Television loves a good trope, none more so than the TV shrink, a character usually masquerading deep seated insecurities and psychological issues of their own under a banner of thinly-veiled professionalism and some sort of heavy-duty substance abuse.
This month, that tradition continues on SBS with the new Scandi- Noir show Modus, following the adventures of a Swedish criminal psychologist who has returned home after years in the US working for the FBI.
Let’s look back at some of TV’s best professional advice-givers.
Paul Weston, In Treatment
In Treatment wasn’t just a great show about therapy, it was a great show full stop. An intimate look at how tough it is to toe the line between giving professional advice and forming a personal attachment to a patient, it was ingenious in format (5 therapy sessions, 5 nights a week) and super simplistic in style. Over three seasons, kind, caring, yet ultimately tormented psychoanalyst Paul Weston (aka Irish dreamboat Gabriel Byrne) treated everyone from a bickering married couple to a dying cancer patient to a suicidal gymnast… Some he saved, some he (maybe) damaged and some changed his own life forever.
Dr Gina Toll, In Treatment
He can dole it out but he can’t always take it. That’s the main gist when In Treatment’s Paul visits his own shrink at the end of each week, played by the wonderful Dianne Wiest. As is usually the case with our TV shrinks these eps prove that it’s often much easier to be distracted by other people’s problems than face your own.
Dr Jennifer Melfi, The Sopranos
The American Psychoanalytical Association were so chuffed with the realistic therapy scenes between Mob Boss Tony Soprano and his long-suffering shrink, Dr Jennifer Melfi, they gave the show (and Lorraine Bracco who played her) an award.
Dr Fiona Wallace, Web Therapy
Dr Fiona Wallace (aka Phoebe Buffay aka Lisa Kudrow) doesn’t have time for your issues. Well, she does, but as long as you don’t get too emotional, your problems don’t take more than 3 minutes to fix and she can do it over a webcam.
Dr Linda Freeman, Two & A Half Men
I feel like Jane Lynch would be a good person to go to anyway if you needed some frank advice but her role as Charlie Sheen’s no-bullshit therapist the best thing about a terrible show. Well, her and her brightly coloured kimono tops.
Andrea, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Kimmy Schmidt’s therapist Andrea (Tina Fey) has two personalities: Day Andrea who doles out helpful advice in a calm, cool and non-judgemental manner, and Night Andrea who is, well, a drunken hornbag who calls it exactly as she sees it. I know which one I’d prefer to see…
Frasier and Niles Crane, Frasier
Frasier was a Freudian and his younger brother Niles a Jungian but that was pretty much all that distinguished these two uptight, pretentious psychiatrist brothers who did a lot more cocktail swilling, petty bickering and opera-going than they did actual therapy.
Tobias Funke, Arrested Development
The world’s first self-proclaimed “Analrapist” (Psychoanalyst + Therapist) Tobias Funke (David Cross) unfortunately lost his license after he accidentally thought a guy was dying when he was just asleep and then maimed him performing unnecessary CPR. Can’t blame a guy for trying though, right? What a shrink would make of Tobias’s own issues- including an inability to be naked and an obsession with joining the Blue Man Group- is anyone’s guess.
And with that, our time is up.
The entire series of Modus is available on SBS On Demand.
Watch the first episode right here: