On the couch and on the air

New shows and new seasons are the harbingers of spring.

On the couch and on the air (photo credit: Courtesy)
On the couch and on the air
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The couch is the hottest piece of furniture in television since the advent of the Israeli series B’tipul, which was made into the Emmy-winning HBO series In Treatment. B’tipul and In Treatment were about a psychiatrist – Assi Dayan in the Israeli version, and Gabriel Byrne in the American version – and his patients. Each night of the week, the doctor saw the same patient, and on the fifth night the shrink sat down with his supervisor. Both these shows followed The Sopranos, which was about mobsters, of course, but much of the show’s intensity came from watching Tony Soprano at his therapist’s office going over the events of his life each week just the way so many of us do. All over the world, television executives realized that the 50-minute hour was the answer to their programming prayers. Essentially, you needed only a handful of actors and one set to create a gripping drama that would pull in audiences and win critical acclaim.
The only trouble is that these shows were so popular and successful, they’ve been a hard act to follow. But now Channel One is brave enough to bring us a new television series on therapy, Stories from the Psychologist’s Couch, which airs on Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. However, it’s not homegrown but comes all the way from Argentina, via Argentine-born Israeli producer Yair Dori. Based on the best-selling book by Argentine writer and therapist Gabriel Rolon, it features dramatizations of true stories of Rolon’s patients. Each patient’s tale focuses on different emotional, social and psychological issues. Twenty-six episodes of the series are scheduled to be broadcast on Channel One, so we’ll have a long time to see how it compares to B’tipul.
Channel One tends to show the classy programs, but for guilty pleasures you can tune into two perennial favorites on HOT – Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model, which are both starting up again on HOT 3. On America’s Next Top Model, you can pretty much imagine what it involves. But Project Runway is the rare reality competition series that is based on an interesting idea and is not just what Aaron Sorkin, is his series The Newsroom derided as “human cockfighting.” On Project Runway, aspiring designers get different assignments; for example, to make an outfit completely out of materials they buy in a convenience store for under $100. The contestants are often very talented. Heidi Klum, the former supermodel who hosts the show, has been made fun of a great deal, but there’s no denying that the show is entertaining.Project Runway will be shown on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.. and America’s Top Model will air on Mondays at 7 p.m., and free on HOT VOD.
The new season of Game of Thrones will begin on YES Oh on Thursdays at 10:50 p.m. starting on April 4. It’s an absurd, over-the- top and thoroughly addictive show that takes place in a Lord of the Rings -like imaginary universe. It also features more sex and violence than perhaps any other series on premium cable. Its breakaway star, Emilia Clarke, is currently starring in a Broadway production of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Meanwhile, the apocalypse is ending on Season 3 of The Walking Dead, the cult zombie series that airs on YES Oh. There are just two episodes left of Season 3. Each season gets a bit bleaker as the humanity of the survivors erodes gradually. But it is still an utterly riveting entertainment for anyone who can stomach the gore.
The constant intensity and inventiveness of The Walking Dead is in sharp contrast to another post-apocalyptic series broadcast on YES Action, Revolution. That show is about a world in which, suddenly, there is no electric power. Is it a more absurd premise than a virus that causes people to turn into zombies? We could debate the merits of each premise, but the idea behind Revolution is certainly less fun, as is everything else about the show. It takes place a few years after the collapse of all technology, and people are organized into rival militias. Most of the characters are glossy pre- teens or 20somethings; and while there may not be electric power on Earth, there clearly is no shortage of hair care and skin care products because they look terrific all the time.