HBO's "In Treatment"
October 15, 2012 10:16 AM   Subscribe

In Treatment was an HBO series that ran three seasons from 2008 through 2010. Adapated - often word-for-word - from the Israeli drama BeTipul, it depicted the weekly sessions of a psychologist (Emmy-nominated Gabriel Byrne) with his patients (including Debra Winger, Emmy-nominated Hope Davis, and, in her first American role, Mia Wasikowska) and with his own therapist (Emmy-winning Dianne Wiest). The filming of the series placed extraordinary demands on Byrne - which are well described in this interview with showrunner Warren Leight. (h/t: MCMikeNamara) You can watch its entire first episode here. (possible spoilers throughout)
posted by Egg Shen (23 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry for the atrocious video quality on those clips. There are DVDs (and 720p torrents) if you're ready to take the plunge.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:17 AM on October 15, 2012

I'm super interested in how therapy is represented on TV, as therapy and TV are two of my favorite topics, and I have mixed feelings about how it was characterized in the show. Some things were spot on, some...not so much. ( I didn't see Season 3).

I did marathon Season 1 and then I saw Gabriel Byrne in the street (in Brooklyn) and felt like I should corner him and tell him about all my problems.
posted by sweetkid at 10:20 AM on October 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

I actually couldn't watch season 3, myself. I remember my ex-wife and her mother adored this show, but I found it exceptionally and deeply depressing. I wonder how I'd feel about it now; might have to take a look. Thanks for the post, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 10:27 AM on October 15, 2012

Like the last season of The Wire, the last season of In Treatment was a slight falling off from the very high level established by the earlier seasons - still making it better than nearly all of the other television available at the time, but a good point past which not to push their luck.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2012

It's time somebody built a 'imported TV shows map of the world'--Survivor from Sweden, The Killing from Denmark and so forth.
posted by dbarefoot at 11:12 AM on October 15, 2012

I'm super interested in how therapy is represented on TV, as therapy and TV are two of my favorite topics, and I have mixed feelings about how it was characterized in the show

I liked the show, though I know a lot of people in the profession had mixed feelings. My own therapist at the time said she "hated" it. But then it's notoriously hard to please actual members of a profession with a fictionalized portrayal. I can only imagine the eye-rolling that ensues when real cops or lawyers watch those procedurals.

I always felt that the show did a pretty good job depicting the "spirit" of therapy, even if it didn't always resemble a literal filming of a therapy session. It's important to remember what narrative storytelling is: a dramatic way to communicate a thematic truth. It's not documentary.

You're always going to have to compress timelines and dramatize. If the show had been 100% "realistic," the patients would have taken much longer to have breakthroughs, if they ever had them. And some of the patients would have had issues that were completely boring. But such a show just wouldn't be watchable. The job of a narrative storyteller is to tell larger truths in a structure that engages an audience. It's not to create something with a 1:1 relationship to our literal reality. This is the same reason we don't usually watch movie or tv characters go the bathroom. Unless something happens in there that's part of the story, you'd just be wasting time and distracting from the narrative thrust of the story.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:21 AM on October 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

Speaking of shows about therapy, I quite enjoyed the short-lived Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was Canadian, which usually means 'crappy' (I'm Canadian, by the way), but I found the performances great (Tommie-Amber Pirie was a delight) and the writing very strong. It was comedic, mind you, but still worth watching if you can find it.
posted by dbarefoot at 11:34 AM on October 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Between this and Homeland, is it time to start taking a look at Israeli tv dramas before they inveitably get remade for the US?
posted by CharlesV42 at 11:41 AM on October 15, 2012

Loved In Treatment. Yeah, of course it's unrealistic. Byrne is Johnny on the spot with a full breakdown of a person's problem after 20 minutes and it keeps pace on a weekly basis. I never thought I would be able to sustain watching a show about two people sitting in a room talking but I loved it all the way through. This show introduced me to Irrfan Khan who, along with the other actors in the show, should get more work.
One thing you have to he aware of is how much the show is about Byrne rather than anyone else, and then the third season will make much more sense as an ending and not such a letdown. Also, if you are so into character driven, rather than content driven, stories then shows like this, and The Wire, may not be for you. That said, if you think The Wire was a letdown, then you are cuckoo and need to schedule a session with a therapist.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:53 AM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

What I didn't like was less that issues get solved quickly, which I didn't really think was the case as much in the first season - Mia Wasikowska's character for one tended to go back and forth quite a bit in a very realistic way - -but more that

*SPOILER* there was so much "oh this person was sexually assaulted and that's why they're having these problems" -- it seemed the show relied on that too much. rather than just taking the line that some people have issues even having had well adjusted, molestation free childhoods. Also the almost-sexual encounter he had with the Laura character was annoying to me. I know that kind of thing happens and I know it was part of Gabriel Byrne's character's overall confusion at that time in his life and marriage, but I still felt like it was a little bit of a letdown.

posted by sweetkid at 12:04 PM on October 15, 2012

I loved loved loved season 1! I couldn't get much in to season 2, however.
It is a perfect 1-season show.
posted by Theta States at 12:39 PM on October 15, 2012

Also big fan of season one here. The Dutch version was unbearable.
posted by ouke at 1:28 PM on October 15, 2012

Season 3 was actually my favorite because of Irrfan Khan. (Didn't get that much out of the other threads that season.) I thought the writing and the acting in Khan's storyline were just stupendous; I was completely unprepared for what happened but I thought it made total sense.

The show didn't get the blog love that I see other (lesser, IMHO) series get, sadly; would have loved to hear from Matt Zoller Seitz or somebody of that ilk on a regular basis.
posted by Currer Belfry at 1:37 PM on October 15, 2012

Loved In Treatment. Yeah, of course it's unrealistic. Byrne is Johnny on the spot with a full breakdown of a person's problem after 20 minutes and it keeps pace on a weekly basis.

Maybe we need Dr. House to try staffing the psych ward for a season. "Well, the nightmares weren't a phobia of spiders, as the spider implosion therapy proved. Also, now the patient has a phobia of spiders."
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:46 PM on October 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Currer Belfry, seasons 2 + 3 were written about on the AV Club and Alan Sepinwall covered 1 + 2 at his old blog.
posted by theartandsound at 3:44 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I watched this series with my partner who is a counsellor. I would have been totally paralytic if I'd played the drinking game each time she said the words 'unethical' and 'inappropriate'. It's a great series and I'm happy you got your mp3's working Egg Shen.
posted by unliteral at 4:32 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

This was a great show. I didn't think season 3 was as good as the previous two, but it was still damn good. I know it's unlikely, but I hope someday they decide to make another season.
posted by homunculus at 5:06 PM on October 15, 2012

Glad I found this thread. I only saw season 3 and I liked it, so I'll have to go dig up 1&2.
posted by callmejay at 5:39 PM on October 15, 2012

Alex Prince (Blair Underwood)'s storyline in season 1 broke my heart.
posted by variella at 8:19 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I loved season one, waited a couple of years and watched season 2 and 3 in a marathon last year. The first was the best by a mile. I didn't know what to expect going in, but within a couple of episodes I was totally hooked.

Sophie from Season one was such a great character - she broke my heart to watch.

I kind of want to go and rewatch this now - but it's all so traumatic that I'm not sure that I can face it.
posted by jonathanstrange at 11:26 PM on October 15, 2012

I quite enjoyed the show, all seasons. But I always wondered what in the hell HBO was thinking when they came up with the schedule. For those of you not aware, in its first season this show aired a new episode every weekday, airing 43 episodes over 60 calendar days. For the second season, they aired two on Sunday night and three on Monday night, resulting in 35 episodes over 50 days. The third season was 2x Monday and 2x Tuesday, for 28 episodes over 43 days. These episodes were nominally 30 minutes but they varied in length, and because HBO is a pay station with no commercials they were often longer than the ~22 minutes of a typical network show. That is insane no matter how you slice it, both for viewers and the poor actors. When they say that they were running Byrne ragged, they are not kidding.

The crazy schedule was meant to mirror the main character's schedule, with each day being a different session. But they must have realized how crazy it was to expect viewers to watch a new episode of a show every weekday, so they switched to airing it two days a week for the 2nd and 3rd seasons, but still kept to the same weekly rotation of patients. They really should have perhaps rethought the schedule instead of packing it into 2 nights. It really was a commitment to keep up.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:37 AM on October 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, I've got to episode 31 of season one (playing right now) and I'm hating it. I'd have liked to have seen more of Gabriel Byrne as a competent therapist and less of an asshole before he started to fall to pieces. Though Episode 31 is Paul and his kids, which is a different dynamic, so perhaps it's all about to change. Up to this point I just want to slap everyone, though.

I could watch Dianne Wiest watching people talk forever, though. She's amazing. I have to watch the other episodes to know what every fifth episode is about.

Just one thing - why are so many of the women antipodean (if South African counts as antipodean)?
posted by Grangousier at 4:23 AM on October 19, 2012

Scratch that last sentence, it doesn't make any sense. I just thought it was interesting that the women patients are played by two Australians and a South African.


Episode 41 now. It just struck me:
en·treat (n-trt) also in·treat (n-)
v. en·treat·ed also in·treat·ed, en·treat·ing also in·treat·ing, en·treats also in·treats
1. To make an earnest request of.
2. To ask for earnestly; petition for.
3. Archaic To deal with; treat.
To make an earnest request or petition. See Synonyms at beg.
[Middle English entreten, from Anglo-Norman entreter : en-, causative pref.; see en-1 + treter, to treat; see treat.]
en·treating·ly adv.
en·treatment n.
Now I'm overanalysing everything. Only two and a half episodes to go. Any more than that and I'd become unbearable. More unbearable than I already am.
posted by Grangousier at 9:16 AM on October 19, 2012

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