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              Code Black:

The Complete First Season               review by Drusilla Blakey

Every season there seems to be some kind of new medical drama hit TV. Usually they are all the same format and offer up very little new to the genre. This past season CBS looked to bring something a bit different to the genre with their new series Code Black, but can it bring the fast paced world of the ER to realistic life or does it spend too much time with the drama of the people working there?

Inspired by the 2013 documentary by Ryan McGarry, Code Black is a heart-pounding medical drama that takes place in the most notorious ER in the nation.  The staggering influx of patients can outweigh the resources available creating a condition known as Code Black. The series stars Marcia Gay Harden as Residency Director, Dr. Leanne Rorish who is renowned for successfully performing high-risk procedures in Center Stage, the trauma area reserved for the most critical cases.  Season one follows four new first-year residents as they struggle to learn how to put their training to use in this hectic and often overwhelmed ER. This show is pretty similar to all other medical dramas we’ve seen in the past; it does not reinvent the wheel.  The twist however, is that it’s based on a real hospital ER, Los Angeles County Hospital.  So it gives it a bit more realism, especially when you take into account that the show came about after the documentary film about that hospital.  So although we know the “drama” and “love stories” are fabricated, the ER action still provides excitement for viewers.


I think fans of Harden will not be disappointed.  She provides a strong and powerful presence as the Director of this chaotic ER.  She is consistent in her portrayal of this tough, strong female lead, but we also see glimpses of her at low and emotional points due to a personal tragedy she suffered.  She does a great job of portraying both sides of this character.  Another bright spot of the show is Luiz Guzmán who plays the Senior Nurse in charge of managing the residents.  His character is funny and witty, but also strong and serious.  His close relationship with Harden’s character is so realistic that I can imagine that they are best friends who hang out on the weekends even when they are not filming the show.


The stories of the medical residents are sometimes interesting and we get to see how their lives begin to intertwine as the season goes on due to the hours and conditions in which they work.  I say ‘sometimes interesting’ because unfortunately as viewers, we’ve seen a lot of these stories before in other medical drama shows.  As expected the love triangles are not new but still compelling.  Of course we have the poor kid who worked his way through medical school; the hot girl who gets what she wants, the rich kid who’s out to prove himself, the mom who lost her child and is here to change the world, etc etc. 

Luckily, because of where the hospital is located in real life and the influx of ‘real stories’ into the series we do get some new stories and drama mixed in!  Gang violence in the hospital, hostage situations, stalkers, bodies dumped at the doorstep and much more that we may not have seen before. 


So thankfully the episodes do stay fresh and compelling.  Overall, the first season is very good and definitely leaves you wanting more! In addition to all episodes of the first season this collection also includes a gag reel, deleted, alternate and extended scenes, and featurettes that take you behind the curtain of bringing this insane ER to life. Scrub up for a wild shift and grab your copy of Code Black: The Complete First Season on DVD now from Paramount Home Media and CBS Home Entertainment.

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