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Television shows portray bipolar disorder in more realistic fashion

Once relegated to the sidelines, bipolar characters are less of a rarity on television, which has come a long way in portraying the mood disorder in a more nuanced, realistic manner.

The premium cable network Showtime is full of examples, the most obvious being Claire Danes’ award-winning turn as Carrie Mathison on “Homeland.”

John Benjamin Hickey snagged an Emmy nod last year for playing a man with the mental illness on “The Big C,” and bipolarity fed into a key story arc on “Shameless,” where the frequently MIA matriarch of the Gallagher clan (Chloe Webb) went off her meds and tried to commit suicide. The lead in ABC’s upcoming drama “Black Box” also has the condition, sometimes referred to as manic depression.

“Mind Games’” Steve Zahn said his character’s illness is what drove him into the field of psychology because “I wanted to understand what was going on in my head.”

“It’s just an aspect of [the show] that makes it interesting; It’s not about him being bipolar,” Zahn added. “It’s not about Ross being a con guy. It’s about this business, what we try to do to people.”

— Lori Rackl, TV Critic

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