L.A. Shrinks: 9 p.m. Mondays, Bravo
I don’t often review reality shows for a number of reasons: namely the lack of “writing” and “acting” gives me very little objective thread to justify my opinion, and outside of the premise there isn’t very much to objectively judge on when it comes to the genre. However, with March providing a fairly thin slate of new shows, and the bulk of those new shows being reality, I guess I’ll take what I can get, with tonight’s show likely being the low point in terms of premieres this month.
My original impressions of this show and the implications thereof make me cringe. In particular, the idea of having a fly on the wall camera in a psychologists office bothers me, as people are now releasing their innermost fears, issues, and traumas in front of a camera (and let’s be real, being watched has never changed human behavior, right?). These visits are then wrapped around while the show deals with the real traumas of it’s star psychologists, which seems to imply that the show is going to trivialize the issues of people with real mental health issues for the significantly less problematic issues of the doctors themselves.
So…did my worst fears come true? Within five minutes it seems like Dr. V. (Venus Nicolino) is mining her patients for comedy, taking a catty tack to not only her patients in general, but seemingly making light of her Michael and Georgie (her two patients’) sex issues in confessional scenes. The implications are made worse when she snap-accepts Michael’s proposal of them recording their sex for the next episode without checking in with Georgie. Dr. V’s segment of the show seems the most outlandish, due her bouncing all over the emotional Richter scale (from catty to shattered) and in every scene that she’s not giving therapy she’s barely clothed (bikini or underwear) to not clothed in a bathtub and giving vampy looks to her husband when he gives her wine.
The other two therapists seem more down to earth, even if they both can gravitate into peevish about the field (Gregory seems to gripe about both his clients anger, and the fact that he can’t pass gas in the office, while Eris gets annoyed at a client whom can’t get enough sex, stating that three to four times a week is an insanely high amount of sex for a married couple, before dropping a statistic that the average couple has sex twice a week). Needless to say, while their patients do not make matters easier, their peevishness towards these clients whom are on their first session comes off as a little cold and petty.
Furthermore, one gets the vibe that many of the therapy scenes are shot in a studio. Dr. Cason’s office in particular seems to feel like it was shot in a multi-camera layout. Similarly, it seems weird that these handpicked clients happen to hit the exact nerves that the doctors layout in the beginning of the show (Most notably Gregory’s issues with the preparation for his commitment ceremony to Kevin, and Eris’ need to have more sex with her husband).
Finally, all ethical issues aside, this show takes all of the classic manipulative editing one expects from the reality genre and takes them to ludicrous extremes (to the point where certain shots look flat out redone). Similarly, Eris trying to resolve her sex life through a full-blown aphrodisiac dinner so that she can have a child feels completely absurd when you discover that she’s been taking birth control. I get that reality shows are about as “real” as professional wrestling, but would it kill you not to blatantly lie to me? Taking the least simple route makes sense on reality shows with a Deus Ex Machina element like say Survivor, The Amazing Race and (probably the king of making this trope work) The Mole, but less so when you have a show that is about day-to-day life.
The Final Verdict: This show is the Real Housewives of therapy. Our therapists problems seem incredibly manufactured and blown up to give a false equivalency to the problems of their clients’ (whose neuroses admittedly also seem fairly minor and only related to the amount of sex they are having). When the show moves away from the office, the show really objectifies its’ women (Venus seems to be in undress for large segments of the show, and they even sneak in a long shot of Eris wearing nothing but underwear). If you’re into particularly trashy reality television, you’ll probably love this, but if you have any standards whatsoever you’ll probably be as repulsed by this series as I am.