Stage Shows & Talks

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Stage Shows & Talks

Nothing can prepare you for this shocking fly-on-the-wall TV footage of couples therapy.

Is it normal to take pleasure in the psychoanalysis of weeping lovers? No. Does it result in extraordinarily rich, luxurious TV? It undoubtedly does.

I don’t know about you, but I personally prefer to begin the new year by seeing those who have clearly messed up their life. Therefore, I am grateful that the BBC has acquired Couples Therapy (Monday, 10pm, BBC Two), the 2019 Showtime series that is especially suited for the beginning of the year when you want to see other people sobbing in front of their partners. Is it too much to ask that I want to watch it? Possibly, definitely, possibly. But after only one episode, you’ll share my level of deadly horribleness.

The format, but swiftly, as the title provides a hint: a diverse ensemble of couples have, for unknown reasons, decided to have their sessions with a relationship expert and sympathetic nodder named Dr. Orna Guralnik videotaped and shown on television.

In the wrong hands, this may turn into a schlocky First Dates reversal where couples tentatively break up rather than play footsie. I had to pause the video for a few minutes to make sure I wasn’t genuinely watching some bizarre under-the-radar legacy TV show produced by a genius since it is shot so sumptuously and brilliantly (and all the couplings are so casting-agency flawless). Yet, no, no. That person wearing a short-sleeved shirt with odd buttons on the sleeve is a true dude. “I am the most simple to work with. Any I want is complete freedom from all obligations and as much sexual activity as I choose.

You quickly realize that watching Couples Therapy is similar to watching a football game completely impartially. When you aren’t emotionally invested in (or resentful of) any team, you may watch the game for the pure excitement of the action and pick your favorite team based only on who is performing well. Annie and Mau are shown in the opening of the episode.

I have no stake in the game at the two-minute mark, I start yelling at the referee at the three-minute mark, and by the four-minute mark, I’ve somehow developed a complete internet persona against Mau and am creating memes about him getting kicked in the head. Observing couples fight from a distance is really strange: I can see both sides of the impassable barrier in Lauren and Sarah’s relationship, but I am unable to sort through the complex web of issues to determine who is truly correct and can move the entire situation in their favor.

I want Elaine and DeSean to work things out, but I am annoyed with how they can’t seem to listen to one another. How on earth any therapist on the planet does not immediately descend into yelling: “BE NORMAL! QUIT BEING DUMB! I have no idea. This doesn’t make it any more obvious

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Actually, the only time Couples Therapy falters is at that precise point. We watch as Dr. Guralnik visits her own therapist and they have an overly therapeutic chat about how being a therapist is a burden, a gift, a stressor, and a hardship in an effort to create a more three-dimensional portrait of the film’s lone enduring character.

All of it is true and appropriate, but it doesn’t make for as entertaining television as listening to Mau attempt to justify why receiving a dominatrix for his birthday wasn’t the best present. The talks people have in therapy are the most unusual and remote from genuine communication you will ever have in your life, making couples counselling the finest option.

But occasionally, it can be shockingly potent television. The problem is that you’ve already seen therapy, breakups, and confessions, but only via the prism of scripted dialogue, which features brilliant back-and-forths and a storyteller’s knack for slow disclosures, or through the lens of knowing reality TV like Love Island. It’s quite another to observe how quickly people speak and how they spill forth confessions until they are expressing the core elements of their personalities.

Nothing — not your own breakups, not any breakups your friends have had, nor anything you’ve ever seen on television or in a movie — will prepare you for the quiet, heavy, solemn moment two minds realize their hearts are no longer in sync. This exact moment is depicted in the first episode. Is wanting to watch this normal? No. Is it still amazing? Oh, without a doubt.

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