Featured: Top of Home Page

‘In Treatment': The doctor is in, again

Aaron Barnhart
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Apparently HBO wants to make addicts out of its customers, at least when it comes to the psychotherapy drama "In Treatment," which returns for a second season on Sunday with some noticeable casting and scheduling tweaks.

The unusually-designed serial featuring monologues delivered to a shrink played by Gabriel Byrne, "In Treatment" aired five nights a week in its first season, imitating the schedule of the hit Israeli series it was based on. This season, however, there will still be five "sessions" weekly, but the episodes are now loaded onto just two nights, Sunday and Monday, starting at 9 p.m. EDT each night.

They must do some research over there at HBO. The channel's publicity department delivered 10 episodes, or two weeks' worth, to my home ... and we watched all 10 in one night.

It should be noted that while its explorations of the human condition rarely sound a false note, the reason "In Treatment" is so habit-forming is that it occupies an entirely artificial realm in which people are helped in record time through a kind of psychological triage that is breathtaking in its speed and accuracy.

But we may not realize this because we are reminded often that Paul, the extraordinarily gifted psychologist Byrne plays, has a personal life that's in shambles.

In the off-season Paul moved to Brooklyn; his wife Kate (Michelle Forbes) did not. The fracturing of their marriage that began last season is now complete. As if that weren't enough, Paul faces repercussions from the death of the Navy pilot Alex (played last season by Blair Underwood) and will revisit old business with Mia, a patient he saw 20 years ago (Hope Davis).

The rest of his patients this season just walk through the door at his new practice: a chubby kid named Oliver (Aaron Shaw) caught between feuding parents; Walter ("Frasier's" John Mahoney), a CEO who wants to know why he's not sleeping and wants answers now; and the most compelling head case of this season - with the possible exception of Paul himself - a 23-year-old student, April (Alison Pill, last seen in "Milk"), who's just been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The one-person-shows these recurring characters put on each week are what give "In Treatment" its vitality, and of course it helps that HBO can draw from top stage talent.

So we get someone at the cusp of adulthood, another in middle age and yet another as they're rounding the bend and heading for home. Each is in tremendous pain that they barely understand, let alone want to acknowledge. And from there the "In Treatment" formula proceeds: Establish the problem and its complexity, provide immediate relief, probe deeper, expose more problems, treat, repeat. By the end of Monday's fifth episode, all will seem hopeless; a week from then, not so much.

In this respect, "In Treatment" is not unlike an episode of "24," which tricks you into thinking that events "occur in real time." Only here the artifice is harder to spot, until you realize how much progress doctor and patient have made in 20 minutes. ("In Treatment" is also like "CSI" in its glorification of science as a tool that can crack the toughest cases.)

Just when you think the show is taking itself too seriously, in walks Gina (Dianne Wiest), Paul's confidant, conscience and counselor, whose weekly appearance makes a useful bookend to the sturm and drang of "In Treatment's" week.

Gina is the pleasant, professional and candid antidote our neurotic Irish shrink needs on his weekly Amtrak trips to see his daughter. She also provides moments of comic relief that the viewer needs. "Isn't it fun to be in therapy!" she exudes at one point.

Of course, while Gina's expertise may help Paul keep his equilibrium, I can't say I've seen Paul improve appreciably in her care. That may be the most realistic portrayal of life in treatment that we see here.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews

Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.

Music

Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.

Books

Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.

Music

British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.

Music

Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".

Books

In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.

Music

Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.

Film

Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.

Music

Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.

Music

Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.

Music

'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.

Music

Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.

Television

From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.

Music

Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.

Music

Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".

Games

On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.