Review: In Treatment

In Treatment

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:

Monday: Laura

Tuesday: Alex

Wednesday: Sophie

Thursday: Jake and Amy

Friday: Gina (spoilers for Laura)

  • Good grief, that’s a good cast. It does sound slightly disturbingly like that Chris Langham/Paul Whitehouse series, though…

  • It is, isn’t it? It’s amazing who you can get to work for you with intelligent, adult scripts, the promise of equally good actors to work with, some good directors and a decent wage. I imagine they were having to beat beat off with a stick.
    The show nearly shocked me into complete incoherence. The review almost would have been a big grin with “Really Good” written underneath it.
    Know what you mean about Langham/Whitehouse, but that really was a show-off show.

  • It’s the 20:20 hindsight that makes Help! so disturbing. Chris Langham shows off, is shown up, gets sent down.

  • An Israeli series? Trust HBO to go for the unusual. Of course, it would have been easier to just show the original – but then again ITV1 didn’t with Outrageous Fortune (the New Zealand series that Honest is based on)…

  • Adam

    I think you really need to see all five episodes each week to get the complete story. Only concentrating on your favourite patients/actors will only get you pieces of the whole picture. it’s ultimately Paul (Byrne)’s story in the end, as he’s different with each patient and they bring out different sides of him, and it’s also different when he goes to see Gina on Fridays, because then the tables are turned and he becomes the patient. You see how troubled he really is, and his defensive, combative and outright hostile sides as well, since he has an even more loaded relationship with Gina.

  • I agree you won’t get the whole story if you only watch one patient. But you will get something, for sure, and not everyone will be willing to give up two and a half hours a week of their time, instead of just half an hour.

  • I am desperate to see this but it’s one for the DVD I reckon as can’t see myself committing to watching every night for nine weeks. (Mind you, I’ve managed to watch Home and Away and Neighbours every day for twenty years, but that’s daytimes for you.)

  • MediumRob

    I can empathise. I’m saving them up in two-episode blocks at the moment.

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