Black Box

 
(i)

 

Mature medical drama studies mental illness, hypersexuality.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The values of hard work and dedication to one's job are stressed. The messages around mental illness are complicated, and sometimes the episodes of illness are glamorized, though viewers also see consequences of problematic acts. Viewers also see irresponsible sexual activity and questionable decisions around medication.

Positive role models

Catherine Black is a realistic character struggling with mental illness. Sometimes she fails, sometimes she succeeds. Her episodes of manic illness include random sexual activity. She's also a caring and successful doctor.

Violence

Several references and visuals related to the death of a main character's parent. Black sometimes threatens suicide.

Sex

Black gets "hypersexual" during her manic phases and we see many references to sex, including couples in bed, kissing passionately against a wall, gathering clothing discarded wildly, couples gyrating in lingerie, etc. No nudity.

Language

Some cursing, including "damn" and "hell." Black frequently calls herself a "bitch," and is called a "bitch" by others. There's additional salty language like "douchebag."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some scenes take place in bars, with characters drinking. Black frequently skips the medication she takes for her bipolar disorder because she likes to feel the high of her brain chemistry.

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.

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

TV details

Cast:Kelly Reilly, Vanessa Redgrave, Laura Fraser, Ali Wong
Network:ABC
Genre:Drama
TV rating:TV-14

This review of Black Box was written by

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written byIvo3185 June 20, 2014
 

Insightful and artistic medical drama

This show is amazing! It sends a great message to anyone who watches it and it allows you to view and understand patients' views on mental illness. Although it does show violence, sex, swearing, drinking and drugs, there's not too much of each one. This makes it perfect for mostly anyone (11 and above) who's able to understand it, which is why I rated it 12 and up. From this show and online discussions, I've learned that affective psychosis is a wide diagnosis, and the symptoms range very highly from patient to patient. Someone who has bipolar disorder can be hypersexual, can have visual, auditory and sensory hallucinations, etc. This is now my favourite show, perhaps it will become yours too! Watch it!
What other families should know
Great messages
Educator and Parent Written byJared Galczynski May 8, 2014
 
LEARNING

The AY MAYRA Box.

AY MAYRA. I LOVE The Black Box. And I also LOVE Dr. Catherine, with a pretty name of Catherine. I guess It's the best Medical Drama I have seen since House. Even if TV-14 for "S", I don't notice any sex. As far as I have noticed, there is maybe 1 sex scene. But, there are quite a bit of bloody situations shown and implied.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence

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