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HBO cancels 'In Treatment'

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  March 31, 2011 08:33 AM

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No surprise, here. Just sadness. HBO has pulled the plug on the critically acclaimed but low-rated "In Treatment" after three seasons. The show never brought in a significant audience for HBO, even while it won Emmy and Golden Globe love and featured an impressive, and star-filled, cast. It also won critical favor (from me, at least) and a loyal fanbase.

The series, based on an Israeli show, was a portrait of how therapy works, and how it can go wrong. It gave us searing insight into one man's life, and proved that Gabriel Byrne, as that man, was one of the best actors working today. And it delivered guest performances, by Dianne Weist, and Debra Winger, and Irrfan Khan, and Michelle Forbes, and Amy Ryan, and Dane DeHaan, and Hope Davis, and Alison Pill, that were all stunningly realistic and felt.

Oh yeah, and it gave us Mia Wasikowska, the actress who played teenager Sophie in season 1. She was mind-blowingly good on the show, and she has since gone on to a big-screen career in movies such as "Alice in Wonderland," "The Kids Are All Right," and, currently, "Jane Eyre." Her episodes of "In Treatment" were the series' best, as we watched a girl falling apart and, with the good doctor's committed help, coming back together again.

Each episode of "In Treatment" played out like a small one-act play, with the kind of writing -- by Rodrigo Garcia, Anya Epstein, Dan Futterman, Adam Rapp, Warren Leight, Marsha Norman, Amy Lippman, and Sarah Treem, to name only a few -- that starts at the surface and then plunges into the psychological depths. It was truly amazing the way the series took place primarily in one room, with very little action, and yet never seemed static or unengaging. The nuanced camerawork, the stellar acting and sophisticated writing, and Byrne's subtle body movements and expressions made sure we always had plenty to watch and think about.

Three seasons of a good show is nothing to cry about. And I think we got the second and especially the third seasons simply because HBO is committed to quality and prestige. Early on in the "In Treatment" run, it was pretty clear the series was not going to garner even minimal mainstream appeal. So I don't feel like complaining about the cancellation, or ragging on HBO, or pointing at all the viewers who didn't watch. I feel like celebrating one of TV's finest moments, and the people who brought it to us.

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