It was a show that deserved more time and respect.
Peter Berg, fresh off his stint as an "unorthodox" doctor on CHICAGO HOPE, put together an amazing cast to show us what happens with mental health professionals and their patients.
It used frank language when dealing with the illnesses and the symptoms. There was black humor and we were allowed to see a couple of patients' delusions. (The hippo/rhino walking around one patient's flipflop was a light moment of note.)
Mr. Berg also let us know why the professionals could be so helpful sometimes; he made their personal lives pretty tough or miserable, as witnessed in Dr. Banger's bitter custody fight and the pregnancy and marriage of Dr. Lyla Garrity.
The dynamic Michelle Forbes was riveting as Dr. Lyla Garrity, whose pregnancy and marriage was put in danger due to unforseen, yet reckless, circumstances. Dr. Neil Harrison, her husband, was played with leashed frustration, fear, and love by the wonderful Martin Donovan. The amazing Ted Levine, who I'd never seen before, as Dr. Robert Banger, the head of the Psych Department, was...amazing. Sadly, we barely got to see Michael Jai White, as prickly Dr. Derrick Hatcher; as it was, we got to see him smartly kick Lyla out of her dazed state and fight to keep her job. Mr. White has brought a sharp intellect to most of the roles I've seen him play; I am certain the audience would've been treated to another wonderful role.
Patricia Clarkson, Billy Burke, and Leland Orser round out the main cast from the two episodes ABC managed to eke out. Ms. Clarkson was the soon-to-be-ex Mrs. Banger. Mr. Burke was the stereotypical studly young doctor who seemed commitment-phobic. Mr. Orser portrayed one of the saddest, yet more sympathetic schizophrenics seen on television. The scenes over whether to plead insanity, and his reactions, still have me debating the subject.
That ABC caved to supposed outrage from mental health groups is pretty sad, especially in light of the support for the equally ground-breaking NYPD BLUE. It was a chance to open dialogue about mental health in America, what we think about those so diagnosed, and what we expect from those we charge to treat them.
Two episodes was what we got.
If you know someone that taped these episodes, beg borrow or steal that tape and watch for yourself.