Sunday, February 3, 2008

In Treatment on HBO

HBO premiered a brilliant original show last week - original in both structure and content. Anyone who thinks HBO is running out of steam as a pioneer in the cable form should take a look at In Treatment.

The show consists of a 30-minute segment every weekday evening. Psychotherapist Paul, played by the always memorable Gabriel Byrne, sees a different patient Monday through Thursday. And on the 5th day, Friday, he sees his own therapist, Gina (played by Dianne Wiest) and becomes a patient himself.

Don't confuse this with Tell Me You Love Me. The talk on In Treatment is much more intense and intelligent. In fact, it's so good, that all almost you get on In Treatment is talking, and that was more than enough to keep my wife and me hanging on almost every word.

Monday's patient thinks she's falling in love with Paul - erotic transference, as the shrinks call it. Laura's beautiful and smart - she's an anesthesiologist - and the real question is whether Paul is falling in love with her (we find out on Friday that all's not well with his wife). Laura's played by Melissa George - Vaughn's wife on Alias - and she won't be putting anyone to sleep - at least, not in the viewing audience.

Blair Underwood plays Tuesday's patient, Alex - I've been enjoying his performances since LA Law. Here he plays a Navy pilot with a complex story of guilt and power and possible attraction to his running partner, who is a gay man. Alex also has a heart attack, running, and nearly dies. Paul's patients clearly all live life to the hilt.

On Wednesday Paul sees a 16-year girl, Sophie, played by Mia Wasikowska. Mia, like Melissa and Blair, puts in a tour-de-force performance. Sophie, a gymnast, may or may not suicidal.

Josh Charles as Jake and Embeth Davidtz as Amy come to the doctor's office on Thursday, as a married couple in real distress. I suppose this is the least original of the four stories, and the most reminiscent of Tell Me You Love Me, but the acting is powerful and the story still captivating.

Four different stories having no real connection except their excellence as narratives and the excellence with which they are acted - and Paul as the psychotherapist they all see. And on Friday, Paul reverses his role, and Gabriel Byrne puts in just as powerful a performance as patient. There's a nice symmetry here as Paul as patient goes through many of same acts of his patients - wondering why he came to his therapist, threatening to leave, verbally attacking his therapist.

In Treatment looks a highly successful experiment in TV drama, that definitely bears more watching.

PS: Steve Levinson is the Executive Producer. He is, alas, no relation...

See also In Treatment 2: Scalding ...3. Triangle ... 4. Love and Death ... 5. Paul's Greatest Strength ... 6. Paul's Boat ... 7. Alex in the Sky with Diamonds ... 8. A Princely Performance ... In Treatment Concludes: For Now

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

more about The Plot to Save Socrates... good reading if you're in a doctor's office...

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