California Dream Interpretation

As its first season draws to a close, L.A. Shrinks may be the apotheosis of Bravo shows set in the city. Naturally, the East Coast/West Coast clichés that most of us agree are actually accurate attach themselves to the Bravo shows that originate on either side of the country: for instance, Gallery Girls (New York) is about entitled bitches working in a pretentious, elitist field, whereas Work Out is about genetically fortunate bitches "helping" others to conform to prevailing image standards. If L.A. Shrinks has a New York analogue, it's probably Pregnant In Heels: both revolve around terrible people spending a portion of their excessive wealth on fancy assistants who may or may not help them to solve their most pressing problems. But as much as I love Pregnant for letting me judge some of the world's worst strangers -- and I really, really love it -- Shrinks may actually surpass it not only by putting actual cameras inside actual (I guess) patients' actual (I guess) therapy sessions, but by offering us three therapists who are a little bit terrible themselves.

First, let's talk about the patients. Like I said, I guess they're real? I can imagine any number of possibilities for how these people found themselves in the various doctors' offices: real patients engaging in real sessions; real patients recreating past real sessions for the cameras; patients Bravo cast having real therapy; patients Bravo cast acting out pretend therapy. Remember, this is Los Angeles, so there's no place in this country more likely to offer up fame whores so desperate to be discovered that they'd either improvise problems or spill their real ones just for the sake of getting on TV (and maybe get their own Don't Be Tardy spinoffs -- like, how many shows has Bethenny Frankel headlined at this point? Nine?). At least four patients have show business careers: Dr. Eris treats Katie, a Playboy model; Dr. Greg's patient Elizabeth (road rage) is a songwriter, and his couple Tamara and Steven (purse dog Jimmy Chew) are producers of...something or other. So it's not inconceivable that all of them, at least, might be willing to humiliate themselves on camera if it means extending their personal brands in the process.

Ultimately, though, I don't care if any of the patients was faking it, or why; they're believably grotesque, I enjoyed judging them, and that's the purpose of the show. If we do get a Season 2, I'd like to see more from the aforementioned Elizabeth, who is clearly in need of anti-psychotic medication and who, in front of her therapist, used a special device she'd bought to pee in her car. Girl, no one likes traffic, but if it bothers you that much, it seems like the easiest way to solve your problem would be to move to a city with a functional public transit system. I was also fascinated by Michael and Georgie, whose sexual incompatibility seemed to me to stem from his inexpert technique; I mean, isn't that kind of what it always really means when a woman complains that her partner's junk is too big? Anyway, I feel like we never got closure on whether Dr. V's diagnosis that they were denying themselves their destiny as a dom (Georgie) and sub (Michael). And obviously, Katie the Playboy model was Dr. Eris's most compelling patient; a lack of self-awareness that profound could fuel many years of material for a show like this.

Then there are the therapists themselves, whom I'll count down from most to least terrible.

Dr. Eris

I'm not here to say that Dr. Eris's issues weren't valid. I don't know how it would affect me if a botched boob job had left me with one shrunken, misshapen breast, and what we saw of Dr. Eris's "after" chest was...I mean, there's no way to say it that doesn't sound mean, but I swear I'm being sympathetic: it's gnarly. So it's no wonder that she feels insecure about her body, particularly when her husband Clayton started the season having so little interest in having a baby with her -- which may not have really been the grim obsession for her that the show's editing made it out to be, but damn, it definitely shrivelled my boner, so I kind of feel for Clayton. I give her credit for taking control of her fertility and making it clear to Clayton that if they are ever going to have children they actually don't have a couple more years to dick around (as it were) and kind of have to start trying for real. But she didn't really make it seem like she was that much fun to live with. Furthermore, her advice to her client Kimberly -- who was seeking Dr. Eris's help in getting her husband Neil to understand that she felt deprived of not just sex but his affection -- that she should back off and let Neil pursue her was some The Rules horseshit.

Dr. Greg

In terms of treating patients, Dr. Greg came across as the most effective of the three therapists. I appreciated his willingness to use wisdom that he's gleaned from his own life experience to help his clients with their issues, whether that's standard practice in therapy or not. And while his urgency to make peace with his abusive father in the lead-up to Greg's own wedding to his longtime partner Kevin was admirable, it also felt a little like an issue ginned up for the cameras to give him a storyline comparable to Dr. Eris's pursuit of a baby. Let's look at what we know: Greg has been estranged from his father for a number of years because the man abused him when Greg was a kid. Greg's two sisters have also cut off contact with their father. When we finally meet the man, he comes across as a homophobic bully utterly unwilling to take any responsibility for his behaviour in the past. When these people are in our lives, even if they're blood relatives, it's okay to cut them out, and a therapist should know that and model that. But, you know, Greg seems pretty cool and his wedding to Kevin was lovely. Plus: great home décor. Greg, I can't be too mad at you. Now that Bravo's gone, you can change your phone number so your dad doesn't call.

Dr. V

There's so much going against Dr. V being my favourite doctor. The obvious Botox. The obviouser lip filler. Seeing her husband off on a business trip in a silk robe and marabou mules. The Coochy Cream. But despite it all, I kind of love her? She has no shame about living the good life that her and her husband Matt's obviously generous incomes can afford, getting in-call medical treatments and having her clothes custom-made. She digs right in with the four boys she's raising, despite being one of the girliest girls in reality TV. And she doesn't just swear in front of her patients; she swears at them. I loved her friendship with Clayton (not Eris's husband -- different Clayton), and I loved how much she loves it, continually emphasizing how much they've meant to each other since they were teenagers and never treating him like an accessory by calling him "[her] gay" or any of the other epithets Bravo reality stars use to refer to their non-straight platonic male friends. Dr. V has a great life and knows how fortunate she is to have it; save Andy Cohen, that isn't something that could be said about one other person on Bravo. So Bravo to her. And if she somehow happens to read this: girl, trust your instincts and get those implants out.

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