Prize- winning drama is good ther­apy

The scripts are so well writ­ten that the long scenes re­sem­ble an in­ti­mate play

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - In Treat­ment 8pm, Show­case Ian Cuth­bert­son

HOW­EVER you de­fine it, ther­apy is nor­mally poorly rep­re­sented on tele­vi­sion. Usu­ally some sort of ci­pher, the ther­a­pist too of­ten is used for mere ex­po­si­tion to show us quickly where the char­ac­ter’s depths were cre­ated so that we will un­der­stand, in neat sound­bites, why they re­act the way they do.

Ther­a­pists also seem to be there to al­low the writ­ers to get back, in a fairly hos­tile way, at their par­ents, or at some­one else who took a high­handed dis­ci­plinary tack with them. ‘‘ See what they did to me?’’ they prac­ti­cally shriek. Poor dears.

The TV ther­a­pists who come to mind, apart from real ones such as Drew Pinsky in Strictly Dr Drew, are the likes of the won­der­ful Tracey Ull­man as the in­sane Dr Tracey Clark in Ally McBeal . Of course she was played for com­edy, but Dr Clark’s self- in­dul­gent, in­sight­less and of­ten cruel ap­proach to Ally had me think­ing show cre­ator David E. Kelly might have had is­sues.

Then there are the plat­i­tude dis­pensers, who come out with the shal­low­est wis­dom, like old women with home reme­dies. A good ex­am­ple is Dr Ge­orge Huang ( B. D. Wong) in Law & Or­der: SVU. Give him a para­graph- length foren­sic re­port and he’s there with the homily, the di­ag­no­sis and the so­lu­tion.

But be­fore our ses­sion is over, let’s turn our at­ten­tion to the re­mark­able Gabriel Byrne as Dr Paul We­ston in this ex­cel­lent new pro­gram.

Ther­apy can’t re­ally be dra­matic be­cause it is in­tensely per­sonal and plod­ding, and re­veals its in­sights so grad­u­ally that it would be ut­terly mun­dane for any­one not di­rectly in­volved to wit­ness.

So the chal­lenge for this show is to take the com­mon premise of ther­apy — the hos­tile, trou­bled or de­pen­dent client, the ther­a­pist’s erotic trans­fer­ence and es­pe­cially the ther­a­pist’s su­per­vi­sor ( played mag­nif­i­cently here by Dianne Wi­est as Gina) — and make drama out of it.

Al­ready we are worlds away from Ally McBeal. In­deed, the scripts are so well writ­ten and per­formed that the long scenes be­tween just two ( or some­times three) ac­tors re­sem­ble the per­for­mance of an in­ti­mate play.

The for­mat, script and open­ing theme, and the idea of run­ning the en­tire sea­son on con­sec­u­tive nights, are bor­rowed from the Is­raeli TV show BeTipul, cre­ated by film­maker Ha­gai Levi, who pro­ducer here.

Watch­ing Byrne pull apart his per­for­mance as the out­wardly calm and wise Dr We­ston in the offices of his su­per­vi­sor, where he seethes with rage and hurt, is elec­tri­fy­ing.

The show was nom­i­nated for four Em­mys this year, in­clud­ing out­stand­ing lead ac­tor in a drama se­ries ( Byrne) and out­stand­ing sup­port­ing ac­tress in a drama se­ries ( Wi­est, who won the cat­e­gory).

Hap­pily for new fans, a sec­ond se­ries has been com­mis­sioned to fol­low the 43 episodes of the first.

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Heal thy­self: Gabriel Byrne as the trou­bled Dr We­ston

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