Credit: Abbot Genser/HBO

The series that makes you happy to watch other peoples’ heads get shrunk, In Treatment is back for a second season, starting tonight. The new sessions bring us a fresh group of patients, as Gabriel Byrne’s Dr. Paul Weston speaks in soothing tones to:
• Mia (Hope Davis), a successful lawyer coping badly with middle-aged loneliness;
• April (Milk‘s Allison Pill), a twentysomething architecture student diagnosed with cancer she’s not sure she wants to have treated;
• Oliver (Aaron Shaw), a 12 year-old caught in the middle of his parents’ impending divorce; and
• Walter (Frasier‘s John Mahoney), a high-powered executive prone to panic attacks.

As it was last season, each patient gets his or her own episode — a half-hour HBO session — with a fifth installment given over to Dr. Paul’s own therapy visit to his mentor-shrink, Gina, played by the ever-serene Dianne Wiest.

If I had to narrow it to two stand-outs, I’d pick April, a sullen girl barely hiding her cancer fears behind denial and hostility. Pill’s performance captures all the shadings of a creative young woman who’s decided she’s doomed to die.

And if you only know John Mahoney as Frasier‘s lovable grump dad, you’ll be bowled over by Mahoney’s transformation into a tough-as-nails executive who keeps himself so busy as a corporate control-freak, he can’t see the damage he’s doing to himself.

In Treatment is simply the most addictive TV show on the air (in the cable wires?). As I settled in for a new round of advice and repressed memories, I was reminded of the therapist’s famous last line in the Philip Roth novel Portnoy’s Complaint: “Now, vee may perhaps to begin, yes?” Yes.
Grade: A

Please tune in tonight for the back-to-back sessions with Mia and April and let me know what you think, will you? Thanks.