Hey, did you hear about Ilene Chaiken’s new show, Black Box. No, it’s not about a heroic team of heroic Federal Aviation Administration officials and their never-ending search to find the flight recorder of downed aircrafts. It’s about a crazy genius lady doctor who might be such a genius because she is bipolar and likes to go off her meds and dance to imaginary jazz on ledges of skyscraper hotel balconies.
But Dr. Catherine Black is described as the “Marco Polo of the brain,” which means she is The Best and therefore the fact that she might have The Crazy is excused. If you think it’s a little like House without the cane and crankiness, you’re right. Lets also try to get past the eye-rolling aspect of naming a show about a female lead “Box” anything.
Chaiken serves as an executive producer and showrunner on the freshman ABC series. The show was created by Amy Holden Jones who has previously mainly written for movies including Beethoven (yes, the dog movie) and Mystic Pizza. Bryan Singer serves as another executive producer, but his involvement has been played down because of his troubling legal troubles.
Last night was the first episode Chaiken wrote. And, wouldn’t you know it, in her debut she gave her viewers something she has never given her viewers before: lesbian bed death.
She mentioned it on Twitter last night:
Among the other cases Dr. Black and the doctors who work with her in The Cube (yes, that’s what the medical center is called), a lesbian couple comes in to discuss their marital problems. Namely they’ve had LBD for a while. Wait, why are marital problems being discussed on a show about neurosurgery? Because after one of the women hits her head skiing, she no longer recognizes her wife and thinks she is an imposter. Though, side benefit, their sex life has improved because she thinks she is cheating on her wife with a stranger now. I don’t know, just go with it.
The wives, one blond with brain problems and one brunette with Bettie Page bangs, are part of a research project on the incurable syndrome. But really they’re Subplot C on the show this week behind a lady who only sees half of everything and a waitress Dr. Black’s boyfriend. The intern conducting the research study dutifully Googles “Lesbian Bed Death,” as if it was an actual medial diagnosis.
But in the end our lesbians get a (sort of) happy ending when the intern suggests the blond wife just close her eyes around her wife until they want to have sex. Problem solved? Suddenly, I don’t want to ever go to this hospital for treatment if these are their “cures.”
The supporting cast includes Vanessa Redgrave as Dr. Black’s psychiatrist and Laura Fraser as her sister-in-law. Yes, that Laura Fraser – as in Cat from Lip Service. Yes, friends, all roads lead to dead lesbian characters when Ilene Chaiken is involved. The show, unsurprisingly (and rightfully, in my opinion), has been savaged by the critics.
Sample critical shredding:
“Few shows are as instantly annoying as Black Box, which sets some kind of record (certainly a personal one) for causing almost instant agitation.” – The Hollywood Reporter
“…a show so deeply flawed and absurdly derivative you will wonder if you, like the main character, are experiencing a manic episode.” – The Los Angeles Times
“…Vanessa Redgrave?! Darling, how on Earth did you end up in this awful show? Let’s get you out of here — grab your shawl.” – The Washington Post
So, have you watched? What do you think of Chaiken’s return? I know, I know – you’d have to be off your meds to watch another one of her shows.