In Treatment: The Complete First Season (DVD)
HBO premieres the first of 43 episodes of In Treatment, a new half-hour drama series starring Gabriel Byrne, and adapted from an enormously popular Israeli series created by Hagai Levi (one of HBOs executive producers, along with Rodrigo Garcia, Steve Levinson and Mark Wahlberg). Set within the intimate confines of individual psychotherapy sessions with five sets of patients, the series centers around Paul (Byrne), a therapist who exhibits an insightful, confident demeanor when treating his patients, but displays a crippling insecurity while counseled by his own therapist, Gina (Dianne Wiest). Patients undergoing treatment with Paul include a young doctor (Melissa George) who has fallen in love with Paul, a Navy pilot (Blair Underwood) reevaluating his life after a failed mission in Iraq, a teenage gymnast (Mia Wasikowska) with suicidal tendencies, and a sexually passionate couple (Josh Charles and Embeth Davidtz) who are troubled in all other areas of their lives. In addition, Pauls wife Kate (Michelle Forbes) will be featured prominently this season.
HBO's first half-hour drama gives new meaning to the term, "appointment television." Adapted from a popular and award-winning Israeli series, In Treatment
in its first season aired five nights a week for nine weeks beginning in January 2008. Each episode eavesdrops on a weekly therapist-patient session. "The magic happens"—as one observer sarcastically remarks—in the home office of Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne in his Golden Globe Award-winning role). Monday's patient is Laura (Melissa George), a doctor who reveals in a harrowing "about last night" monologue in the first episode that she is in love with Paul ("You've become the center of my life"). Tuesdays bring Alex (Blair Underwood), a cocky fighter pilot whose last mission over Iraq went horrifyingly awry, earning him the media tag, "The Madrassa Murderer." Wednesday's child, Sophie (Mia Wasikowska in a breakout performance) is a teenage Olympic hopeful in need of an evaluation following a near-fatal bicycle "accident." On Thursdays, Paul meets with Amy (Embeth Davidtz) and Jake (Josh Charles), whose rocky marriage is further shaken as they wrestle over whether or not she should get an abortion. Fearing he is "losing patience with my patients," Paul turns to his former mentor, Gina (Dianne Wiest in an Emmy-winning performance), with whom he had a falling out years before, to talk out his own troubles. The therapist whose own personal life is unraveling could have either been bad sitcom or static and stagey talking heads. But with its insightful writing, powerful performances, and deft, unobtrusive direction, In Treatment
avoids the pitfalls to become an intensely gripping drama. Each episode thrives on what Laura calls "the back and forth stuff," the soul-searching and the questioning that strip away the defenses of each damaged character, including Paul himself, who has his own demons to confront as he becomes further estranged from his neglected and resentful wife, Kate (Michelle Forbes), and grapples with his feelings for Laura. This series is something of a career breakthrough for Byrne, a celebrated character actor (Miller's Crossing
, The Usual Suspects
). As the rumpled and weary Paul, he is more compelling just sitting and listening than many actors are in action. Quality programs for adults that deal with the human condition are at a premium on television. For anyone whose psyche has been scarred by so-called reality TV, In Treatment
is excellent therapy. --Donald Liebenson