More than a decade after the original turned the lights off, “In Treatment” reopens as a series tailor-made for Covid protocols, with three-time Emmy winner Uzo Abuda sliding into the therapist’s chair once occupied by Gabriel Byrne. Featuring four rotating patients (the last again being “Physician, heal thyself”), it’s seemingly an ideal construct after a year where the world seemed to be going mad.
It’s also a pretty shrewd format for HBO (like CNN, a unit of WarnerMedia), with back-to-back episodes to play each Sunday and Monday, taking the 24-episode show through one “week” every week over a six-week span. And while Aduba (“Orange is the New Black”) stars as Dr. Brooke Taylor, Byrne’s presence lingers, starting with a photo of the two together displayed in the fabulously posh house – complete with killer view – where she plies her trade.
As always, the casting and individual stories help carry the show, and the producers have done an exceptionally shrewd job on that score, beginning with Anthony Ramos, the “Hamilton” alum who should be even more prominent this summer with “In the Heights” to hit theaters and HBO Max.
Ramos plays Eladio, the caregiver to the disabled son of a wealthy family, which is paying for his therapy. His sessions are conducted via Zoom, while Taylor’s other patients both come to her: Colin (John Benjamin Hickey), a paroled tech CEO, trying to get his life back together, but chafing against the court-mandated therapy; and Laila (Quintessa Swindell), a teenager at odds with her family, including over her sexual identity.
Finally, there are Brooke’s conversations with Rita (Liza Colón-Zayas), who is concerned about the nature of Brooke’s relationship with Adam (Joel Kinnaman), a boyfriend who – his other assets notwithstanding – might not be especially good for her.
Smartly, the show also works the pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding it into the narrative, adding to the sense of upheaval the characters face. “I don’t know what to tell them,” Brooke confesses to Rita. “I don’t know what to tell myself.”
Originally adapted from an Israeli series, “In Treatment” remains a particularly durable concept, if one only as good – given the almost claustrophobic nature of the premise – as the actors and writing. Fortunately, both are quite compelling in the episodes previewed, which encompassed four the six weeks.
Admittedly, eavesdropping on therapy sessions isn’t for everybody, and the theatrical nature of the format can occasionally yield moments that feel a little too perfect or precious. Overall, though, “In Treatment” remains a compelling way to spend an hour, and as they say, it’s cheaper than therapy.
“In Treatment” premieres May 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.