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'Code Black' is CBS's next 'The Good Wife'

With CBS ending The Good Wife, I’ve asked myself what could replace it as the network’s critical darling—the show that wins awards, elevates the brand, and keeps broadcast drama in conversation. That show is, without a doubt, Code Black.

Code Black is the best medical drama I’ve seen in ages. In a crowded genre, it stands out simply by being very, very good at what it does. Perhaps because it’s based on an award-winning documentary by actual physician Ryan McGarry, Angels Memorial Hospital feels the most like a real hospital of all the shows out there. It’s not pretty; it’s gritty and in the trenches and could use a fresh coat of paint. Within those walls, the actual medical procedures are so well filmed that you feel like you’re on the operating table. Instead of shooting “TV medicine,” with lots of chaos and quick camera cuts, we’re able to hear almost everything that’s said and see up close and personal what’s being done, which makes the events resonate. We care about the patients, and not just as an extension of the doctors. Code Black hearkens back to the glory days of Chicago Hope and ER.

The writing of Code Black is as attention-worthy as that of The Good Wife. Michael Seitzman and his writing staff have built a show about a hospital, rather than about a group of people who happen to work in one. The patients that come through the doors of Angels ER are as compelling as the people treating them, and their cases seem realistic. Even when the show ventures into common medical drama themes (fighting with hospital bureaucrats, having a doctor attacked in the hospital), it never strays too far from reality. It’s actually improved those tired ideas. The best episode so far, “Diagnosis of Exclusion,” was half about staff-wide depositions—and I was still on the edge of my seat.

If CBS is looking for another award-winner to follow Julianna Margulies, Code Black has that, too. You could probably do a whole show of Marcia Gay Harden reading charts and it would be entertaining, but as Dr. Leanne Rorish, she’s the force that drives this series. With every ounce of the ass-kicking she displayed in The Newsroom and God of Carnage, she’s made Leanne the rare character that’s actually cooler than she’s written to be. With a consistently strong and savvy performance, Code Black should earn her a third Emmy nomination. Between Harden and Tea Leoni on Madam Secretary, CBS has two great leading ladies in the wings.

Yet this is far from a one-trick show. The entire ensemble of Code Black pulls their own weight, and their characters have yet to fall into too many stereotypes. Raza Jaffrey is doing the best work he’s done since Spooks; it’s great to see Bonnie Somerville back on CBS after Golden Boy; William Allen Young is always reliable; and Luis Guzman can order around anyone he wants. The actors playing the three younger residents—Melanie Chandra, Harry Ford, and Benjamin Hollingsworth—are making their names here with how they’re differentiating their characters from the usual “group of attractive young doctors.” As much as I hate Boris Kodjoe’s character, that’s how much I appreciate his performance. And someone just make Tommy Dewey a regular already.

The guest cast on Code Black is just as impressive. These people have been stars on other series, and that raises the level of the finished product. I’ve particularly loved what Jeff Hephner has done in his recurring role as CEO Ed Harbert, proving that not every administrator at a TV hospital is deaf, dumb, and blind; he’s a boss figure you actually want around, which makes him a freakin’ unicorn. Last week’s episode featured the legendary Beau Bridges, Meagan Good, and Annie Wersching, while past eps have involved Michael Trucco, Gail O’Grady, and Glenn Morshower. On this show, even the guest stars are worth getting excited about.

But, importantly, Seitzman and his team actually service all of these characters. Angels Memorial isn’t packed so full of people that you forget half of them exist. Hephner’s scenes with Harden, for example, actually demonstrate the business dilemmas that come with running a major-city ER, in addition to the pure joy of watching two phenomenal actors slug it out. Patients have moments where we get to know who they are and not just what they have. Every one of the doctors has at least something to do each week, and it doesn’t feel like any of the episodes drag. Just like the hospital, Code Black is a really tightly run ship, and that makes it a great viewing experience.

The Good Wife has been special for CBS: broadcast television’s most critically acclaimed series, holding down Sunday nights and creating a standard for strong female-led drama. Code Black is capable of those same things. Its overall quality should earn it attention and awards consideration, the network can build around it on Wednesdays as it did with TGW on Sundays, and Leanne Rorish is just as worth following as Alicia Florrick. If any show can succeed The Good Wife, it’s Code Black—provided CBS does the right thing and renews it for a second season.

Code Black airs Wednesdays at 10/9C on CBS.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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