Pilot Perception: Code Black

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Code Black, CBS in the U.S. and CTV in Canada, Wednesdays at 10/9c

The Pedigree: Code Black is based on a documentary by Ryan McGarry and Linda Goldstein Knowlton. The fictional version was written by Michael Seitzman (Intelligence), who executive produces with Marti Noxon (UnREAL) along with McGarry and Knowlton. David Semel (Madam Secretary) directed the pilot.

The Cast & How You Know Them: The show stars Marcia Gay Harden (Trophy Wife), along with Melanie Chandra (The Brink), Benjamin Hollingsworth (Cult), Harry Ford (Louder Than Bombs), Raza Jaffrey (Homeland), Luis Guzman (Narcos), Bonnie Somerville (Golden Boy), and William Allen Young (Moesha).

The Premise: Code Black follows the staff — including new residents — in the busiest ER in the country. (The title refers to the status at which the ER has more patients than resources, which of course happens in the pilot. Will it happen every episode? Probably!)

A Taste:


What Works: Marcia Gay Harden is a compelling lead, and I loved her competence and no-nonsense manner. The rest of the cast seems fine, so far, and I’m inclined to like medical dramas in general. I thought the pilot did a nice job of showing the chaos of the ER — it created a nice sense of urgency of tone.

What Doesn’t: For a show with so much going on, this pilot was weirdly kind of boring. Only one of the medical cases particularly grabbed me, and we don’t know enough about any of the characters to care much yet. I get that they wanted to jump in with fast-paced stuff, but it might have been more effective to slow things down a bit and establish the characters more thoroughly. So far, it seems that two of the main female characters are driven by tragedies that killed one or more of their family members, which annoyed me a bit – couldn’t they be ambitious just because? (This is mostly about the resident who went to med school after her son died, as it does seem the lead doctor was in a good place professionally before her cryptic tragedy, though, again. But after all the build-up about why a woman went to med school after being home and raising kids, I was disappointed that the answer was — SPOILER — “because her kid died” and not “because she was ambitious and wanted to do something awesome.”) And one of the male residents was so hostile to the “older” female resident …¬†well, I’m wondering where that’s going or if it was just randomly sexist.

Our Favorite Line: “I love you so much I want to punch your face in.”

You Might Like This if you like medical dramas; it’s pretty straight-forward, which is not a bad thing — I like a show that knows what it is. It’s supposedly trying to position itself as the “next ER,” but — confession — I’ve never seen that, so early Grey’s Anatomy is where my brain took it. It also fits into CBS’s Competent Professional Women category with The Good Wife and Madam Secretary.

If You’re Interested: CBS is rerunning the pilot on Saturday at 9/8c, or catch it on demand or on the CBS or CTV sites. Then set your DVR for Wednesday at 10/9c.

(Photo courtesy of CBS.)

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