. Black poses because she herself is bipolar and believes that she does her best work when she is off her meds, something she does frequently. When not on her medication, Catherine flies into a “fine madness” of her own, writing frantically, dancing erratically, and becoming “hyper sexual”, tearing the clothes off whatever man happens to be closest to her.
This show feels like it wants to be a combination of a few different shows, but in its own way. She’s a brilliant doctor who solves medical cases that no one else can. Sound familiar? But where Hugh Laurie’s Dr. Gregory House was a glutton for punishment who actively tried to sabotage his relationships preferring to be alone, Catherine Black works to hide her secret from those around her in an effort to hold on to relationships and her job, both of which she fears she would lose if people were to find out. Another possible piece of inspiration may come from shows like Grey’s Anatomy where everyone is good looking and having sex with everyone each other. The main difference being that Catherine only sleeps around when she’s off her meds and feels horrible that she couldn’t stop herself.
Black Box is not a bad show, but it’s not a good show either. There are a lot of decent actors delivering solid performances, but the idea behind the show as well as the tone just never seem to solidify. The way the show depicts her going off of her medication, entering this crazed state complete with hallucinations, and then going back on her meds and returning to work as though nothing happened felt off. It was as though she could flip a switch, become this other version of herself, and just as quickly return to normal. A little too Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde for my tastes.
It will be interesting to see if this show is picked up past it’s 13 episode commitment. Ratings were not bad, but did suffer a drop from the first episode to the second. The idea of a television show centered around someone with a neurological condition is interesting, and this show looks good on paper but seems to fall a little flat on screen.