Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Counseling: Common on the Small Screen

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Counseling: Common on the Small Screen

Article excerpt

YOU WORK in Hollywood and haven't been to a therapist? You must be off your rocker, goes the old joke.

With emotional first-aid common in the entertainment industry, it's no surprise TV series harbor a mental health obsession.

Beyond the occasional show built around a therapist, such as NBC's "Frasier," the medium is awash with characters in counseling - this despite the fact it's still unusual for Americans to hit the couch.

An estimated 52 million adults, one in four people, suffer from a mental disorder in any given year, but only 28 percent of those seek professional help, according to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health.

But why not play mind games, say TV producers. Therapist-patient encounters are such fertile ground.

"A psychiatrist is the greatest straight man in the world," says David Rosenthal, executive producer for "Ellen." The ABC comedy sent its lead character, played by Ellen DeGeneres, off for therapy earlier this season and in an episode airing May 3.

"It's this staid, professional environment where the therapist is a very mature figure and you're allowed to be a babbling idiot," Rosenthal says. "It's an odd relationship that lends itself to comedy."

Other producers clearly agree.

On an episode of "Roseanne," also airing May 3 on ABC, DeGeneres switches gears and guest-stars as a therapist of questionable skills who is visited by Roseanne's sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and her husband Fred (Michael O'Keefe).

"If it's OK with you, I'd like to record the session," the therapist tells the couple. "I kinda like to play the tapes for my friends . . . just kidding!"

In a pair of episodes of "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," the superhero who masquerades as Clark Kent (Dean Cain) and Lois Lane (Teri Hatcher) end up in their own seriocomic analysis scenes.

"I'm frustrated because I'm the strongest man in the world and everything seems to be spiraling out of my control, and that makes me mad," a distraught Superman says. …

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