The thing I like about TV medical dramas -- from “ER” to “House” to “Grey’s Anatomy” -- are the cases featured in each episode.
But when the attention turns to the doctors and their personal lives, I tend to tune out. I couldn’t care less if Drs. Hunt and Yang are or aren’t together on “Anatomy,” but when they work together to find out why three siblings have failing hearts … now that’s interesting.
With “Black Box,” the new drama premiering at 9 p.m. Thursday on ABC, the doctor is a patient herself, which gives us a little different twist on the genre.
Kelly Reilly, who currently stars as the mom in “Heaven Is for Real,” now in theaters, plays Dr. Catherine Black, a neurologist at the state-of-the-art medical institution known as "The Cube." She’s also bipolar, giving her even more incentive to study and treat the brain (or the "black box”).
Her manic episodes, which, by the way, are extremely manic, are controlled by medication. But she tends to stop taking the pills because, as she tells her therapist (Vanessa Redgrave), she enjoys the intense high. These highs, however, come with lows, and she often becomes a danger to herself and others around her during her episodes.
She’s the focus of the pilot, but the first episode also includes stories about an 18-year-old high school student who can’t stop drawing and an elderly woman whose constant companion is an imaginary elf.
We not only see how those stories play out, but how Black’s story does, too. We see how her ailment affects her relationships with her boyfriend (David Ajala) and her family, and what little control she has over her life. Grade: B
Across the remote
* Other new shows debuting this week include:
“Salem,” 9 p.m. Sunday, WGN America (Time Warner Cable channels 14, 1014). The rebranded network launches its first scripted series. This one reexamines the infamous witch trials in 17th century Massachusetts and stars Ashley Madekwe from “Revenge.”
“Bad Teacher,” 8:30 p.m. Thursday, CBS. Ari Gaynor plays the Cameron Diaz role from the movie about a gold digger who masquerades as a teacher in order to find a new man. The supporting cast includes Kristin Davis (“Sex in the City”), Sara Gilbert (“Big Bang Theory”) and Ryan Hansen (“Party Down”).
* The multi-Emmy winning “Mad Men” may have run its course. Only 2.3 million viewers tuned in to last week’s season seven and series finale -- its lowest debut since season two in 2008. Season six drew 3.4 million. It may get worse. AMC has decided to air the final season over two years, meaning the second half will premiere and end in 2015. Ugh!
* Rosie O’Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck will come together again for a special reunion show of “The View” on May 15 to celebrate creator Barbara Walters’ retirement. The show, set for 10 a.m. May 15, will feature all 11 past and present co-hosts. My guess is O’Donnell and Hasselbeck, who tended to disagree … a lot, will be on their best behavior.
* Fox announced it's dumping its Animation Domination HD on Saturday nights after poor ratings and affiliate complaints about the toons’ risque content. The last airing is scheduled for June 28.
* Quick hits -- Stephen Colbert will chat Tuesday with David Letterman on “The Late Show” … FX renewed “The Americans” for a third season … May sweeps begin Thursday, so expect new episodes of your favorite shows for the next four weeks … “Devious Maids” kicks off its second season at 9 p.m. Sunday on Lifetime.