*“Black Box” premieres tonight in the coveted “Scandal” spot amid some unfortunate bad timing.
The title comes from the nickname doctors give the brain, but it’s hard not to think of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight and the ongoing search for its black box. Also, ABC was forced to pull early promos hyping Bryan Singer’s involvement as executive producer after he was accused in an April 16 lawsuit of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.
Critics have already pounced on the show, about a brilliant neuroscientist trying to hide the fact that she’s bipolar. Dr. Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly) is fine when she’s on her meds, as she states in the pilot, but deliberately avoids them at times to “feel the rush.” Like bipolar CIA officer Carrie Mathison in Showtime’s “Homeland,” Catherine swears she’s better at her job when her mind is unencumbered by the medication.
But, it’s the visual display of Catherine’s “rush” (always set to a jazzy saxophone solo) that critics are giving the side eye. Variety’s Brian Lowry called the depiction a “license to flights of visual fancy and periodic bouts of overacting.”
“To be clear,” writes the Washington Post’s Hank Steuver, “she has what television imagines bipolar disorder to be, mired in cuckoo Jekyll/Hyde stereotypes.”
At the TCA press tour in January, the show’s creator and writer Amy Holden Jones defended her script against suggestions that its manic are too Hollywood.
“My father was a doctor, and my father was bipolar. So I could say I was pretty home schooled in bipolar,” said Jones. “I pretty much lived with it until his death, somewhat caused by it, for 35 years. So I have a pretty intimate knowledge both of medicine and of doctors and of bipolar. …I assure you bipolar people do behave like this.”
What does star Kelly Reilly think about the criticism that her character’s manic scenes are over the top?
Executive producer Ilene Chaiken says the storylines will feature a balance of Catherine’s personal life – including her relationships and the managing of her bipolar illness – and stories of the cases she treats.
“There’s not a formula to it. We don’t do one, we don’t do three cases per episode, but there will always be a case in every show, at least one case, if not more, that is a neurological case,” Chaiken said.
David Ajala plays Dr. Catherine’s love interest Will Van Renseller, described as “a handsome, trailblazing new chef in Brooklyn with a cutting edge. Will is attractive and smart and he’s ready to settle down with Catherine, and yet the secret she’s been keeping could derail their happiness.”
“Black Box” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.
Watch the promo below.