09 February 2006

COMMENT: Code Black

Damn you, ABC!

From America's Funniest Home Videos to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to Desperate Housewives, ABC slowly but surely took possession of my Sunday nights last season, to the point where our entire night is now structured around watching as much of those shows as we can. We eat during AHV, bathe the kids during EM, iron clothes during DW...and always turn the TV off before we can be tempted into Grey's Anatomy.

Then the Super Bowl came, and two little words kept me in front of the TV when the game was finished: Code Black.

The commercials for the Super Bowl episode of Grey's Anatomy had piqued my interest, largely thanks to the mystery of Code Black, and whether or not it meant there was a patient with a bomb. Turns out that's exactly what it meant, as a WWII aficionado accidentally shoots himself with some homemade ordnance which plants itself inside his chest...unexploded.

It's a tense, well-directed episode (by Peter Horton of thirtysomething fame!) that ends on the kind of cliffhanger that not only happily forces you back next week, but hooks you for the long-term, too. Prior to Sunday, I'd never watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy, only very loosely familiar with it from the commercials that run during the shows preceding it. Now, I'm hooked, and am going to check into whether a Season One DVD exists!

The episode didn't simply rely on its "Code Black" plot point, instead delivering a compelling cast of characters and giving each one just enough of the spotlight to get a sense of who's who without any awkward exposition. It's a perfect lesson in constructing the mythical "jump on point", something the average comic book writer seems to know little about these days.

I unexpectedly caught the repeat this evening and watched the whole thing again, this time making my wife watch, too. Sundays are officially shot to hell now!

See how that works?

Fabian Nicieza's New Thunderbolts immediately springs to mind as a recent example of a series I checked out mid-run for a plot hook - the New Avengers crossover - and stuck with because of his knack for strong characterization and his ability to make each issue accessible enough to pique my interest in what came before. As a result, I went back and bought both TPBs and added the series to my pull list.

It can be done.


Johanna said...

The Season 1 DVD set is out next Tuesday, Valentine's Day. Amazon currently has it for 35% off. It's a good show, soapy, but not in typical ways, and I really like the characters (especially Bailey).

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Yeah, I used to love ER, and am generally a fan of ensemble shows, so all it took was for Grey's Anatomy to actually be good when I finally sampled it. Reminds me a bit of Boston Public's first season, before it jumped the shark with hook lady and the little person in the locker.

There's a marketing lesson here for comics, that when I get a chance to pull my thoughts together, I'll attempt to break down.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

um...okay. I was replying to Fossen, who's comment now seems to have disappeared!?!

Johanna: Soapy, but in a good way. I agree! The difference between, say, New Avengers and New Thunderbolts.

Erech said...

Usually that show is much better, that code black was... ridiculous to say the least. And the whole putting the character who the show is named after in danger trick, well, I mean you read comics.

But yeah, it's probably my favorite hourlong network show. Watch it, damnit.