When we heard that Couples Therapy was coming to Showtime, our first thought was, "You mean that VH1 reality show that featured D-list celebrities?"
Though the two programs share a name, Showtime’s new docuseries couldn’t be more different from the one starring Dr. Jenn. For starters, the show follows Dr. Orna Guralnik, a celebrated clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who teaches at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies.
Over the course of six months, cameras documented her sessions with four New York-based couples at odds over everything from sex to children. But are these eight individuals real people in need of real help or are they manufactured to entertain TV addicts like us who love to watch other people argue?
Is Couples Therapy on Showtime real?
According to Guralnik, these spouses are her real clients and the filmmakers had a surprisingly hands-off approach when it came to them.
"They were super respectful of the participants, non-sensational, only wanting the truth, not wanting anything that is fabricated," she told From the Grapevine. "I feel like in this day and age, it's a very important piece of work. It really goes against this whole intense polarization and demonization that this culture is afflicted by."
But there is one thing that isn’t 100 percent real: Guralnik’s office. "It’s an upgraded replica of my office," she shared, explaining that her actual workspace was too small to fit a camera crew.
Yet even in this new environment, the couples never saw the equipment. Everything was filmed through a 360-degree, one-way mirror that encloses the set. "There were cameras on dollies, and six camera people operating the cameras throughout all of the sessions. But you wouldn't know it sitting in the office," Guralnik revealed.
Executive producer Josh Kriegman told The Daily Beast that he and production partner Elyse Steinberg didn’t need to falsify narratives in order to make a juicy, bingeable show.
"The real dynamics of a relationship is always more complicated than it appears. With this show, you get to see the relationships from the inside," he said. "People are going to have a wide range of reaction to this. These are real people who are struggling and fighting for their relationships."
Steinberg added, "I think there is some comfort in seeing these struggles and identifying with them personally, making a connection [with the couples]."
Couples Therapy finally allows us to be a fly on the wall.
Viewers may not know anything about these couples when they first start watching, but it doesn’t take long to become invested in their very relatable and very intimate problems.
For example, one duo — who’s been married for 23 years — isn’t at all on the same page when it comes to their sex life. He wants to spice things up, but is not at all pleased with the dominatrix-themed threesome that his wife planned for his birthday.
"[The audience wants] to know what's going to happen," Guralnik explained to From the Grapevine. "And they get personally identified with the people on the show, and want to know, 'OK, does this go well or not? Is there hope or not?'"
Sounds like the type of therapy we’ve been craving. New episodes of Showtime’s Couples Therapy air Fridays at 10 p.m. ET.