Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: TV Review: In Treatment - A Cure for the Writer's Strike Blues

Thursday, January 31, 2008

TV Review: In Treatment - A Cure for the Writer's Strike Blues

by Tony Dayoub

Due to the ongoing writer's strike, the return of dramatic TV is looking increasingly bleak. HBO comes to the rescue with In Treatment. They couldn't have presented the drama at a better time, or in a more accessible format.

Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) is a psychologist who sees four different sets of patients throughout the week. On the shows broadcast on Mondays, he sees Laura (Melissa George), a woman in a serious relationship that admits having deeper feelings for Paul. On Tuesdays, it is Alex (Blair Underwood), a pilot who has just been vilified on extremist websites for inadvertently killing 16 schoolchildren in a bombing he took part in flying over Iraq. On Wednesdays, he counsels gymnast Sophie (Mia Wasikowska), a teen Olympic hopeful, who may be feeling the pressure as evidenced in her suicidal tendencies. On Thursdays, Jake (Josh Charles) and Amy (Embeth Davidtz) go to Paul for couples counseling regarding an issue that 's fueled their bickering for the better part of a month. And on Fridays, Paul submits to his own psychologist, Gina (Dianne Wiest).

Here's what makes the show so innovative for American TV (this is based on an Israeli TV show). If you want to track only Alex's treatment, then you just need to watch the show every Tuesday night. Or if you're more interested in Jake and Amy then Thursday is your night. But if you are comfortable with serialized TV, catch it every weeknight at 9:30pm. You'll get a good dose of drama from each patient's visit and further insight into Paul's psyche, especially if you follow his sessions with Gina on Fridays.

HBO seems like they are on to this also. Their next episode plug at the end of each show doesn't plug tomorrow night's episode. It plugs the following week's episode for the patient of that night's show. So far, the best of these nights to catch seems to be Tuesday, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Underwood's confrontational performance complements Byrne's cerebral detachment as they depict the contrast between Alex's macho military persona with Paul's clinical and analytical one. Davidtz and Charles are excellent as that couple that has mastered how to push each other's buttons to the point that they fail to connect in any other way. And they drag any bystanders into the fray, as evidenced in tonight's episode where they badger Paul into choosing sides in their argument, an act that may have serious consequences for both patients and doctor.

It is tomorrow's episode that demonstrates which storyline has the most promise. Wiest's Gina seems to know how to bring Paul out of his detachment. We finally see Paul is not so emotionally remote as we thought. Byrne and Wiest spar the way you would expect two veteran actors to, with relish and abandon in displaying each character's vulnerabilities.

A promising show that comes along at the right time, it is strongly recommended watching the entire week's episodes. Luckily, people may be in the mood to do just that at the moment.

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