Code Black Premiere Recap

Code Black: Did CBS' Hectic Hospital Drama Get Your Pulse Racing?

In case you couldn’t tell from the above photo, CBS’ new medical drama Code Black is all about controlled chaos. Angels Memorial Hospital is frantic, intense and overwhelming.

With an influx of patients so great, there often aren’t enough resources to treat them — a situation known as “code black” — there’s no time for hooking up in the on-call room. An attending even tells two bickering docs, “If nobody’s taking their clothes off, I need you both on the floor now.”

Before you chime-in with your thoughts on the anti-Grey’s Anatomy series, here’s a recap of the pilot:

An average ER is in “code black” five times a year, the series’ title card informs us; Angels Memorial hits it 300 times a year. That immediately sets the tone as a batch of first-year residents are greeted by senior nurse Jesse Sallander (played by How to Make It in America‘s Luis Guzman), who calls himself “your mama” because there is nothing that happens at the hospital that he doesn’t know about.

If Jesse is mama, “Daddy” is residency director Dr. Leanne Rorish (Trophy Wife‘s Marcia Gay Harden), who is something of a rebel risk-taker. After an accident three years ago, she became fueled by rage, making her a renegade who has since been investigated four times and has more dropouts than any residency director. She exudes tough love, and no one is more on the receiving end of it than resident/mom Christa Lorenson (Cashmere Mafia‘s Bonnie Somerville). Christa’s younger colleague Mario Savetti (Cult‘s Benjamin Hollingsworth) puts his foot into his mouth more than once on the topic of age. (But those two are totally going to hook up by midseason, right?)

Code Black Series Premiere RecapChrista hesitates a lot, but when she decides to step up and ignore orders, Dr. Rorish fires her. However, her instincts about her pregnant patient prove correct: After discovering the woman passed out at home from carbon monoxide poisoning, Christa must perform an emergency C-section in an ambulance while Dr. Rorish instructions her over the phone (while drilling into a patient’s head!). Needless to say, the resident gets her job back.

The heroic save leads to a bonding moment as Christa reveals that she lost her son to cancer, which is why she decided to go into medicine. “Tragedy either softens you or hardens you,” she says. “Who’d you lose?”

“Everyone,” Dr. Rorish simply replies.

As for the other residents, there’s the aforementioned Mario, who used to be a drug addict; quiet but confident Malaya Pineda (The Brink‘s Melanie Kannokada); and Angus Leighton (newcomer Harry M. Ford), a genial guy with a superstar doctor brother and a father who serves on the hospital’s board. Looking for something more exciting than psychiatry, Angus asked his dad to get him into the residency program, but now he’s not sure if he can pass Dr. Rorish’s test. Also overseeing the ER — and occasionally butting heads with Rorish — is the by-the-books Dr. Neal Hudson (Smash‘s Raza Jaffrey).

In the medical storylines department, the pilot had the unfortunate luck of airing after a Grey’s episode that also dealt with cold infusion. On the plus side, guest star Emily Alyn Lind (aka Revenge‘s young Amanda Clarke) is very affecting as the daughter of a brain dead patient whose heart goes to a little girl (just like Amanda got Victoria’s heart?!).

I have long been craving a serious medical drama along the lines of ER during its heyday, and I’m a huge fan of ABC’s docudramas Boston Med, Hopkins, etc. While Code Black isn’t quite up to par yet, the premiere shows a lot of promise with a strong sense of urgency and environment.

Is it sometimes too much? Yes. But who’s to say real-life hospitals aren’t? The true test in the coming episodes will be if the characters can pop beyond just being archetypes. (Toning down lines like, “You’re the doctor they want. I’m the doctor they need,” would help.)

What did you think of Code Black? Grade the pilot via the poll below, then hit the comments to back up your pick! And if you haven’t checked out the Code Black game yet, you can do so here. But be prepared to lose hours of your day on the addictive, unbeatable challenge!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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48 Comments
  1. Aleana says:

    I really enjoy it really look like what a ER would look like it was fast paced this could be a great medical show if they focus on the medical and we see the characters lives out side of the hospital every now and then like Criminal Minds we have case of the week with an ongoing mystery and then they gives us a peek of the characters lives outside their jobs

    • Sally McLinn says:

      No, I’ve been to the ER many many times and it’s no where near what TV makes it out to be. It’s very slow. Doctors are slow to see patients. Unless you come in with a bullet in your head, you’re waiting hours to see someone.

  2. Red Snapper says:

    It was okay. The cast and acting were good but the story didn’t really grab. I’ll give it a couple more episodes before deciding to keep it or not.

  3. VJ says:

    I liked it a lot, I will definitely keep watching… hopefully it gets good ratings, enough with cancelled shows… I hope they get a bit more into the characters over the next couple of episodes. I like a good medical series but I like it even more if it has consistent characterisation.

  4. Sue Lutz RN says:

    I loved it! I am an ER nurse for the past 33 years who went worked at LA County Hospital in the 80’s. It looks like they used our old hospital for the show! It has brought back so many memories!!! Very true to life!

  5. Shaun says:

    How can anything be heard when there is so much noise in one tiny area?Might as well call it a battlefield hospital.The MRI booth looks tiny too.I thought Residents were pretty advanced doctors,so why are they so dim mostly?You’d get lawsuits discharging patients that fast.

  6. Mr. Tran K says:

    I give Code Black a B. The first 5 minutes was great but the rest was OK not to mention Bonnie Somerville’s character and Marcia Gay Harden is good but solid as the series’ lead. As for the music it was kind of Friday Night Lights like moment to it. Not so sure I’ll be back for more and I don’t know if the medical drama is going to survive going up against Chicago PD and Nashville in the 10 pm Wednesday night time slot.

  7. texmike says:

    It didn’t grab me like the first episode of ER did. It was so busy that the action was overwhelming. I’m sure that it is very realistic but it was hard to identify with any character or bond and root for a victim. I’ll give it more time to find its footing.

  8. Wendy says:

    It’s a good thing there were Comercial breaks cuz I kept holding my breath, oh and don’t forget the tissue box this is great drama and I love how it puts more emphasis on nurses they are just as much important as doctors,this will be my new favorite show!

  9. Temperance says:

    Code Black was the first medical show since ER ended that actually reminded me how great that ER was. Not a perfect pilot, but very, very promising.

  10. Ruben Craig says:

    Worked in ER in major hospital, never saw this type of chaos , unprofessionalism , as seen in this show. To many cases.

  11. Sarah_ says:

    I’m definitely watching this one..just the first episode and already put to tears :)
    Can’t wait to see more!

  12. Sally McLinn says:

    Too many medical dramas. We don’t need no more stinkin medical dramas.

    • mary says:

      There’s now 2. With Chicago Med…3. But Grey’s won’t last that much longer.

      • graze says:

        Grey’s is nothing like reality. Haven’t seen Chicago Med except when featured as part of Chicago PD or Fire but this show looks more realistic in a messy sort of way. Really miss ER, a good combo of more realistic medical situations and tv drama.

  13. liame says:

    It really didn’t pull me in like a thought it would. I’m a MGH fan, her character and Jaffrey’s are the only reason I’ll watch a couple more episodes.

  14. A.F. says:

    Wow that was intense, one minute you didn’t look,you lost count of what happened. I liked it really very much. Like the author of that article I was in search for an ER replacement for a long time. Now I have high hopes that I have found it.

  15. Mr. Smith says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed it!

  16. Jane says:

    So after watching this and Quantico I’m wondering, are they handing out check lists to writers when they are hired these days and telling them there is a quota of clichés they have to get into the pilot episodes? After the first five minutes the person I was watching the show with and I made up a list of bad medical show clichés and this show managed to get almost every single one in by the show. If they had just managed a huge car or plane wreck scene they would have hit them all. Just no thank you not coming back for more. If I want to watch this show I’ll just watch ER reruns.

  17. herman1959 says:

    Despite my fond memories of ER’s heyday, I watched Code Black following Criminal Minds, and I was not disappointed. It was excellent, particularly the relationship between MGH and Luis Guzman’s characters. Keep it up!

  18. Bella says:

    I thought it was great. So much better than Grey’s.

  19. Vicki Ballard says:

    I was disappointed that they threw in some really unrealistic drama. Does a child get an adult heart in a transplant? Does that patient get to have visitors? Do they look that good? You can have a great medical show without stretching that much. Improve the writing!

    • herman1959 says:

      I have to admit that I had the same questions, but overall I liked the pilot because of the characters. Going forward, they can employ medical consultants like ER.

    • mary says:

      They can depending on size of the adult & the size of the child. Visitors depends on the hospital, as well as how the transplant surgery went, etc.

  20. JPMD says:

    Exceptional TV … beats all of its predecessors, past and present, with its attention to detail and an outstanding cast.

  21. ninamags says:

    It was interesting. Very gory. I had trouble following the dialogue in a few scenes, though. Too much background noise.

    I’ll tune in again for sure.

  22. HAP says:

    Way too chaotic. Like ER on steroids.

  23. Ed Pruger says:

    I have worked ER both as combat triage and civilian. This program is right on but for the fact people that work as medical professionals know what is going on. I feel it is too frenetic for the routine civilian

  24. crimibird says:

    This is so like ER I loved every single second of it.

  25. jehjeh3711 says:

    It was awesome! A little over the top maybe, but absolutely awesome. Oh and for you Grey’s fans I really am tired of all the personal stories that are carried home. I want action. I swear I had to stop watching Grey’s because if I had to see Christine whining and crying, “oh poor me” anymore I was gonna punch a wall!

  26. Donna Bk says:

    No one meets the recipient of their fathers heart the day after the transplant. No mask on the visitor. Did not look like the ICU. Dumb. People in the waiting area would hear all that shouting. No realist in my view.

  27. It reminded me so much of UnReal! I really like this chaotic style of TV – predominantly hand held camera following people through a very crowded, almost claustrophobic environment, jumping from character to character. Incredibly fast paced. After the first episode of UnReal, I wasn’t sure if they could keep it up for a whole season (for budgetry reasons as well as just running out of ideas) but they did and it was a great season. I have the same concern with Code Black and would be really disappointed, though not surprised, if they can’t maintain this pacing.

  28. jan says:

    Hope this isn’t greys revisited. Bed hopping has been done

  29. Barb Christianson says:

    Great medical ER Show. Don’t let the doctors’ personal lives overshadow this great show. Tell us their history, what makes them tick, but keep them in the ER and out of bed. Love this great show. Please don’t ruin it.

  30. Jaime folds says:

    I Absolutely love this show. While I watched last weeks episode, I had the chills the majority of that hour. I laughed and i cried. Cant wait for wednesday nights now.

  31. Jen says:

    My husband went to Medical School and did one rotation in Chicago’s Hope Hospital in the ER. He makes comments throughout the show about things the “doctors” are or are not doing correctly. I am enjoying it though!

  32. scottishwildcat13 says:

    The whole show was cliché central. Bring back St Elsewhere!

  33. Pat says:

    Great show….fast paced….Leanne and Jesse are great actors!! I love I, I’m hooked! Started to watch late in the season but now I’m up to date and anxiously await Wednesday!

  34. Higgins says:

    It’s a good show if you could ever hear what they are saying. Background is so loud I only catch a few words here and there. Take it down a notch and it’s great.