TV Review: Kathy Reilly shines in 'Black Box' on ABC


Now that "Scandal" has wrapped up its season, ABC wants you to check out "Black Box."

The high-intensity drama is going into the "Scandal" slot at 10 p.m. Thursday, hoping that people who have loved the craziness and dysfunction of the Kerry Washington series will be drawn to something with its own kind of extreme behavior.

That behavior is courtesy of Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly), a brilliant neurologist who is especially adept with her patients’ brain problems because she has one herself: She is bipolar. She also has a disconcerting habit of going off her meds and into bad behavior, whether it’s dancing on a ledge or sleeping with a very wrong man.

While ABC is calling this "cutting edge," it isn’t really. Viewers can add it to a long list of dramas about brilliant, but troubled people. "House," where the doctor had as many issues as his patients, came to mind. "Black Box" (the name is a nickname for the brain) is especially close in style and tone to the Holly Hunter series "Saving Grace." Black’s demons are as vividly rendered as those of Hunter’s character -- though "Black Box" takes place on a more glamorous stage.

The premiere, at least, finds Black in a downward spiral, talking things through with her psychiatrist (Vanessa Redgrave), dealing with her colleagues -- and helping patients whose brain-related delusions are made visible to viewers. In many respects, it is standard, if stylish, TV fare. But in the middle of it is Reilly.

A British actress, Reilly has become an increasing presence in American productions. She co-starred with Denzel Washington in "Flight" and is currently on the big screen in "Heaven is for Real." In "Black Box," her performance is commanding, compelling and by itself enough reason to give the show a couple of chances.


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