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October 31, 2009

Best television series ever: In Treatment

How about that for reductionism? Not even a list. Just one. Slam the gavel. Case closed.

I used to say The Prisoner. Good old philosophical escapism, which culminated in the powerful idea that we’re never free but we can be more comfortable. It even wears well forty years after it was made on a budget by British TV. An intelligent and insightful allegory that raised television to a new level. And fun.

In Treatment is a simple idea, psychotherapy sessions. Set like a stage-play, no chase scenes, no shooting, two characters talking. Spelled b.o.r.i.n.g.? Just the opposite. We don’t really want to go farther like we think we do; we want to go deeper. That’s what happens. All crying and yelling? Not really, lots of self-examination. We’re all on the couch, you know, sitting still for the journey inward. Watching therapy as therapy. I feel drained afterwards.

The premise is great; the acting is superb; the writing is phenomenal. In every conversation, even outside the therapy sessions, like between the shrink and his ex-wife, both characters are right. Not one right, one wrong, get it? When have we ever heard writing so extraordinary that opposing characters are both telling the truth? Or talking about something and really talking about something else? And when have we ever seen such thoroughly believable unaware acting? Isn’t listening the most important element in acting anyway? In Treatment is listening made drama. And the power of silence, unexploited in television. This is beyond an actor’s studio display; it’s the hyper-reality missing from reality shows. That’s also due to fine direction, of course.

I read that the original is an Israeli series (Be’Tipul) by a guy named Hagai Levi, whose scripts were often used word for word in the U.S. version. Nice job.

So if we have to discuss the vast wasteland, the mind-number, the opiate of the masses one more time, let me express my recommendation. Good watching, better living.

Happy trials, Martin

Mutt: Did you hear the one about the tap dancer who fell into the sink?
Jeff: No, but I can tell you: I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy.
Mutt: You know, I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any.
Jeff: That's nothing, I used to think I was an atheist until I discovered that I was God.
Mutt: I wonder, are we funny?
Jeff: Funny looking.
Mutt: Funny smelling.

1 comment:

Graham Moody said...

Nice review of 'In Treatment.' I don't think it is on my TV. Your description makes me want to see it at least once.