Analyse This

In an age when everybody has too many entertainment options and not enough time, can a smart, daily drama work?

In Treatment premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. on The Movie Network (9:30 PT on Movie Central). The HBO drama stars Gabriel Byrne as psychotherapist Paul who, through the week, sees five very different patients. Monday it’s Laura (Melissa George), who blurts tonight that she has a big fat crush on her shrink. Tomorrow it’s Alex (Blair Underwood), a U.S. jet plot who is rocked after accidentally and tragically killing 16 kids in Iraq. Wednesday it’s Sophie (Mia Wasikowska), a damaged teenager with a dark secret. Thursday it’s a couple, Jake and Amy (Josh Charles and Embeth Davidtz), who are torn apart over a big decision.
By Friday, the doctor hustles off to retired therapist Gina (Dianne Wiest) to empty out his own cluttered head. As we learn, there is a lot to empty and even more to shake.
When I interviewed Underwood about a week ago in Toronto for an upcoming article in TVTimes magazine, we spoke about the challenges of basically doing a two person play for television. He marveled at how Byrne could do this day after day, but really, all Byrne says for the most part are things like, “So, how does that make you feel?” It’s the patients who do the heavy lifting in this often searing and emotional drama.
Will people tune in every day? Probably not. Some studies suggest that, even if, say, House or Brothers & Sisters, is your favorite show, most of us only catch 6-8 of the 22 episodes each year. In Treatment will present, Monday to Friday, a total of 43 episodes over the next nine weeks.
Some of us do have PVRs and access to on-demand programming, as Underwood pointed out. So you can bank several episodes and watch them later. Some viewers today prefer binge viewing, renting a DVD set on a weekend and consuming a whole season of, say, Arrested Development, in one fat chunk.
In Treatment‘s timing is good, also, because, thanks to that damn writers strike, you’re not able to catch those 6-8 new episodes of Brothers and Sisters anymore (although House is back with a new episode this Sunday, immediately following the Super Bowl game). If you’re starved for good drama, especially now that that other TV shrink, Dr, Melfi from The Sopranos, has packed up her practice, In Treatment could be for you.
Viewers might also choose to just stick with one of the patient storylines, tuning in every Monday, say, to see Melissa George, or Fridays to see Wiest weight in. Underwood is terrific on Tuesdays, gradually allowing his character’s true colours to smear all over the careful, black and white, all-American portrait Alex has tried to live up to his whole life.
Like a real therapy session, In Treatment is honest, challenging and revealing. Unlike a real session, when it ends, there is no bill to pay. See? You feel better already.

Leave a Reply