Network returns to couch with third season

HBO is going back into therapy with “In Treatment.”

Pay cabler has picked up a third season of the psychoanalysis drama. Production will begin early next year in New York and will likely air in the fourth quarter of 2010.

While the Gabriel Byrne skein has been ratings challenged, it’s a kudos magnet for its cast. Byrne has been nominated twice for an Emmy and won the Golden Globe. Dianne Wiest, who plays Byrne’s therapist, and guest actor Glynn Turman have taken home Emmys.

Including initial runs, HBO on demand and DVR usage, viewer averages per episode were 1.9 million for season one and 1.7 million for season two.

“The viewership isn’t as big as we’d like but creatively the show works so well for us, if we’re true to who we say we are, we had to pick it up,” Michael Lombardo, president of the programming group and West Coast operations for HBO, told Daily Variety. “We’re not just into ratings and the awards game. We’re here to deliver shows with distinct voices.”

Anya Epstein and Dan Futterman have been added as exec producers. The pair — who are married — replace Warren Leight as showrunners. Leight had a one-year deal with the pay cabler and has moved on to FX’s new drama “Lights Out,” about a boxer contemplating life after retirement.

Epstein has worked with HBO previously as a supervising producer on “Tell Me You Love Me,” and Futterman, who was Oscar nominated for his screenplay of “Capote,” has been an actor much of his career, including a role in “A Mighty Heart.”

Leight had been working on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” before taking over from season-one showrunner Rodrigo Garcia. Other exec producers are Stephen Levinson, Mark Wahlberg, Hagai Levi and Paris Barclay, who will likely remain house director.

Lombardo said Levi, who created the Israeli version of the series that ran for two seasons, had interesting ideas for season three but nothing could be firmed up until new showrunners were hired and Byrne opted to return. The role is taxing on the Irish-born actor as he’s in practically every scene of every episode.

“He needed some time to rest and regroup, but once he started to re-engage, he wanted to make a third season work,” Lombardo said.

The HBO topper also said no casting decisions have been made, and although Wiest’s character’s arc seemed to come to a conclusion at the end of last season, she may return.

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