In Treatment is like nothing else on television right now, and as trite a phrase as that might seem, in this case, it happens to be true.
Each half-hour episode, four altogether, is a two-character one-act play containing a three scene story arc: the first scene sets up what the patients want to talk about with therapist Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne); the second scene is the discovery of why the patients are really there, and the final scene is some kind of resolution for Paul or the patient or lack of resolution altogether which is, of course, the most realistic conclusion of all. This sounds all a bit rote, but with In Treatment's excellent acting and writing, the show elevates above the formulaic.
The stage drama as television drama is not surpising here. Last season, Marsha Norman, Tony and Pulitzer winner, wrote the Gina stories - Paul's visits to his therapist. This year, accomplished playwright Sarah Treem, who started her theatrical success at the age of 12, not only writes the Jesse storyline but also is a series producer.
In Treatment's writers, its theatrical format, its dramatic aspirations: all these things make this reviewer, whose regular beat is the theatre, very, very happy. Add to that, an unusually short introductory theme song, and it equals exceptional television.
photo by Paul Schiraldi
The curtain rises on this week's dramas:
Sunil: "What an interesting tea we have had."
This week Sunil (Irrfan Khan) seems cooperative with this whole idea of therapy even though, to a Bengali, being in therapy is an alien concept: being a patient can only mean someone is in the hospital.
Paul's conversations are, in Sunil's opinion, best had over tea, so Sunil brings some to this week's session, seemingly to facilitate some friendly intimacy. Note the rejection of Sunil's current home, New York City: the tea he brings is not that dishwater stuff that "New Yorkers seem to enjoy," but real Indian tea. Tea, that Paul, being Irish might enjoy as well. On the surface, this ceremony seems to be a bit of a breakthrough toward cooperation - a ritual that both cultures, both Bengali and Irish, have in common. But it doesn't end up as a tea party.