Well, you’ve got your hockey playoffs and you’ve got your no-Raptors NBA playoffs. Life’s a game, so enjoy that. But life’s also a messy, intricate matter of figuring out who you are and why you’ve got these hang-ups.
Right now, there’s a mental-health crisis unfolding quietly. After more than a year of pandemic restrictions, some people, especially the young, are suffering in unseen ways. The isolation that comes with school closures, and restricted access to the usual activities that are rites of passage, is taking a toll on them and their parents. This is the perfect time for a good reboot of a TV classic about therapy and mental health.
In Treatment (starts HBO/Crave, Sunday 9 p.m.) is revived after 10 years and still about typical Americans in therapy. The episodes are 30-minutes long, but written to approximate a 50-minute session with a therapist. Like the original, the series airs several nights a week – right now, four times – to mimic a therapist’s typical week, seeing the same patients on the same days. Then the therapist goes to see her own therapist, talk about the patients and personal struggles. In the original, Gabriel Byrne played the tense, troubled Dr. Weston, who once said to his own therapist, “If patients could see what I think about them, really see inside my head, they’d head for the hills. They’d run for cover.”
The 21 best TV series to stream so far in 2021
Here, Uzo Aduba stars as therapist Dr. Brooke Taylor. The setting is LA, the milieu is middle-class and the time is now, with a pandemic still lurking. Dr. Taylor conducts sessions from her (spectacular) LA home, sometimes online and sometimes in-person. COVID-19 is mentioned and part of the dramatic fabric. The first patient we meet is Eladio (Anthony Ramos), an in-home nurse living with a rich family while caring for their disabled son. Eladio has mental-health issues he’s hidden and he’s suffering from insomnia. He wants a lithium prescription, but Dr. Taylor won’t prescribe until she knows him better.
That’s the surface gist, but these conversations are beautifully nuanced interchanges about life, regrets and expectations. Eladio is immensely articulate and well-read, citing novels and New York articles in conversation. (By the way, the original In Treatment, based on an Israeli series, was written by Rodrigo Garcia, son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and this version retains a literary quality.) Dr. Taylor is intrigued by him and from the get-go there’s a troubling mother/son dynamic. But then there’s patient Laila, with a very different stew of complications. She’s brought to Dr. Taylor by her grandmother, who says, “My granddaughter here is choosing to be a lesbian.” She wants the therapist to explain “the real world consequences” of this
Laila is confrontational, and condescending, kicking off her session with, “Let’s talk about me being a sex addict.” She tries to provoke and she sneers. You know these sessions are going to be stormy. That’s just a taste on what In Treatment offers: quietly intense social comment and a probing of personal trauma that is at once gripping and deeply revealing of suppressed heartache. Its return is perfectly timed.
Also this weekend – Special (returns Netflix from Friday) kicks off a second season. This adorable series stars creator Ryan O’Connell as Ryan – it’s based on his life – a gay man with a disability. He’s also hilarious. The series is devilishly funny and madcap with two strands of fun intertwined. First, Ryan is full of snark about his existence as a gay man with a disability. His sarcasm and self-deprecation are rapid-fire and sharp. Second, there’s a marvellous satire of online journalism going on. In this batch of episodes, he’s moved away from home, leaving his worried mom (Jessica Hecht) to find a life of her own, at last. Ryan throws himself into romance, often with disastrous outcomes. He’s still got a job with “eggwoke,” an online magazine that peddles confessional blogging to get as many clicks as possible. It’s run by the sociopath Olivia (Marla Mindelle), who takes soulless sarcasm to a new level. An absolute gem of a strikingly original series.
The 2021 Billboard Music Awards Live (Sunday, NBC, CTV 8 p.m.) marks the end of awards season and it’s so, so Canadian this year. Nick Jonas will host, Drake has seven nominations and will accept the Artist of the Decade award during the show. The Weeknd is a finalist in 16 categories and performs. Take that, Grammy awards. Also, for some reason, Duran Duran will perform remotely from London, England. And BTS, the K-pop kings, will be performing the world TV debut of their English-language single, Butter, remotely from Korea.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.