For anyone pondering the human condition, this can be the mother lode – the point where a therapist and a patient link.
“Therapy frees you to actually explore feelings in an overt way,” said writer-producer Joe Weisberg.
Now he and Joel Fields have found a fresh way to blend quiet therapy and intense crime.: “The Patient” (shown here with Steve Carell) debuts with two episodes Tuesday (Aug. 30) on Hulu, then continues for eight more weeks.
Their previous series, “The Americans,” ran for six seasons on FX, piling up praise and honors. It was named best drama series by the Television Critics Association and the Golden Globes and was twice nominated for best drama by the Emmys
Both men “really believe in the value of introspection,” Fields said. They groped for “a way to do a show that dealt with therapy (and) stumbled upon this idea”: A desperate man kidnaps his therapist and chains him to the basement, where he can get private sessions at-will.
For Carell, who plays the therapist (shown here before the kidnapping), this was a truly confining role. “I loved it,” he joked. “I hope that I’m chained up in the set for everything I do doing forward.”
It was a real chain and lock, he said, and it often stayed firm even between scenes. “I thought, ‘Boy, if there’s an earthquake or a fire, I hope somebody thinks about letting me out.”
And for Domhnall Gleeson, who plays the captor, there was freedom. “I’m a pacer,” he said, “and Steve couldn’t pace.”
Other actors appear – mostly in flashbacks, sometimes not – but this is basically a two-person tale, finding a fresh way to turn therapy into high drama.
“The stakes of conventional therapy are already pretty high,” Carell said. “People’s lives are at stake.”
A few shows have used therapy sessions as the sole focus, both scripted (four seasons of HBO’s “In Treatment”) and unscripted (three seasons, so far, of Showtime’s “Couples Therapy.”) Others – from “Sopranos” to “This is Us” – have used it as an ongoing plot device.
But now the creators threw themselves into this larger idea. Despite their own ample experience in therapy, they hired therapists as consultants. Despite their own Jewish backgrounds – Fields’ father was a rabbi – they hired consultants to help create the therapist’s Jewish roots.
More consultants were needed, when they decided to make the captor a food enthusiast.
“We were so obsessed with the food research,” Fields said, that “at one point we had (a staffer) actually go and get this elaborate Thai meal and then take photographs of it and send us the photographs. It was very challenging for us, because he’s the one who got to eat the meal.”
But not as challenging, perhaps, as doing raw drama while chained to a chair.