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Review of Michaela Zannou’s Couples Therapy

Developmentally Edited by Alexandra Hidalgo
Copy Edited and Posted by Megan Elias

Couples Therapy (2020). Series. Directed by Randy Ramon Jr. Starring Michaela Zannou and Manni L. Perez.

Couples Therapy follows Natalia, a New York therapist who treats couples in toxic relationships.  In the pilot episode, she attempts to teach effective communication tactics to a gay couple with infidelity issues; points out to another couple when they use condescending tones; and shows one pair how to create a safe space for each other to express their needs. In between these sessions, Natalia herself serial calls her own partner using the same exact relationship wreckers she advises her clients against. 

The show displays comically how a relationship spirals downwards until the partners suffocate it with their own damagingly unoriginal behaviors. By the end of the day, having not heard from her estranged husband, Natalia gives some not-so-professional advice to a young couple. This leads her to partake in self-destructive behavior that not only jeopardizes her career but extinguishes any hopes to save her marriage.

Michaela Zannou is the lead actor, as well as the creator of Couples Therapy. She plays a convincingly nuanced character as Natalia, a therapist who means well but is drowning in her own emotionally distressed relationship. Her perfectly timed comedic spurts break up what could have been overly dramatic, self-important therapy sessions. As an actor, she is relatable and appealing. As a writer, she lends an innovative and humorous perspective on love and the need for human connection. Couples Therapy allows us to laugh at the couples— and the therapist that treats them— while rooting for them.

The pilot starts with closeup shots of an angry, anxious Natalia chain smoking an old school cigarette as she phones her partner from the bathroom and closes the episode with a satisfied, post-coital e-cigarette in bed. The smokes represent the character arc and a promising future—going from messy stumped out ashes to a sleek, blue, silent light.

The couples seeking treatment are diverse and represent a cross-section of the city, showing that no matter what we look like, dating is an equal opportunity drama. There is an interracial couple, a gay couple, and some straight white ones. Ryan Metcalf plays half of a white couple in therapy, and he is a grounding and charming actor. Gabby, Natalia’s best friend, played by Manni L. Perez, is our emotional compass and an expert on comedic timing. Her career as a proctologist is an ironic metaphor for the advice about men she gives Natalia.   

Zannou, Perez, and Metcalf give strong, believable performances and are instantly likable.  They carry us through the story and make us want to binge-watch all future episodes. All the actors know instinctively when to dial down the comedy and let the drama play out, and credit for this should be shared with the premiere’s director Randy Ramos Jr.

Cinematographer Dominick Sivilli is a steady and expert hand, knowing how to enhance the actors’ performances using soft focuses, close ups, and depth of field. Metcalf also wears more than one hat in this project, applying his superb editing talents in post-production. The sets and color story are well-designed, starting with soft blues in the therapist’s office to a darker, brown/grey at home, and back to blue/purple at the bar. The hues subconsciously envelope the plot and complement the tone of each scene.

Couples Therapy is a strong pilot that promises an abundance of comedic and dramatic subplots to play out over a series.The robust performances by the cast and the quality work by the crew secure its appeal to all audiences. It is clear that Michaela Zannou threw herself completely into this work and has created a heartfelt and endearing show. As a writer and as an actor, Zannou is a woman giving her own unique, funny, and utterly charming spin on the episodic narrative. She has created a TV show truly about relationships — complex, captivating and hilariously relatable to us all. 

You watch the trailer for Couples Therapy on YouTube and learn more about the series on its website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To see what else Michaela Zannou has done, take a look at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Learn more about Denise on her profile.

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