The history of the half-hour nighttime serial pretty much begins and ends with Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman 30 years ago. That program had plenty of black humor, but In Treatment, which premiered on HBO last night and will run every weeknight for nine weeks, falls in the same humorless vein as Tell Me You Love Me. On that show, the therapy sessions were a way to kill time when the characters were wearing clothes. Here, it's the entire shebang.
In Treatment is formatted as such: the first four days of the week feature therapy sessions conducted by Paul Weston, played by Gabriel Byrne. Fridays are the night for Weston's own sessions with his own therapist and onetime mentor, played by Dianne Wiest. Mondays are the days devoted to Laura (Melissa George), who began the first episode in tears and said she probably should not have come in. After Paul settled her down, she admitted she had been sitting in a park outside his office for four hours (since 5 AM) waiting for the appointment to start, watching the minutes elapse on her cell phone. She told Paul "my life is over," and elaborated: she had a fight with her boyfriend Andrew and had gone out for drinks, and told Paul that he would be shocked to see what kind of person she was.
Her phone buzzed and it was Andrew calling. When Paul persuaded her not to answer, she went on to say that Andrew had given her an ultimatum: we need to get married or break up. After Andrew and Laura argued about it the previous night, a friend had taken Laura to a club, and then left her there with a man who told her sadness looked good on her. Laura had to go to the bathroom, and the man followed her inside (a unisex bathroom). Laura said she suddenly had the urge to have sex. She stopped the man at a frustrating time for him, and told Paul that at the time, she wondered what she would say about this incident when she was at her session the next day, and even imagined that he was in the bathroom watching her at that moment. Laura suspected she was using the man in the bar as a substitute for Paul himself. Laura confessed that Andrew's suspicions of her divided attention were correct, and it was Paul who was dividing it. She told him that her session with him had become the center of her life. Paul reminded her of the limits of the therapist/client relationship, and Laura wondered how she could resume her old life now, when all she thought about was him.
The problem that In Treatment is going to have is that the number of viewers willing to commit enough time to really begin caring about these characters isn't likely to be large. Everything is so quiet and somber, and there aren't going to be many breaks in the format to keep us on our toes. We'll have to wait a week to see how Laura resolved things, or didn't. In the meantime, we get new patients on the couch the rest of the week. Since it's essentially a new show every night for the next four nights, I'll cover it in this spot at least one time through the order. [Og Betty]
American Gladiators (NBC):
This was the last round before the final eight. The female contenders were a 28-year-old Knicks cheerleader named Kim, and a 46-year-old school athletic director named Toni, who was on the original show thirteen years ago. Toni claimed she was quicker and stronger now than she was then, but she was unable to score in Powerball while Kim scored twice. The guys were 25-year-old Alex, a teacher, who was there to support his high school's wrestling team, and a 35-year-old chiropractor named Mark, who was obnoxious in touting his utter dominance.
Alex used his quickness to get off to an early lead. Both women won ten points in Joust, Toni by knocking Siren off the platform, and Kim by knocking her to her knees. Mark picked up ten points in Earthquake by knocking Militia off the platform, but the much smaller Alex had no such luck. In Hang Tough, Toni managed to pick up five points to take the lead, while on the male side, Alex crossed for ten points while Mark was dropped by Wolf. Toni and Kim both picked up four points in Assault by surviving to the end of the time limit. In Hit and Run, Alex scooted across for fourteen points, while Mark seemed to have more trouble with the bridge and got only eight.
Time for the Eliminator, where Toni and Kim continued to trash-talk each other even though the contenders don't ever actually face off against each other. Toni blitzed off to an early lead when Kim couldn't climb the initial wall, and easily took the two-way competition. Toni needed to pass 3:37.1 to surpass Venus to sneak into the final eight and couldn't quite get it done. Alex took the Eliminator with a good enough time to make it into the final eight. [Jenn Reese]
Dance War (ABC):
This incredibly tedious show benefited from being cut to 60 minutes -- thank you, Mr. President. After the opening group number, the teams were informed that this would be R&B night. Bruno's team engaged in some clichéd trust-building exercises and turned the lead vocal on "Think" to Lacey, their only above-average female singer. The performance wasn't half bad, but Carrie Ann noted that Bruno seemed to be hiding the vocals of Kelsey and Charity.
Team Carrie Ann had a difficult assignment with "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," but got the audience on its side with some excellent choreography. Bruno's team struggled mightily on its second song, Usher's "Caught Up," and even Bruno couldn't find much good to say about it. Carrie Ann likewise sounded concerned about her group's second song, "Upside Down." Both judges sounded out on who was likely to be in trouble if their group were to have to make the cut, and finally Drew Lachey revealed that it was Team Bruno that would be doing the trimming. Kelsey and Charity had a sing-off to "Don't Leave Me This Way," which neither girl had a prayer of competing on. Bruno told Charity that they couldn't extend any more charity by keeping her around. Tony is likely to be the one most in danger if Bruno has to cut another singer/dancer, which I expect to happen unless voters want to even things out. [Musings From a Nobody]
Jon and Kate Plus Eight (TLC):
It was the always exciting "family photo day." Friends of the family, Beth and Bob, were the hosts for the shoot. Kate looked forward to surprising Jon with a photo of their old house, which was taken when the sextuplets were three months old. The photographer, Darren, said he wanted to capture the spirit of fall. Beth got upset because Jon put the spare clothes for the kids upstairs. Darren was, as all children's photographers have to be, extremely patient, and he managed to get a good shot of the hard-to-shoot Mady. During the interview for the show, Jon apologized for getting grumpy, and Kate was charmed. The big framed photo from three years before brought Kate to tears. Kate said it was a reminder of the days when they were thinking about "survival," in the wake of having six babies. Bob took all the kids on a hayride. Bobbing for apples didn't work out so well with the older girls having loose or missing front teeth. Kate proclaimed that it was the best picture day yet, although Jon for some reason called his daughter Cara "homely." Not true Jon, and you need to take that back.
Tressa was a 32-year-old Nebraska woman who grew up as a tomboy on a farm. She became the three-time NCAA champion in the shot put, but her career was derailed by an addiction to methamphetamines. She worked odd jobs and occasionally stole to get money for the drug. She bought some meth and shot up. Tressa was sometimes desperate enough to share needles. Her parents and sister expressed fear and sadness over what had become of Tressa.
Her father Jim had always wanted a son, but Tressa filled a lot of the masculine role as a worker on the farm and in athletics. She became the first girl in Nebraska to play high school football. Tressa was lonely in spite of her success. After college, she got involved in the local lesbian community, something none of her family knew about, and many of her new friends were drug users. Tressa was the top-ranked shot putter in America heading into the 2000 Olympic trials, but she failed a test for cocaine and received a 2-year ban from competition. Tressa's parents were upset by her sexuality, which they blamed on her abandonment of religion and subsequent drug problem. Her sister Rachel said she was less worried about Tressa dying than the possibility that her gay sister would go to hell. Tressa lived on a farm with her girlfriend Kelly, the owner of a gay bar. Tressa hid her drug usage from Kelly. She said Kelly was more mature and that forced Tressa to grow up. Kelly was upset at Tressa's lack of motivation, which Tressa in turn blamed on lack of "positive feedback."
At her parents' home, Tressa showed off her athletic awards that her family kept hidden so Tressa wouldn't sell them for drug money. Tressa had stolen from her father before. Tressa taunted her father with the tattoo of naked women she had on her upper arm. Tressa revealed that her parents divorced after her father had a long-term affair; the dad now lived with his girlfriend. Tressa made the point that her father was a hypocrite for focusing on her sins and not his own. Her father urged her to get clean and get right with God again, but seemed to imply the homosexuality was as big an issue for him as the meth. Tressa would smoke marijuana when she couldn't score meth. She went to have dinner with her mother, now divorced after 38 years. Mom noticed that Tressa seemed a little hyper and called her on her drug use before she came over. Tressa knew her mother was sad about the drugs. Kelly found Tressa stealing money for drugs and lost her temper. Kelly told Tressa she was on her own now. Tressa left in tears; she later spent her last $25 on meth.
Interventionist Candy prepared Tressa's family, saying lack of religion was not the issue here; it was Tressa's disease. Candy said that her father was wrong when he said his love was unconditional. He took the stance that it was OK for him to pay her to do chores and have her then spend the money on drugs, but Candy said this was keeping the problem going. Tressa arrived at the intervention with a big grin. By the time Rachel (Tressa's sister) told her that supporting her was affecting her marriage, Tressa wasn't grinning any more. Her father, in his inarticulate way, said he was worried about her future, and said he couldn't help her any more as long as she was using. Tressa agreed to go into rehab. As she prepared to leave, she told her family what needed to be tossed out that was stashed in her car. At the drug treatment center, Tressa was told she needed to accept herself to get off drugs. She is working out again and has decided to stay in California.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (Travel Channel):
Bourdain took a one-week visit to Greece. He said he knew little about Greek cuisine except that it involved lamb, and he knew he didn't like Moussaka. Bourdain said he was scarred by a bad experience with Greek restaurateurs early in his career. A local expert named Byron was Bourdain's tour guide. He pointed out fish and a type of green that was a staple of the Greek diet. His first meal in Crete was highlighted by fish and tripe soup, which tasted good even though "it smelled like wet dog."
Bourdain then took off into the interior. He was introduced to a variety of local moonshine that he likened to drain cleaner. A sheep got slaughtered (there's the explanation for the disclaimer at the start of the episode). Bourdain enjoyed the lamb and drank more of the moonshine, figuring he couldn't refuse as a guest. He explained research had been done into the Greek diet after World War II (when the local population thrived despite having little to eat except the greens the Germans wouldn't touch) that revealed that it was a very health cuisine that promotes a long life. Bourdain tried a series of humble dishes that were nonetheless quite tasty, including a dip made from butter fat from goat's milk that was thickened with flour. Sea urchin roe smothered in olive oil put him in an excellent mood. Bourdain shot a quail and ate a rabbit stew. His kill had been left behind as a "respect to nature" because he hadn't left much to eat after the shot obliterated it. His final visit was to an island with a "Shipwreck Beach," complete with actual shipwreck. The meal was fish and a fish soup. Bourdain said the fish and cheese of Greece was incredible, and it did all look great. Plus, there was more drinking than in an entire March's worth of MTV Spring Break coverage. [Vine of Ivy]