Tuesday, April 01, 2008

In Withdrawal from "In Treatment"

What do I do tonight, again, at 9 p.m. when there is no "In Treatment" on HBO? Over the past nine weeks, I've gotten gradually more and more addicted to the innovative five-night-per-week replication of psychologist Paul Weston's practice with sexy Laura, arrogant Alex, hapless teenager Sophie, and the intractably mismatched couple Jake and Amy.

Damn, what a terrific show. To begin with, Gabriel Byrne with his beautifully melancholic face and mournful, melodious Irish brogue is perfection as Weston, the shrink. And the incomparable Dianne Wiest delivers one memorable performance after another as Weston's own longsuffering shrink Gina, to whom he submits every Friday night. Their sessions give us a rare sort of view of how the shrink allows himself to be therapized, how his clients and the chaos of his own personal life twist, torment and challenge him. It is fascinating how he resists Gina's observations and suggestions with truculence matched only by the resistance of his own clients, a delicious dip into the doctor's prickly inability to take his own medicine.

My favorite client was Alex, a black Air Force pilot from the Iraq war played with rich complexity by Blair Underwood. Referred to counseling after he accidentally bombed an elementary school in Iraq, killing dozens of children, Alex denies he feels anything even though he's recovering from a massive heart attack and struggling with severe marital and family disruptions. My favorite "Alex" theme revolved around the lack of a decent cup of coffee in Paul's office: one morning, he delivers a fancy espresso machine he bought on EBay, and generally terrorizes Weston, a tea drinker, with the right way to make a cup of espresso. From then on, he begins each session making himself a tiny cup and drinking it suavely while rampantly resisting Weston's authority and resisting every move toward revelation and insight. Eventually, however, Alex begins to break through; in one of the most riveting half hours of TV drama I've ever seen, he remembers being beaten up after a pickup basketball game, his sneakers stolen, and how his father punished him for crying, making him walk around barefoot for a whole day afterwards.

I have more to say about this, but for now, let me just say it was a terrific series and I'm missing it immensely.


Anonymous said...

I am catching up through Comcast's on-demand, and find myself staying up very late each night, watching just one more episode.

Macy Swain said...

Oh! I'd love to know what you think.