Tag Archives: HBO

In Treatment with Paul Weston

If someone were to tell you to check out a show where each episode had only two characters, and they spent the entire time talking to each other in the same room, would you be inclined to follow up on their recommendation? I hope so, because that’s exactly what I’m about to tell you!

In Treatment is an HBO production starring Gabriel Byrne as a seasoned psychotherapist named Paul Weston. In each episode, we find ourselves as flies on the walls of his office, watching his incredibly intimate and realistic relationships with complex individuals. It is one of my favorite dramas ever – and as I said, each episode features two characters. I can’t imagine how challenging that must be for Byrne and his counterparts; it’s not an easy feat to accomplish, but what a masterpiece it is.

What I especially love is Paul’s character – he is so good at what he does, and he has this unbelievable ability to listen to his patients and draw connections in their lives, and truly help them on a deep level with whatever they’re dealing with.

However, he’s also just as flawed as his own patients, you might say. Once a week, he visits his grad school mentor, Gina, and seeks out his own therapy — the complexity of his character balances his skill and his art as a healer of others. One time during a session with Gina, he grapples with the seeming dissonance of helping others while dealing with his own tremendous life problems. Gina poignantly points out that he is a professional who has a sharp set of binoculars with which to see others. But, the very functionality of binoculars is to look outwards – and thus it is impossible for him to look at himself with the same lens and cure himself.  That’s really stuck with me; as an impending grad student in Marriage & Family Therapy, I often have the same insecurities – how can I help others, when I might have just as many problems as my future patients will be? This show provides an incredible glimpse into the world of therapy, and really enlightens the audience of its usefulness.

Moreover, the acting and characters are superb. I just finished the latest season – the second, and I’m convinced that all of the actors deserve Emmy recognition. The first season was equally as well-acted and well developed, but this one holds a special place in my heart.

Generally speaking, the format of the show is as follows: Paul meets with a patient for a session – it is ‘supposed’ to be 50 minutes long, but for the sake of the show it is actually about 25 minutes. For the entire time, they delve into the patient’s past, and work to create a bond. It’s full of laughter, anger, tears, and enlightenment. I can’t really explain it in words, what happens in the room, but it’s transfixing. In season 2,  the patients were:

Mia (Hope Davis), a successful woman in her early 40s who’s dealing with intense feelings of loneliness and fulfillment with life.

April (Allison Pill), 23, dealing with an unbearable diagnosis, and with the possibility that her life might not go the way she planned. She also struggles with the need to save her family from worry and take responsibility for her autistic brother.

Walter (John Mahoney), the CEO of a company that’s heading for a very public demise. He’s dealing with a lifetime of  guilt and unfathomable burden, and comes to grips with the fact that he’s entering the later stages of his life without really knowing who he is.

Oliver (Aaron Shaw), a 12-year old who’s dealing with the confusing world of his parents divorce, whereas his parents are coming to terms with their decisions and their insecurities of raising their son.

This show is a gem, an emotional powerhouse, and a triumph to all of the talented artists involved. I really recommend it to you – whether you start from season 1 or 2, you’re in for a fantastic theatrical performance that will stay with you for years. From what I’ve heard, season 3 has just begun filming and will be out later this year. It will star Amy Ryan (The Office), Debra Winger, and others, opposite Gabriel Byrne.

The Pacific and Sgt. Lena Riggi

We’ve been eagerly awaiting our weekly installments of The Pacific, which is a Tom Hanks-produced mini series on HBO. The show provides a very realistic and gripping portrayal of the soldiers of the Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Each of the 10 installments is an hour-long glimpse into a specific battle, soldier, and/or company of soldiers. I’m very much a beginner when it comes to war movies, and much of the time my eyes are glazing over during battle scenes and the psychology-student in me is trying to assess the sanity of humankind and why there’s even a need for such grotesque violence and machismo. However, I find that although I don’t agree with war, war movies themselves introduce me to incredible characters. This is certainly true of The Pacific. It’s created in the same vein as Band of Brothers, another excellent HBO mini-series produced by Hanks about WWII. The Pacific, though, I think does a better job of balancing character-driven plots with action-driven plots. The acting and cinematography is amazing, and for an hour a week, I am a bird in the heroic lives of these soldiers.

This week, I was really taken by a character named Lena Riggi (Annie Parisse). First, what a wonderful name, right? Anyways, she’s a sergeant in the Marine Corps. She comes across John Basilone (Jon Seda), a gunnery sergeant who’s become somewhat of a celebrity soldier and the face of the war against the Japanese. He’s a bit of a notorious womanizer, and he’s instantly drawn to her. She’s feisty, smart, and willful. She went against her entire family’s wishes for her to be a subservient wife and mother, and joined the army. She’s also not impressed with his lavish dinners and sweet talk. But over time, he proves himself to be more than his image and they fall for each other. Although most of her scenes were in the kitchen or dining room, you could tell she was destined for greatness. If she had been born in a later generation, she could’ve been an incredible sergeant who wouldn’t only be in the kitchen. However, for her time, I think she disrupted the stereotype of a woman and pursued a lifestyle that she wanted. At one point, she even says that she blinked and all of a sudden she was thirty and happy, and then Basilone came into her life. I’m glad she didn’t define all of her happiness in relation to him – she had a life, an identity, and a career before him, and she wasn’t quitting anytime soon. And I’m glad Tom Hanks and the entire team on the show brought in a character who was breaking boundaries in her own ways.

Update: A reader found the real Lena Riggi’s obituary, and so I thought I’d post it! Check it out here!