HBO's "In Treatment" feels uncannily like slices of dysfunctional lives in the throes of instability and crisis. Presented in 43 half-hours over nine weeks, it embodies an acting clinic for the exceptional recurring cast and possesses bracing writing and direction from Rodrigo Garcia (who also produces with, among many others, Mark Wahlberg).
Adapted from a hit Israeli series and set primarily in the therapy offices of Dr. Paul Weston (the superb Gabriel Byrne) or Dr. Weston's own exceptionally patient shrink, Gina (Dianne Wiest, spot-on as usual), the show hits the ground with heavy doses of bathos, titillation and melodrama but somehow doesn't come across as gratuitous or manipulative. The opening episodes are instead uniquely engrossing, stripping out the bells and whistles to showcase dialogue that packs an oft-wrenching wallop.
The "In Treatment" gambit has the series unfolding weeknights at 9:30, with each night focusing on a different recurring patient who is exclusive to that night -- much like a weekly appointment. But unlike the mega-racy HBO therapy series "Tell Me You Love Me" that premiered last year, this show eschews the graphic sex in favor of hard-core neuroses. It pulls off the analytic conceit with sharp character development and bare-bones style. The screen is bereft of anything that might get in the way of the emotional pull-and-tug and provocative interaction. Sure, it's more or less an ensemble soap cut up into bite-size pieces, but it's so intelligently wrought that you feel somehow enriched by the drama instead of diminished.
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