In Treatment

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I’ve gotten hooked on a new HBO series called “In Treatment” starring Gabriel Byrne as Paul, a psychoanalyst. The show is a remake of a popular Israeli series called “BeTipul” and follows Paul through his meetings with his patients, who come to his home office for their weekly consultations. Gabriel Byrne’s acting is brilliant. I’ve been in therapy long enough to ascertain that he does a bang-up job of acting like a psychiatrist, with hardly more than his eyes and the muscles in his face to convey emotions. A good psychiatrist does a lot more listening than talking but that can’t be easy to convey for an actor.

Considering it’s mostly made up of talking heads, the show is filled with plenty of drama. This week along, the premiere starts with a bang with beautiful Laura, a patient of Paul’s for the past year, admitting to him that she’s been in love with him since the beginning and fantasizes about them having sex. Next is a cocky Navy pilot (played by Blair Underwood) who’s just been grounded after a mission in Iraq. He’s responsible for killing sixteen children yet insists he followed orders and is not affected at all. Then a sixteen year old gymnast and Olympic hopeful with two broken arms, which Paul suspects of being suicidal and having an affair with her forty-something coach, and finally a pregnant couple seemingly on the verge of splitting up who come to him to figure out whether they should keep the baby or have an abortion.

One of the recurring themes on the show is that all his patients come to him wanting an answer for one very specific problem and insisting they don’t need therapy, but they all get furious with Paul for asking questions which point to the obvious… and which they refuse to see, namely that their issues far outweigh whatever problem brought them to seek counsel to begin with. After a week of these difficult patients, Paul is confronted with serious marital problems at home, which sends him to consult with a former supervisor (Dianne Wiest), rekindling a complicated and difficult relationship, which makes for yet more heated discussions. All of that left me thinking… I don’t create nearly enough drama during sessions and I’m much too nice to my therapists.

It’s a great concept for a show, the casting and treatment are excellent, and while I can’t say it makes for light entertainment, I’ll be watching.

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