TV Review: “Code Black” – Just Another Doc Drama

Written by Michelle Young December 14, 2015

code black

Medical dramas on television are like fast food restaurants: they all pretty much sell the same stuff, but there are definitely some that are a little bit better than others. For me, “Code Black” is like Subway: it tries to convince you that it’s more than other fast-food places, but in reality it’s not that much different than everything else.

“Code Black” is centered on the ER of Angeles Memorial Hospital in downtown Los Angeles, the busiest ER in the United States. Each episode follows four-first year emergency medicine residents, Christa Lorenson (Bonnie Somerville), Malaya Pineda (Melanie Chandra), Angus Leighton (Harry Ford), and Mario Savetti (Benjamin Hollingsworth) as they try to navigate their way through this hectic, often overwhelming, world. Along with the residents are the ER’s “Mamma” Nurse Jesse (Luis Guzmán), “Daddy” Dr. Leanne Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden), and Dr. Neal Hudson (Raza Jaffrey).

“Life is measured here in split seconds, hesitate and people die.”

“Code Black” tries to distinguish itself with a gritty tone, but that grittiness only seems to go as deep as the show’s over-saturated lighting, jittery hand-held camera, and slight sepia tone. The dialogue and story-lines seem to lean more towards cheese and idealism than anything else. When you strip it all down, “Code Black” follows a familiar formula and is not really that much different than shows like “ER” or “Grey’s Anatomy”. Their one saving grace might be how “Code Black” tends to steer clear of the more soapy traditions of medical dramas and focus more on the actual medical aspects of it.

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Another area that I found was a little lacking was in the character stories. It feels a little strange that each character is completely comfortable letting everybody know his or her own business “just because”. There isn’t a whole lot of tension around what makes these characters do the things they do; everything is too out in the open to generate any real intrigue. It really just is lazy storytelling.

 “There’s nothing that goes on in this house your Mamma don’t know about.”

The one thing that I can commend “Code Black” on is how aware the show is that Marcia Gay Harden is their star player. She really is the driving force of the show and they clearly recognize it, as she is the feature of almost every episode. Harden is able to shine despite her characters somewhat pedestrian backstory. Her and Luis Guzmán’s dynamic onscreen is especially great. It’s also really great to see a show acknowledge that women over forty are actually capable of leading an ensemble.

code black

“Code Black”, for how much it tries to distinguish itself from the overflowing on slot of other TV medical dramas, both past and present, doesn’t really do that much different. This doesn’t mean that it’s a completely terrible show, it just means that it’s not particularly intriguing, because we’ve seen a lot of it before. Overall, it fits in, but just doesn’t do enough to truly stand out.

My Rating: 6/10

code black

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