The Trouble with Spikol

In Treatment gets into a shrink's head, with mixed results.

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 13, 2008

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The only problem with this voyeurism is that In Treatment is weirdly realistic, which means it's sometimes boring. If you don't like a character on a given day, you're not much inclined to watch that night's episode again.

For instance, I'm staying away from Thursdays--Jake and Amy's day. They're both so insufferable--as characters and as actors--that I have no desire to spend time with them. From what Paul says, neither does he, but at least he's getting paid for it. After I write this column, I won't be, and I'll be glad never to have to see or hear them again.

But Tuesdays are great. Blair Underwood, as Navy pilot Alex, is exceptional. He inhabits the character so completely, I don't even remember who Blair Underwood is or what he's done before.

Watching good acting can be as gratifying as seeing a painting or hearing an exquisite rendition of a favorite piece of music--or it can be even more visceral. For me, watching Underwood in this role is so satisfying, it's like eating a steak. He's superb.

The show's greatest asset, however, is Byrne. Paul isn't easy to take, which is revelatory in its own way. Patients see a likable Paul--hence Laura's declaration that she's in love with him--but the show complicates that picture by showing him in sessions with Gina and arguing with his wife. In these moments, he's all jagged edges and hopelessness, and it makes us realize how little his patients know him after all.

Which is another reason the show rings true.

My psychiatrist and I discuss personal things, intimate things, but only about me. I know few things about him beyond religion, marital status, and the fact that one of his dogs is a terrier.

Is he mean to his wife? Does he kick the dog, or yell at the mailman, or cut in front of people in line at the drugstore?

I don't know.

For those of us in therapy--in that oddly close but one-sided affair--the seduction of In Treatment is the possibility of knowing.

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