The second season of IN TREATMENT premieres this week on HBO. In case you’re not familiar, it’s a nightly drama that follows a psychiatrist as he treats various patients and is in therapy himself. Some viewers (like me) LOVED season one, others had enough crap in their own lives to deal with. But the writing and acting was superb and it’s always fun to play along at home and scream out your own helpful advice like “Waaa waaa, get a grip!” and “Of course he doesn’t sleep with you, you’re a raving bitch!”
IN TREATMENT is actually an adaptation of the popular Israeli series, BE-TIPUL. A pretty faithful adaptation. Only the names and Jews have been changed to protect the American public. On Friday I attended a seminar at UCLA on both shows. Among the panelists were original co-creator, Hagai Levi and Rodrigo Garcia who masterfully piloted the US version.
There was the usual scholarly discussion -- much talk about metaphors, cultural relevance, whether the series will stop Global Warming, etc. But the real treat was seeing and being able to compare both versions of the same episode.
Assi Dayan plays the therapist in BE-TIPUL. He’s much more rumpled than Gabriel Bryne. You can’t imagine him being asked to pose for Cosmo’s “Sizzling Shrinks” photo layout. Dayan’s character is more world-weary but his country is always being attacked so you gotta cut him some slack. Rarely are rockets fired on suburban Maryland.
Dayan’s home office is very sparse. Not nearly as well lit or appointed as his American (with an Irish accent) counterpart. We Americans need warmth and soft hues in order to unburden ourselves. Israelis are fine in blinding sunlight.
The episode screened involved the fighter pilot (Blair Underwood in IN TREATMENT) and with very few adjustments the scripts were identical. One thing I liked better in BE-TIPUL – both pilots bring an expensive coffee maker to their session. Each explains that he got a great deal on ebay by bidding during a night when everyone was glued to their TVs. In the US version that meant the AMERICAN IDOL finale; for the Israeli version it was a suicide bombing. That's a far better and darker joke.
The edge goes to BI-TIPUL’s opening credits. Although IN TREATMENT’s fluid waves are simple and elegant, BI-TIPUL features a kaleidoscope of black ink dots on a white screen suggesting a Rorschach Test. Both use the exact same theme.
And although the actress that plays Laura (Melissa George) is quite luscious, her Israeli counterpart Ayelet Zurer (soon to be seen in ANGELS AND DEMONS) is drop-dead spectacular. With Ayelet as the temptation, Dayan’s ethical dilemma isn’t whether he should sleep with her, it’s when he does sleep with her in his office, does he still charge her for the session?
From what I understand IN TREATMENT strays from the original more in season two. Great. I look forward to watching every minute of both. As a preview for American audiences, one of the new patients is Hope Davis playing a woman who can’t reconcile why Laura Linney has a bigger career, and John Mahoney as a father who can’t understand why his two sons are so prissy.