Voyeurism, by definition, is the practice of deriving enjoyment from the pain or distress of others.
There is no doubt the act of watching Couples Therapy Australia is something akin to voyeurism - pain and distress are delivered by the bucketload, yet the essential "enjoyment" component of the equation is missing.
If we are flies on the wall of the neatly appointed Sydney office of psychotherapist Marryam Chehelnabi, we are masochistic intruders, hoping to be discovered and swatted to death so this unpleasantness will end.
Just as surely as the partners squirming next to each other on Chehelnabi's leather couch must be asking themselves "why am I here?", we must wonder where is the value in exposing ourselves to something so raw and intimate?
If we wanted this kind of entertainment, couldn't we just squat under the neighbours' kitchen window on any given Wednesday evening and eavesdrop as the dirty laundry list of domestic complaints (resentment, guilt, suffocation) is sounded off before bedtime?
Other than avoiding a tricky-to-explain criminal conviction, the answer must lie somewhere in our desire to be better partners, better parents, better human beings?
Or maybe we just want to see how the local version (streaming on Paramount+) stacks up against its American template?
It stacks up pretty well, never straying too far from the formula which made the Showtime version a hit, although sometimes, when the camera follows our couples home, the now obligatory overlay of anthemic reality TV muzak and IKEA editing can have us feeling mired in the kind of gratuitous exposition to be found on something like The Voice (Australia).
The marrow is in the agonising sessions themselves and Chehelnabi cuts a noble figure as she maintains her "neutrality" and helps her clients navigate their way through their very real issues of long-term co-habitation, which stem all the way from the garage to the school drop-off to the bedroom.
Also, as with the Showtime original, where Dr Orna Guralnik was guided on her journey with her own therapist, Chehelnabi is assisted by "clinical supervisor" Lea Crisante.
This is a clever way for us all to unpack what we've just heard (the docu-series comes with a number of gob-smacking revelations) and the same way Lorraine Bracco was able to unload on Peter Bogdanovich in The Sopranos, the burden of intimacy can be shared.
For Chehelnabi - and us - watching this lot bare their souls is hard work and we just hope there is some kind of pay-off and the collateral damage isn't too significant.
It's as if we've been prescribed a two-week course of antibiotics. We know the drugs will stop the infection but they'll also strip us of gut flora, leaving us hollow and all washed-out on the inside.
On top of this, you can't help but feel uncomfortable for the clients and even a little concerned about what's in store for them in their personal lives when their families and communities (and children) have just had a front-row seat to the kind of private conversations once only found cocooned in the Kingswood with the ashtrays out.
One couple, Cat and Doug, are going to be the talk of Gundagai.
Let's hope they're prepared.
At the end of each mercifully bite-size instalment of Couples Therapy Australia, the at-times wretched participants - of varying ages and sexual orientation - are thanked for their "bravery" and perhaps we viewers/voyeurs should feel grateful they have come forward to thrash out their problems in such generous fashion, so we don't have to?
I watched this series a couple of nights after catching a re-run of the 2014 film Birdman on SBS, a film about an attempt to bring Raymond Carver's short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love to the stage.
Couples Therapy Australia is not far removed (you get the sense gin is involved somewhere) from Carver's vivisection of our addiction to companionship and by the end of the series, when everyone is done and there's nothing left to say, the final words of Carver's narrator, Nick, come to mind.
I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.
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