The tapping of television into the mystery of the psychotherapy session, into what goes on behind closed doors in the consulting room, was something waiting to happen. TV bosses have funded explorations into the world of gangsters, undertakers and death, the medical body, forensics, mental powers and numerous other enigmatic professions. A while ago, HBO launched In Treatment, a drama starring Gabriel Byrne and focusing on the therapist-patient relation. I have not yet seen much of it (other than youtube’s gifts), as it is not aired in the UK, but the choice of actor delights me. I have a transference relation with Byrne, one that is conflictive, of love and aggression at the same time. He doesn’t remind me of my psychoanalyst in any way, yet he does. He has that listening face.
The show itself is about relationships, most and foremost, the therapeutic relationship. There are 5 patients per season, and we go through things with each of them, in the way an analyst may do and with the same draining effect. We experience the doctor’s countertransference, and his own need for therapy. For visual reasons, I suppose the writers have opted for patients not to lie on the couch, but rather get face-to-face therapy. The former may be a step too far and no matter how interesting the subject is, they have to make TV and rank in the ratings table… Still, I hope the complexity of the human mind, the tensions, the conflicts, the contradictions are portrayed as they are, with no regard for resolution à la House. Don’t get me wrong, I love House, especially in its similitude with that favourite of mine, Holmes. Its roundness, the fact that it answers every question about each patient’s illness satisfies me, although only for 5 minutes. Sex and the City characters, on the other hand, never got what they wanted and, if you could cope with it, the show actually had something to say to you, a delayed gratification which the film completely and utterly threw away. A shame; the Carries and Charlottes of this world, never get married or have kids, and fiction can do something to help us understand and live with that. I am looking forward to In Treatment just to see whether it goes House or SATC’s way. If it is the latter, I hope to be able to learn something about myself; if it is the former, well, we will still have Gabriel Byrne.