October 7, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Code Black”


CODE BLACK:  Wednesday 10PM on CBS

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on CODE BLACK:  At a famously busy Los Angeles hospital, the emergency room reaches the level of Code Black–where there are more patients needing treatment than resources to treat them–on a practically daily basis.  The supervisor of the residency program, Dr. Rorish (Marcia Gay Harden), her colleague Dr. Hudson (Raza Jaffrey), and the nurse who likes to refer to himself as the residents’ “Mama” (Luis Guzman), keep watch on an assortment of new residents, who include Christa, The One Who’s A Little Older Than The Others (Bonnie Somerville), Mario, The One From the Streets (Benjamin Hollingsworth), and Angus, The One Who Lacks Self-Confidence (Harry Ford).

Episode 2:  It’s not just that every episode of Code Black is likely to be more or less the same as any other–so is every scene.  The patients are shuttled in and shuttled out, the senior doctors sternly instruct the residents, there are microscopic glimpses of backstory for a patient or doctor here and there, someone goes into crisis, the “Code Black” signal flashes on the screen, a doctor rescues someone who seemed beyond the verge of death, and here’s the promo for next week.  Series creator Michael Seitzman, who wrote the script, doesn’t leave much room for variety, and when he does pause to let characters have a conversation, you’ll find yourself wishing another patient would code, because the earnest on-the-nose dialogue is painful to the ears.

In tonight’s hour, the patients who were briefly in the foreground included a woman whose remaining ovary was twisted and in danger of being lost, a condition that struck the heart of Christa, who went into medicine after she’d lost her family.  Then there was the professional hockey player who needed some tough talk from Mario, and the family man whose aortic dissection was accurately diagnosed by Angus, but who nearly died because Angus didn’t stand up for his theory.  (Not to worry, Rorish saved him with some insta-surgery.)

Episode director Christopher Misiano is a veteran of ER, so he knows all about swirling the camera around and cutting fast to create a convincing impression of frenzied, life-saving work in tight spaces.  Harden, Somerville and Jaffrey are all first-rate, and Guzman is better than that, almost doing his own miracle-working script resuscitation by sheer skill and charisma.  Ultimately, though, Code Black suffers from a fatal lack of personality, and there’s no transplant on the way.

Code Black didn’t get off to much of a start in the ratings, despite wan competition from Chicago PD and Nashville, and it’s hard to see CBS keeping it around for long.  In this case, it will be hard to argue with the results of the triage.

PILOT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  As Much Fun As A Night In A Hospital Waiting Room

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."