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Couples Therapy returns for Season 2 as one of TV's best docuseries

  • "My guess is that Couples Therapy has flown under the radar a little because it’s on Showtime, a premium network that can still feel like a far frontier for a TV viewing audience overwhelmed by subscriptions to a dozen different streaming services, many with their own bundles and add-ons," says Kathryn VanArendonk. "But watching the first season of Couples Therapy, released a little over a year ago, was like stumbling onto a secret TV treasure trove, a tiny, perfect piece of docuseries storytelling. Season two, premiering Sunday, April 18, is different in some ways — there’s no longer that hit of surprise, but there are other unexpected obstacles and revelations. It’s every bit as good as the first season, which means Couples Therapy is still far and away one of the best docuseries on television. What differentiates Couples Therapy from a true crime series like I’ll Be Gone in the Dark or a medical series like Lenox Hill (another of my favorites from last year) is its uncanny fusion of the fly-on-the-wall documentary sensibility with the constructed premise and controlled creation of a reality show. The reality-show element immediately loses some people, I know, and I understand the concern. There’s an impulse to recoil immediately at something as sensitive and voyeuristic and potentially exploitative as therapy filmed for television. And it’s true. As Couples Therapy follows several couples over many weeks of sessions with a therapist, they say some incredibly sensitive, traumatic, messy, embarrassing, trivial, monumental things about their lives, in front of cameras for public consumption. There’s either an instant 'yes please!' or a just-as-fast 'no thank you!' to the idea in the abstract. It’s a series that exposes private stories, and it shows footage of people in sensitive, vulnerable moments. But the exact things that suggest such an ick factor, the constructed premise and controlled production that are so suspect in most reality television, are the things that make Couples Therapy work."


    • Dr. Orna Guralnik discusses making the show, her "savior complex" and how the pandemic has broadly affected relationships: "It was kind of surprising how much people liked the show, and I did hear repeatedly that people binged on it," she says. "I don’t get it. How can you binge on this intensity of material? Therapy usually takes a long time. I don’t really have any way of proving it, but I think people may have started off watching the show thinking it may be some kind of schadenfreude or that they could voyeuristically take pleasure in someone else’s problems, but I think what happened to people repeatedly is they very quickly got drawn in and identified with each and every participant in the show, including me. I get a lot of mail from viewers literally from all over the world and I think that people went through their own mini therapeutic journey through identifying with the different participants on the show. I think it started off with one kind of impulse and ended up with a kind of better outcome."
    • Couples have to go through a four-month selection process to appear on Couples Therapy

    TOPICS: Couples Therapy, Showtime, Orna Guralnik, Reality TV