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Based on an Israeli drama, this HBO show thwarts There Are No Therapists and Hollywood Psych (as best it can in a 30 minute time limit per episode, anyway) by showing 4 sessions a week of Paul Weston, therapist, and his clients. Some of Paul's own personal issues come out during the sessions, as well as seeing Paul's family. On the fifth day, Paul sees his own therapist/ex-mentor Gina.
Note: even though you may want to skip watching certain patients every week, you really can't skip any of them in order to make sense of some other episodes (especially the Gina ones).
The show has a bit of Epiphany Therapy to it, given the short timelines, but otherwise seems to try to be as realistic as it can about the therapeutic process. The credits also show they have a professional therapist consultant.
It hasn't been a big moneymaker for HBO (perhaps owing to its slow-pacing/reliance on dialogue) but a third season started in 2010. It cuts things down to three sessions a week and after Paul's confrontation with Gina at the end of season 2, he's seeing a new therapist, Adele.
Season 1 clients:
- Laura, who's been in love with Paul for a year while being romantically involved with Andrew. And later with Alex.
- Alex, an Ace Pilot who has daddy issues, killed a lot of schoolchildren in The War on Terror, wants to leave his wife, and might not be as self-assured as he claims to be.
- Sophie, a gymnast with parental issues who goes to therapy after getting into an accident that could have killed her.
- Jake and Amy, a couple having marital difficulties and a debate over whether to have another child.
Season 2 clients:
- Mia, a once and former patient of Paul's who is bitter about being single and childless.
- April, a college student with cancer who's not getting treated for it.
- Oliver, a kid caught in a nasty fight between his parents
- Walter, a businessman who can't sleep, but has a lot more problems than just that.
Season 3 clients:
- Sunil, an Indian math teacher who is having trouble adjusting to living with his son and his family after his wife's death.
- Frances, an aging actress with memory problems, a sister with breast cancer, and a strained relationship with her daughter.
- Jesse, a gay teenager who can't connect with his adoptive parents or boyfriends and has trouble opening up.
- Actor Allusion: Inverted in the original, as Asi Dayan, who plays the therapist, is pretty much batshit crazy (as in heavily medicated and prone to get a wee bit violent).
- Black Dude Dies First / Bury Your Gays
- Batman Gambit: Sunil: Triple played on Paul, his son Arun, and his daughter in-law Julia. By claiming to have vague dreams and fantasies about hurting Julia, he convinced Paul to do his duty as a therapist and call Julia to warn her...exactly as Sunil wanted. Then Julia reacted as Sunil predicted by calling the police. The police then asked to see his immigration papers, Sunil refused, and he was set to be deported, the entire situation finally convincing Arun to break the promise he made to his mother and let his father return home to Calcutta...which is all that Sunil wanted since his introduction.
- Book Dumb: Jake denies being an intellectual and says he hates to read and flunked out of school. However, he grew up with intellectual parents, knows more than he admits to, and is good at crossword puzzles.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant and Convenient Miscarriage: And HOW for Amy, who wanted an abortion and her husband didn't want her to get one.
- Broken Pedestal: Gina to Paul, who's still holding a grudge against her for getting emotionally involved with a patient.
- Christmas Cake: Mia, and boy is she pissed about it.
- The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Paul is a fairly neglectful parent to his own kids. One of the season three episodes goes into this.
- Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: Several
- Played straight in Season 1 when Paul reciprocates Laura's feelings of romantic love, which technically are a form of transference and hence part of what she needs treatment for. Subverted in the Season Finale when it's revealed that Paul's treatment of Laura was a success despite his unprofessional behaviour.
- Played with in Season 2 when it's Paul's issues with his own family that subvert his treatment of April, and maybe also of Oliver.
- Played with differently in Season 3 when Sunil successfully involves Paul in his own Batman gambit to get deported by pretending to be more troubled than he actually is.
- The Couch: No not that couch!
- Culture Shock: A big issue for Sunil.
- Death Seeker: Sophie, via various car accidents. Alex too via his plane, perhaps. April passively choosing not to get treated for cancer might count as another version of this.
- Dysfunction Junction
- Driven to Suicide: comes up a lot
- Exiled to the Couch: Paul
- Expy: Gina's book has one of Paul
- Femme Fatale: Laura
- Fictional Document: The book Gina writes in Season 3.
- Foreign Remake: Trans Atlantic Equivalent with the Israeli version.
- Frivolous Lawsuit
- Genre Savvy: Frances, who spends a lot of her first session commenting on tropes. The problem is that a lot of them don't apply to her, making her closer to Wrong Genre Savvy.
- The Ghost: Played straight and subverted- see Minimalist Cast.
- Honor Before Reason: Arguably, April's logic for why she won't tell her parents she has cancer. They already have one ill child, they can't deal with two.
- HotForCoach: Sophie and Cy.
- Hypocritical Humor: Gina's book paints Paul's Expy as childish and unprofessional in the way he lets his patients supersede his family. But such a portrayal of a real person is a rather immature thing for a writer to do, and being a mentor and friend to Paul for such a long time, she should know being his therapist is rather unprofessional itself...
- Interrupted Suicide
- Love Triangle: plenty of them
- Married to the Job: Paul
- The Masochism Tango: Jake and Amy's relationship, plus Opposites Attract.
- Minimalist Cast: Subverted. The show leads you to think that the patients and Paul are the only characters, but several of the ghosts show up later.
- My Greatest Failure / My Greatest Second Chance Paul and his not knowing Alex was secretly suicidal. Next year he gets to deal with two suicidal patients.
- My Sibling Will Live Through Me
- Not So Different: Paul and his patients.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Gabriel Byrne slips so much you'd be forgiven for thinking Paul is supposed to be Irish.
- Parental Abandonment: pretty much every character in one way or another seems to have this.
- Parental Substitute: Paul finds himself doing this.
- Promotion to Parent: April is so afraid of this happening to her that she'd rather die.
- The Rainman: Daniel
- Rage Against the Mentor: Paul to Gina
- Real Time: The sessions themselves are often this. One episode even ends early when the patient storms off. Of course, dialogue implies that the sessions are 50 minutes long, so there may some time compression going on.
- Runaway Fiance: Laura
- Stalker with a Crush: Laura
- Straight Gay: Alex, maybe, which would also put him in the Transparent Closet.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Luke and Bess in Season 2 are based on the same characters in the original as Jake and Amy, and it shows.
- Trauma Swing: Oliver
- Truth and Lies: so many permutations
- Turtle Power
- What Now? Ending
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Gabriel Byrne really fluctuates in how much his Irish brogue pokes through.
- Will They or Won't They?: Paul and Laura, a rare example of this where you root for "won't." Mia gives this a pretty good shot as well, though Paul is less responsive. A case could be made of Adele too.
- Your Cheating Heart: Laura, Kate, Amy, April...