Songland has been renewed for a 2nd season. You should be watching this show.
The season 1 finale airs tonight.
In the series’ antepenultimate episode, Harvey is forced to evaluate past actions, while Esther turns to Louis for help. #SUITS
Did that girl that Brandon Lee dumped on the season finale of The Hills really say that he’s a great actor and should win a Grammy before walking away?!?
Amongst the other season finales airing tonight: BH90210, Queen Sugar, Hollywood Game Night, Snowfall and Bulletproof.
“HBO's drama pilot about the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers is undergoing a casting change. John C. Reilly has signed on to play late team owner Jerry Buss in the project, which is being executive produced and directed by Adam McKay. He replaces Michael Shannon, who was initially cast in the role and has exited due to creative differences, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. Reilly will join a cast that also includes Jason Clarke, who is set to play Lakers legend Jerry West, the team's general manager in the '80s.
“Snapchat is rolling out a dedicated news channel ahead of the 2020 debates, according to a report from Axios. The channel is set to launch Thursday as the top-polling Democrats meet in Houston, Texas, for the third debate of the primary season, per Axios. As of this week, they all have a presence on the video- and photo-sharing application and are using its features to promote their campaigns.”
“At least 40 people have been let go from AXS TV following Mark Cuban’s sale of his majority stake in the cable network and the channel HDNet Movies to Steve Harvey and Anthem Sports & Entertainment on Monday, three individuals close to the situation tell TheWrap exclusively. The cuts — which two of the sources say come closer to twice that tally if you count the release of contractors, consultants and freelancers — came about quickly, with terminations occurring within hours of Cuban’s sell-off being announced yesterday, multiple sources said. One source added that there wasn’t even an opportunity for the consultants to try to negotiate a new deal.”
“Bruce Beresford-Redman, an ex-producer of the reality television show Survivor, has been released from a Mexican prison after serving time for his wife’s murder. Beresford-Redman was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he was convicted of killing his wife Mónica Burgos in 2010 while on a family vacation at the luxury Moon Palace Resort in Cancun. Investigators said Beresford-Redman killed his wife during a confrontation. Her bruised, naked body was found in a sewer. Now after serving seven and a half years of his original sentence, KTLA reports that Beresford-Redmanand is living back in Southern California after being released from prison two months ago.”
Per The Hollywood Reporter, “Apple is revealing more details about its long-gestating streaming service.
“The tech giant on Tuesday announced that its subscription service TV+ will launch Nov. 1, offering originals like the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon starrer The Morning Show for $5 per month for a family subscription. That's significantly cheaper than offerings from Netflix ($13 per month for the most popular plan) and Disney+ ($7 per month when it launches Nov. 12). In a move sure to boost signups for the service, Apple is offering anyone who buys an Apple device a year of TV+ for free.
“Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement at the company's annual fall product event, acknowledging that people have been wondering about the details of the forthcoming service. ‘Our mission for TV+ is to bring the best original stories from most creative minds in TV and film,’ he said, describing the projects as ‘stories that help you find inspiration, grounded in emotion, stories to believe in, with purpose.’
“TV+ is launching in over 100 countries with a slate of originals which includes The Morning Show, the Hailee Steinfeld starrer Dickinson, the Jason Momoa drama See, the space drama For All Mankind and the documentary The Elephant Queen. There will also be kid-friendly offerings like Helpsters from the makers of Sesame Street and Snoopy in Space. Additional originals, including Kumail Nanjiani's Little America and the coming-of-age drama feature Hala, are expected to be released on the service each month.
“For most originals, Apple plans to release three episodes at launch, with additional episodes dropping weekly, but the company says that it will drop full seasons of some originals.
“The launch of TV+ will round out the offering in Apple's TV app, where it offers a storefront for buying and renting titles and subscriptions to third-party streaming services like Showtime and HBO Now. The revamped TV app experience, part of Apple's plan to phase out iTunes, comes amid a push by the iPhone maker to double down on its services business, which houses revenue from subscriptions like Apple Music and iCloud. Apple has been public about its goal to grow its services revenue to over $50 billion by 2020. In addition to TV+, Apple has also launched News+ for magazine subscriptions, and on Sept. 19 it will release Arcade for mobile games.
“TV+ will be available on iPhones, iPads, Apple TV set-top boxes, iPod touches and Macs. There will also be a web browser version of the service. The family plan includes access for up to six family members. In its push to become a purveyor of entertainment programming, Apple has also made a rare move and struck deals with other manufacturers to offer the app on other platforms, including Samsung smart TVs, Roku, Sony, Vizio and Amazon Fire TV.
“After years of denying plans to enter Hollywood, Apple executives took the first steps into entertainment with the June 2017 hiring of Sony television veterans Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg. The pair have spent the better part of the last two years assembling a team and buying up a slate of originals.
“Initially, Hollywood rushed to work with Apple because of its deep pockets and brand cache — Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams and Oprah Winfrey all have deals with the company — but the creative community has grown increasingly frustrated as the months have worn on with few details available about the pending service. Apple invited dozens of stars and creative partners to its March services event but offered little concrete information about the service (beyond the TV+ name and vague fall launch timeframe) and showed scant footage of its forthcoming projects. Meanwhile, there have been stumbles, including several showrunner departures and concerns that executives were getting hands-on with programming over a desire to make it suitable for a range of audiences.
“The company has been building to the launch of TV+ with the rollout of trailers for The Morning Show, For All Mankind and Dickinson.”
From EW: “For Survivor host Jeff Probst, the inspiration for the new Island of the Idols twist came from a very simple desire: getting show legends Sandra Diaz Twine and Boston Rob Mariano back on the island. ‘The germ of the idea came simply from how do you make them say yes?’ says Probst. ‘You make them gods.’ (Well, that would certainly explain the ginormous statues of the former winners that serve as an entranceway to the actual Island of the Idols.)
“‘The idea for this came from the question of how do we get somebody like Boston Rob to come back again when he’s said repeatedly that “I’ll never play again,”’ says Probst. ‘So the idea was born of: What if you weren’t a player? What if you were a teacher? And he said yes.’
“Once Rob was on board, Probst then had to secure another partner-in-grime. ‘Sandra seemed like the perfect bookend because these are two experts in the game, they’re fun to watch, and they’ve got just enough villain and devil in them that they’re a teacher you should be wary of,’ explains the host. ‘And that was the basic premise, that we would bring back two players to teach a new group of players how to play Survivor.’
“But the Island of the Idols concept is not so simple. (Is anything simple on Survivor?) Because the two icons are not merely dispensing advice. Any new players that happen to visit the island will also be tempted with a challenge. ‘We give them the opportunity to test what they’ve learned by going up against Rob or Sandra,’ Probst explains. ‘And the twist is, yes, it’s a bootcamp. But it’s a Survivor bootcamp. “So never forget, I’m Boston Rob and that’s Sandra, and you just fell into a trap.” That was kind of the big idea. So the way it works is, the first person to visit Island of the Idols gets taught something about gameplay. It could be about making fire or it could be a strategy thing. And then Rob and Sandra give them a chance to test what they’ve learned.’
“Should they pass the test, they will be awarded some sort of advantage in the game. But should they fail, they will lose something that could lead to their undoing. Says Probst: ‘For the person who is foolish enough to take the test and fail, they say, “Here’s your other life lesson, you should have never gone up against me. I’m the one who just showed you that. I’m an expert. And now you’re in trouble. Here’s how you recover.” And if somebody says, ‘I’m no fool, I don’t want to go up against you,’ [Rob and Sandra] were given the freedom, their own decision, to raise the stakes. So we gave them a cushion and said, you can go from here to here with the advantage. Whatever you want.’
“Essentially, it’s a form of Survivor haggling and betting all rolled into one. ‘So Sandra could lean in and say, “What if we make an idol good for three Tribal Councils?”’ says Probst. ‘Now you’re interested. And then the player might say yes. And they might still lose. And Rob might say “Why did you change your mind simply because the advantage got bigger? Your odds didn’t.” So that’s the basic premise.’”
From The New York Times: “Jennifer Aniston was trying to have a quiet weekend away.
“It was just after her 50th birthday, and she’d boarded a plane for Mexico with six of her best girlfriends — most of whom have known her since her early days in Los Angeles, before Brad, before Justin, before Friends and before the tabloids, when they lived as neighbors on the same street in Laurel Canyon. (‘We called ourselves the Hill People,’ she said.) But a few minutes in, the pilot asked to speak with her. They had a tire missing, and they would have to return to Los Angeles.
“As the pilot burned off fuel, Aniston spent the next four hours cracking jokes and trying to remain calm (she is terrified of flying), while fielding text messages from friends who’d read about the ‘emergency landing’ — which hadn’t actually happened yet.
“The women landed safely, switched planes and, the next night, gathered for a ritual they’ve been doing for three decades: a goddess circle. Seated on cushions, cross-legged on the living room floor, they passed around a beechwood talking stick decorated with feathers and charms, much as they had done for every major event of their lives. They had circled before Aniston’s weddings to Brad Pitt and Justin Theroux. They circled when babies were born, and when Aniston and Theroux had to put down their dog, Dolly. This time they set the circle’s intention: to celebrate how far they’ve come — and to toast Aniston’s next chapter.
“‘It’s so weird. There’s so much doom around that number,’ Aniston said of 50, noting that the New Yorker in her (she spent most of her childhood on the Upper West Side) was slightly horrified at the thought of the term ‘goddess circle’ appearing in a story about her. ‘Should we just call it a “circle’?’ she asked.
“We were sitting in the kitchen of her sunny, midcentury Bel-Air home, on a Tuesday afternoon in late August. She was warm and radiant, which is how glossy magazines often describe her, and also thoughtful, inquisitive and self-deprecating, which is not.
“She asked about the meaning of my tattoo, which led to a conversation about my dog, which led her to ask Siri, ‘Hey Siri, what does a cockapoo look like?’ (‘I’m like a weird dog person, it turns out, like a dog lady,’ she said, running her hand through her dog Clyde’s fresh haircut.) She is surprisingly unguarded for someone for whom the tiniest kernel of news can transform into a thousand stories.
“But about that age thing: ‘I’m entering into what I feel is one of the most creatively fulfilling periods of my life,’ she said. ‘Seriously,’ she continued, pausing to knock on her wooden coffee table. ‘I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I feel like it’s just about to really bloom.’
“This is the kind of thing actors say all the time in interviews. But in this case, it feels like more than a platitude.
“Since Friends ended, Aniston has had critical success in smaller independent films, mixed reviews for mainstream movies, a lot of product endorsements, a couple of outright flops. But nothing has clicked quite like Rachel Green, the beloved runaway bride she played on Friends. She’s spent 15 years taking parts that had the potential to get her past that iconic role, that haircut, that ‘cloak of Rachel,’ as she once put it — but they didn’t deliver. Perhaps the only way to do that may be to return to the medium that made her famous.
“So come Nov. 1, she’ll have a homecoming of sorts as the star of Apple’s The Morning Show — a big-budget drama set behind the scenes of a news show that looks a whole lot like Today. Aniston plays Alex Levy, a serious morning anchor whose personal life is complicated and professional life is more so, compounded by the sudden firing of her longtime co-host (played by Steve Carell) for sexual misconduct.
“For Apple, the show represents the shiniest bauble in its launch slate as it attempts to challenge the likes of Netflix with a streaming service of its own — and among the first shows to hang its premise on #MeToo.
“For Aniston, who is the spine of the show as both a lead and an executive producer, it’s the chance to dig into a more sophisticated dramatic role that, as she put it, has everything: ‘children, guilt, power struggle, being a woman in the industry, going through a divorce, publicly going through a divorce, feeling alienated, being just a little bit of a screw-up.’
“It’s a role that is asking her to draw on more of her personal life than ever before. And it may also be her best chance to finally get the world to see her as an actor, not just a star.
“The Morning Show didn’t begin as a #MeToo story.
“Three years ago, when Aniston told Michael Ellenberg, a former executive at HBO who oversaw Game of Thrones and The Leftovers, that ‘television is not not an option for me,’ Matt Lauer was still delivering the morning news and Harvey Weinstein was gunning for Oscars. ‘I said to him, “I just want to be a part of something great, I don’t care where it lands,”’ Aniston recalled. ‘Because God knows, the movies have been great and they’ve been horrible, so you just don’t know.’
“When Ellenberg later phoned Aniston to tell her he’d acquired rights to Top of the Morning, a nonfiction book by the media reporter Brian Stelter that delves into the drama-filled world of morning television — and had also spoken to Reese Witherspoon, with whom he worked on Big Little Lies — the women immediately called each other.
“‘We were so psyched,’ said Witherspoon, who has known Aniston since they played sisters on Friends. She noted that the two had wanted to work together for some time, but that it was rare to have ‘two very, fully fleshed out female leads in one project.’
“Aniston signed on to play Alex, a morning host akin to Ann Curry, who must traverse the cutthroat, ego-filled world of TV news as a woman in her 40s who executives declare is past her prime. She collides with Witherspoon’s character, a brash, younger field reporter who may be gunning for her job or could become her best friend, we aren’t yet sure.
“Apple bought the show in a bidding war and ordered up two seasons. If the people who brought you the iPod were going to compete with Netflix and Hulu, Aniston and Witherspoon — who also serve as executive producers — seemed like a pretty good bet. ‘I just felt like this was exactly what we were looking for,’ said Eddy Cue, a senior vice president at Apple overseeing the new service, who declined to name the price the company paid for the show but acknowledged that the draw of luring Aniston back to TV added to the appeal.
“But then Weinstein happened. Charlie Rose was canceled. Matt Lauer was fired from Today. ‘And we basically just started over,’ said Witherspoon. ‘We had to.’
“Kerry Ehrin, a creator of the A&E series Bates Motel, was brought in to write a new script, replacing the original showrunner. The updated premise: Alex’s longtime co-host is fired after news of his behavior on the job (and in his dressing room) becomes public, throwing the show and her career into chaos.
“Carell would be cast to play the disgraced anchor — whom Aniston described as a kind of lovable, cocky narcissist who, like so many powerful men before him, ‘just thinks everybody wants to sleep with him.’ Witherspoon’s character would be positioned as a potential replacement to fill his now open anchor chair. The Morning Show would still tackle gender and ageism, but also tell a more complicated story of what happens when an idol falls. What does it mean for his unknowing co-workers and friends, like Alex? His ability to seek redemption? And, without knowing exactly of what he’s accused, whose side should we be on?
“Now is the point in many of these interviews when the reporter asks the subject if she, too, has a #MeToo story.
“Aniston says she does not, though she has certainly experienced her share of sexism in 30 years in the business.
“‘Agents,’ she began, ticking off a list. ‘Studios. Finding out what this actor made versus that actor made.’
“It’s our second meeting at her vast, modernist home, and this time we’re joined by Kristin Hahn, Aniston’s best friend of three decades and producing partner of two, who is also an executive producer on The Morning Show. The duo reflected on what it was like when they began in Hahn’s garage in Ojai, Calif., 18 years ago (‘We call them the garage band days,’ Aniston said) to try to make movies.
“‘It was so much harder …’ began Hahn.
“‘ … to get our phone calls taken,’ finished Aniston.
“‘Now actors are taken more seriously as producers,’ Hahn continued. ‘But when we started, even though Jen had been on a TV series for eight years, it was still a little like, “Oh, isn’t that cute.”’
“It was there in that garage that Hahn and Aniston, with Pitt, co-founded the production company Plan B, which was then called Bloc Productions, a name that had come to Aniston during a game of Scrabble, she said. They developed The Time Traveler’s Wife, A Mighty Heart and The Departed, on which Hahn was an executive producer.
“When Aniston and Pitt’s marriage ended, Aniston and Hahn decided they would be the ones to leave the company: ‘It was the symbolic equivalent of, “I’ll move out of the house,”’ said Hahn. Plan B went on to develop the Oscar-winning films 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight, while Aniston and Hahn formed their own company, Echo Films, as a side project when Hahn wasn’t writing — she wrote the screenplay for the Netflix movie Dumplin’ — and Aniston wasn’t acting.
“‘Our mission statement was, Tell strong stories about strong women,’ Aniston said. ‘Flawed, complicated, messy. “Cause that wasn’t happening.”’ (Currently in development: First Ladies, a political comedy for Netflix in which Aniston will play the first lesbian president opposite Tig Notaro, and The Goree Girls, a project about one of the first all-female country bands.)
“As a producer on The Morning Show, colleagues described Aniston as ‘detail-oriented” (Hahn), “thorough’ (Ellenberg) and precise — ‘involved with every set, with every costume, with every piece of casting,’ said Witherspoon.
“When I mentioned to Aniston later that many had noted her attention to detail, she joked that was ‘basically nice ways of saying “obsessive.”’
“To research her role, she went behind the scenes at Good Morning America and spent time with Diane Sawyer, studying everything from her clothing choices to her caffeine habits, which involved toggling between Coca-Cola, Red Bull and coffee. On set, Aniston handpicked her character’s books (100 Years of Bauhaus on her coffee table, Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink in her work bag), the sconces in her apartment (French modern), and her clothes (tailored; monochromatic; an occasional pop of color).
“She hung photos of her real-life friends — the ‘Hill People’— in Alex’s dressing room and apartment.
“There were times Aniston and Ehrin, the showrunner, had healthy disagreements — such as whether Alex, upset with her daughter, would actually say a phrase to the effect of, ‘I practically broke my vagina with that big head of yours,’ using an expletive before ‘vagina,’ to describe childbirth.
“‘I was like, that would just never come out of my mouth! Alex’s mouth,’ said Aniston, becoming animated.
“‘And Kerry kept saying, “Trust me on this,”’ said Hahn.
“After two weeks of back and forth, Aniston finally agreed to try the line — and they got it on the first take. ‘It just flew out of my mouth,’ she said.
“So ultimately she thought Alex would say it? I asked.
“‘Yes,’ she said. ‘But, mind you, I’m playing a person who’s a mother. I’ve never shoved anything through my vagina, you know what I mean? So it’s sort of like understanding where it comes from, you know, like tapping into all of the mothers that I know, and understanding how something that hysterical and vulnerable and raw is possible.’
“Hahn leaned over to note that Aniston had, in fact, been there — in the room, at the foot of her bed — for the delivery of Hahn’s daughter.
“‘I could have actually done it if the doctor had let me,’ Aniston said.
“‘I literally came back into consciousness hearing the doctor saying, “Uh, Jen, you’re in my light. I can’t really see,”’ Hahn said.
“‘That’s what friends are for.’
“You could say that the story of Alex Levy is also the story of Jennifer Aniston: one of being underestimated and overexposed, known for a thing that may or may not have anything in common with who you actually are, trying to reassert control over your narrative.
“‘Jen has lived in the public eye for so long,’ said Ellenberg. To play the role of Alex, he says, ‘she’s drawing on real stuff in her life.’
“Alex, who is declared by her male boss to have passed her ‘sell-by date.’ Alex, whose smooth smile appears on billboards across the city but whose life at home is more complicated. Alex, who the world feels they know intimately, personally, but are nowhere near acquainted with.
“‘There’s a similarity to my life,’ Aniston acknowledged. ‘I relate in ways of feeling like, when you don’t want to be seen, and you don’t want to go out of the house, and you want to just scream, and you don’t want to walk on a red carpet. I don’t want to stand behind a podium, I don’t want to have my photograph taken, I want to just cry today. You know?’
“I asked if she could have played this role at any other point in her life.
“‘No,’ she said firmly. ‘I didn’t have the experience.’
“There is a saying that’s popular these days, translated into memes and posted on Instagram, that the freedom of aging as a woman is the ability to just care less (said with a punchy expletive).
“Aniston sort of buys that, but she thinks the freedom may come more from working than age.
“‘It’s experience backing up ambition,’ said Hahn.
“As they are talking — and I’m preparing to leave — another member of the goddess circle, Andrea Bendewald, who is Aniston’s oldest friend and also plays Alex’s makeup artist on the show, walks into the house holding a book that the group is reading. It’s called Lifespan, written by a Harvard Medical School scientist, David Sinclair, who makes the case that the key to slowing down the aging process is to access the so-called ‘vitality’ genes.
“They are worried that mention of this book will make them appear like they’re obsessed with not aging, but perhaps what it signifies more clearly is that they are interested in longevity — the longevity to keep working, to keep taking risks, to redefine themselves.
“‘It’s taken time for me to get where I am and I put a lot of work into my craft,’ Aniston said. ‘I’ve failed. I’ve succeeded. I’ve overcome. I’ve, you know, I’ve stayed around. I’m still here.’
“That, in Hollywood anyway, is perhaps the most radical thing a woman can do.”
Per The Ringer, “[e]arlier this year, Netflix made waves with Dating Around, a tastefully streamlined take on one of reality TV’s most prolific subgenres. Its six episodes eschewed elaborate concepts, retroactive testimonials, and other telltale signs the action before us had been intensely stage-managed. They also tapped into the prurient interest in others’ personal lives said stage-managing is typically designed to facilitate. This was the paradox of a new kind of relationship show, and its chief innovation: By stripping away the more nakedly sensational aspects of its genre, Dating Around could better deliver the sensation viewers were seeking all along.
“Couples Therapy, on Showtime, sees this useful discovery and raises it several emotional notches.
“The docuseries—not reality show, as the press materials are careful to note—reads like a spiritual sequel of sorts to Dating Around, even if the two shows aren’t formally connected. Where one chronicles the potential beginning of a relationship, the other depicts its rocky middle and even potential end. Many of the techniques are the same: the cinematography, which had me checking several times to make sure the show wasn’t scripted; the casting, which values naturalism and diversity over big personalities; the editing, which carefully splices separate meetings into a whole greater than its parts. So is the effect, a startlingly intimate glimpse into the most private (legally protected, even!) of spaces. And ultimately, so are the discomforts. Even the most thoughtfully presented of reality show subjects is still being presented for our entertainment.
“The center of Couples Therapy is Dr. Orna Guralnik, whose real-life practice is based in downtown New York City. (Interstitial shots show couples mingling in iconic locations such as Washington Square Park, like bonus scenes from Sex and the City or Master of None left on the cutting room floor.) Together with executive producer Eli Despres, Guralnik works under the watchful eye of filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, the duo behind feature-length documentary Weiner, also for Showtime. Certain scenes from that film, which followed a few of the many sex scandals plaguing former representative Anthony Weiner and their effects on his marriage to political operative Huma Abedin, seemed like couples therapy themselves. Weiner blustered, Abedin stared disbelieving daggers, and we watched them ask each other what we were asking ourselves: Why would she stay with him? (Ultimately, she didn’t.)
“The subjects of Couples Therapy are in a much less extreme situation than Weiner and Abedin’s, with much more quotidian problems—communication, major decisions like having kids, disparities in finances, expectations, and libido. This makes it all the more remarkable that they’re willing to work through these issues on camera. The four couples who take up the series’ nine episodes are not prior patients of Guralnik’s; Kriegman and Steinberg found them via open casting call, then selected for diversity and candor. Unsurprisingly, Couples Therapy is not the first show with its name or premise, but where the VH1 version featured public figures like DMX and Courtney Stodden, this one prefers relatability to celebrity. In keeping with its premium-cable environs, Couples Therapy has more in common with State of the Union (miniature excerpts from a larger relationship) or High Maintenance (artfully juxtaposed portraits of urban life) than its unscripted peers.
“To ease patients’ awareness that their therapy would be televised—which, in turn, makes their therapy better television—Kriegman and Steinberg concealed their cameras behind one-way glass throughout Guralnik’s office. The goal, Kriegman told The Guardian, was for couples ‘to come in, sit in the waiting room, have an hour-long therapy session, leave and never once interact with any element of production or camera-person, or see any camera.’ The most stereotypical use of such one-sided observation is the interrogation room, and while these couples haven’t done anything criminal, they show the skittishness that comes with knowing one’s discretions are about to go under the microscope. While they wait for their session to start, one couple half-jokes about a ‘safe word,’ lest their arguments get out of hand; another person brushes off her wife’s attempt to adjust her shirt. All four couples try to decipher the abstract painting in Guralnik’s foyer. Some see a person; others see a bird.
“Guralnik herself is a near-textbook therapist, more Dr. Melfi than Dr. Phil. Her office is swathed in calming neutrals and artfully arranged bookshelves, and her listening pose is a feat of architecture: brows knit together, upper body angled down, eyes angled up, broadcasting total attentiveness and deference to her patients. So well does Guralnik fill the role that it’s a surprise to learn she initially wanted to limit herself to the role of off-camera consultant. Couples Therapy also delivers on a fantasy familiar to anyone who’s been in therapy of any kind, joint or solo, following Guralnik out of her own workplace and into that of her clinical adviser, Dr. Virginia Goldner. There, Guralnik is the one seeking advice, worrying that one couple is beyond repair or that she’s projecting her feminist beliefs onto another. It’s the kind of judgment you know, hope, and fear is going on behind that silent nod, but never get to see for yourself. (Goldner, for her part, reminds Guralnik that her job is to help patients better understand their problems, not solve them.)
“Still, the real stars of the show are the couples themselves. Kriegman (the child of two therapists in his own right) and Steinberg have shrewdly selected for a broad range of pairings. Some have been married for just three years, some nearly 25; some are straight, some queer; some are affluent, some are middle class. Whatever their starting point, Couples Therapy is able to bring all of its subjects to a similarly honest place. Over months of real time but mere minutes of edited footage, Guralnik coaches her charges through conversations about sex, trauma, trust, and personal history. Total strangers disclose their past abusive relationships, or walk Guralnik—and, by extension, the audience—through the exact terms of their open marriage.
“Kriegman has said that couples agreed to this potential violation because “sharing their stories publicly could be helpful to other people who are having similar struggles.” Empathy and catharsis are certainly some of the responses Couples Therapy brings out of its audience, but they’re by no means all of them. At the end of its first episode, Couples Therapy introduces a sort of ‘twist’: We’re shown at least one couple mutually agreeing to separate, followed immediately by a flashback to their first-ever session. The implication is unmistakable. This could happen to any of these people—keep going to find out which! To the couples, the discoveries made in Guralnik’s office have far-reaching, potentially devastating consequences. To us, they become a guessing game, the inverse of most relationship shows’ which-one-will-they-pick. This couple has deep-seated conflicts, but their body language seems affectionate; maybe they’ll make it. This couple has a good routine, but they also seem cold and irritable; maybe they won’t.
“Couples Therapy makes significant efforts to distance itself from the outright exploitation that makes up so much of reality TV. But it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the show ends up catering to the same impulses that govern its medium, and that exist inside us all. Recently, I found myself flinching away from Netflix’s Styling Hollywood because I found it too uncomfortable to watch the two leads argue about parenthood; not 48 hours later, I devoured a near-identical dispute on Couples Therapy. It’s all but impossible to separate healthy curiosity from emotional leering, or processing feelings vicariously from outsourcing pain. Maybe the only solution is to find the version of both that fits your sensibility.”