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In Treatment

Series about a therapist and his patients is intense and revelatory

By Karen Stiller

 In Treatment
(HBO)


When I set out to watch back-to-back episodes of season one of HBO’s critically acclaimed drama In Treatment, I decided to make the event itself therapeutic. I invited a friend to join me and bought sacks of candy. We made tea and pressed play.

Episode one of the drama, starring Gabriel Byrne — winner of a Golden Globe for his role as psychotherapist Dr. Paul Weston — exploded into my family room. Close-up of a woman weeping, potty mouth on full-potty, a detailed description of a shame-filled sexual encounter in a bar bathroom. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair and shot Susan an apologetic glance.

Then, the episode unfolded, as each one does, less like a television show and more like a play. It’s intense and dramatic, with the actors carrying almost all of the storyline through dialogue — because dialogue is what unlocks all the doors in a therapist’s office.

The episodes follow Paul over the course of a week, with each episode focused on his session with one client. At week’s end, Paul attends his own therapy with Dr. Gina Toll (actress Dianne Wiest), where he explores his life, rapidly disintegrating marriage and relationships with his clients.

The issues the clients bring are both ordinary and extraordinary, and the introspective viewer might find herself eating jujubes, drinking tea and thinking about her own life, childhood, issues, friends and family.

For viewers more accustomed to faster-than-fast-paced drama, too-easy resolutions and obvious punch lines, the show is a welcome relief and a reminder that television really can produce high-calibre entertainment. My friend and I, despite ourselves, got hooked. Although it feels a bit overwhelming to wade through an entire season of a television show on DVD, this one just might be worth it.

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