A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Black Box is a mature medical drama about a neurologist who struggles with bipolar disorder. She often skips her medication and becomes manic, unpredictable, and sexually voracious. We see her dancing down streets, perching dangerously on the edge of a tall building, coming on to strangers, going to hotels with men and kissing them up against walls and on beds. Parents may worry that her manic phases look glamorous and fun. However, viewers also see the consequences of her acts. There is some cursing, including frequent references to main character Black as a "bitch." The parent of one of the main characters killed herself; there are frequent visual and dialogue references to this, and the main character threatens suicide.
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What's the story?
BLACK BOX's Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly) has a brilliant, but troublesome mind. She's a uniquely gifted neurologist with a passion for helping the patients who slip through the cracks, or who no one else can help. Why is Black so good at understanding their mental torment? Because she struggles with bipolar disorder. Her disorder is controlled by medication. That is, if she takes it. She often doesn't, because she enjoys the blissful, busy highs that come with her mental illness, even if she doesn't care for the consequences of the things she does when she's in one of her manic stages. Her private life is complicated by Will (David Ajala), the loving fiance she's not sure she's good enough for, and a secret attraction to cocky Dr. Ian Bickman (Ditch Davey) at work, as well as the men she cheats with when she's in one of her highs. Sometimes it seems like the only thing holding Black in place is her therapist, Dr. Helen Hartramph (Vanessa Redgrave), but Black struggles through her own failings and each week's perplexing patient caseload.
Is it any good?
When Black is in one of her manic highs, she really makes it look good. She slinks down alleyways and through hotel lobbies, drunk on her own chemistry. She dances, she flirts, she has fantasies about flying over cities as she's precariously perched on a balcony railing. These dark episodes are what gives Black Box its juice: You never know when Black is going to break off from handling her family members or patients and go take a taxi to a nightclub to pick up a sailor. Reilly is compelling in such moments, and it turns what could have been a retread of House into something more interesting.
However, it's not for the youngest members of your household. Black's Jekyll-Hyde behavior is confusing for young viewers, and parents won't want them to see Black in her wacky and sexual highs, nor flushing her medication down the toilet. There's also a lot of medical jargon, complicated family dynamics, and philandering that make this one not for kiddies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bipolar disorder. What is it? How do people who have it act? Do you know anyone with bipolar disorder? Do they act like Catherine Black?
Does Black Box make bipolar disorder look fun? What parts of Black's disorder look like they're pleasurable? Which parts don't?
Is the audience supposed to like Catherine Black? How can you tell? Is she presented as a sympathetic character?