CBS’s new medical drama Code Black is a standard medical procedure, with the twist that it takes place in one of the busiest emergency rooms in the country. Unfortunately, this sense of urgency doesn’t add to the drama the way the creators seem to want it to. Yes, there’s a lot going on, but none of it is character-driven enough to feel dramatic. The characters rush around from one big emergency to the next and things always seem dire, but there aren’t little personal or emotional moments that allow is to get sucked in.
Code Black also packs in a lot of cliches. They immediately go for big, over-the-top moments like when we see a young girl meet the person who received one of her father’s organs after his death. These attempts at big moments fall flat because we’ve seen them before and the show doesn’t do enough to establish what makes the experiences at the hospital meaningful for these particular characters.
The pilot feels very reliant on the excellent cast– which includes Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzman– to make these characters pop. But, the actors don’t have enough material to make these characters distinctive.
While Grey’s Anatomy lacked the serious tone that Code Black is clearly going for, it at least let us learn about the crop of interns outside of their jobs, allowing us to get invested. Code Black has a couple of expository moments of backstory, but fails to really show off the personalities of the team of residents it introduces. Not a single character managed to make an impression in the first episode.
Code Black is based on a documentary and that’s the impression you get here. Yes, it effectively shows how difficult things are at this hospital and how much goes on there, but it doesn’t seem very interested in a genuine, character-driven narrative.