In the US: Mondays to Fridays, HBO, 9.30pm
In the UK: Not yet acquired
There are certain things actors like doing. They like good dialogue. They like building up a character. They like to display nuances. And they like showing off.
As a showcase for actors' tendencies, it would be hard to beat In Treatment. Based on an Israeli TV show, Be 'Tipul, In Treatment is innovative stuff. It's centred on a therapist played by Gabriel Byrne. Each night of the week, we see a session between Byrne and one of his patients, who include the likes of Blair Underwood and Melissa George. Then at the end of the week, we see Byrne visit his own therapist (Dianne Wiest) to discuss the patients he's been treating and his feelings about them, before we start again the following week with the next sessions in his patients' schedules.
In effect, we're getting five weekly pieces of two-handed theatre, all bundled in one series. You like Blair Underwood's story best? Just tune in to Tuesdays' sessions then.
Of course, how well such a concentrated environment is going to work - very little incidental music, no incidental characters, no explosions, just two people talking – is going to be down to the strength of the acting and the writing. And they're all great.
Plot (from the HBO web site)
An innovative and emotional new series, ‘In Treatment’ brings dynamic focus to a staple of modern society – the psychotherapy session. Adapted from a popular Israeli series, the show follows psychoanalyst Paul Weston through his week, capturing a session each night with his patients – Laura, Alex, Sophie and married couple Jake and Amy – before concluding each Friday in the office of Paul’s own therapist, Gina. Stepping inside the tangled mind of a man who counsels others for a living, ‘In Treatment’ renders an intricate portrayal of the experts we rely on for perspective.
'In Treatment' is based on the Series “Be 'Tipul” created by Hagai Levi with Ori Sivan & Nir Bergman. Writers for the “Be 'Tipul” series include Yael Hedaya, Ari Fulman, Nir Bergman, Daphna Levin, Asaf Zippor.
Executive-produced by Hagai Levi, Rodrigo Garcia, Steve Levinson and Mark Wahlberg, ‘In Treatment’ stars Gabriel Byrne (“The Usual Suspects,” “Vanity Fair”) as Paul, Josh Charles (“Sports Night,” “Four Brothers”) as Jake, Embeth Davidtz (“Schindler’s List,” “Junebug”) as Amy, Melissa George (“Alias,” “30 Days of Night”) as Laura, Blair Underwood (“L.A. Law,” “Dirty Sexy Money”) as Alex, Mia Wasikowska (“Suburban Mayhem”) as Sophie, Dianne Wiest (Oscar® winner for “Hannah and Her Sisters” and “Bullets over Broadway”) as Dr. Gina Toll and Michelle Forbes (“Kalifornia,” “Battlestar Galactica: Razor”) as Paul’s wife Kate.
Is it any good?
So far (two episodes in), it's been excellent. Normally, when you watch a TV show that involves therapy, it always seems like therapy done by someone who's read too many Reader's Digest articles, not by a professional. So it probably wouldn't be hyperbole to describe In Treatment as showing some of the most realistic scenes of therapy on TV so far.
Paul is an intelligent character, insightful, never asking obvious questions or assuming his patient his stupid. Even when you think it's obvious what the issue is, the story always manages to surprise as Paul slowly teases out the problems. His patients are equally well drawn, each clear and distinct, never stereotypes, each struggling to come to terms with his or her own issues. It's adult, it's clever and utterly engrossing.
Byrne is both subtle and engaging. George is excellent, but Underwood doesn't seem quite as convincing - how much that's down to the internally tortured character he's playing putting on a brave face remains to be seen, since glimpses of a better performance creep through at times. The direction manages to avoid being simply static lock-offs and shows you what a director who knows how to deal with actors can do.
All in all, really worth watching.
You can catch the full episodes from the HBO web site if you're in the US; if you're in the UK, you can watch the two-minute recaps, although I'd advise against that, since they're basically the whole episode compressed into two minutes, which will ruin it for you if you ever decide to watch the whole thing.
Alternatively, you can watch these YouTube clips:
Thursday: Jake and Amy
Friday: Gina (spoilers for Laura)
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