“God, does everything have to be talked about?” complains one of Gabriel Byrne’s patients in HBO’s high-concept half-hour psychiatry drama.
But then that’s the point in this US remake of Israeli series BeTipul, a rigorous talkfest that uses a bold fivenights- a-week structure to probe not only the insecurities and dilemmas of Byrne’s neurotic patients, but also his own personality as he grapples with professional and private problems.
The cumulative result is insanely gripping, the build-up of confessional and revelation allowing Melissa George’s anesthesiologist, teenage gymnast Mia Wasikowska and alpha male fighter pilot Blair Underwood to emerge as compelling, convincing characters we can genuinely feel and root for.
It’s Byrne, however, who is the true focus here, the pressures of hearing so many secrets and his forbidden desire for George sending him at the end of every week to his own therapist (Dianne Wiest) for feisty, combative sessions that eventually include his unfaithful spouse (Michelle Forbes).
Okay, so In Treatment does require a little more commitment than your average TV show and doesn’t always deliver (Paul’s time with bickering couple Embeth Davidtz and Josh Charles doesn’t seem to do anyone any good, least of all the viewer).
When the fireworks come, though, it really feels we have earned them, an explosive encounter or an attempted suicide emerging organically from the material as opposed to being chucked in for effect.
Let’s hope HBO heed Paul’s oft-repeated mantra (“Finish the thought!”) and give this small-screen slow-burner all the time it needs.
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