TV Review: Naomi Watts in ‘Gypsy’ on Netflix

Gypsy Season 1
Courtesy of Netflix

Gypsy’s” press materials describe it as a “psychological thriller,” a term that connotes an urgency and focus the drama notably lacks.

The rise of Hulu, Netflix and Amazon has helped spread the belief — which, to be fair, can also be found in certain realms of cable TV — that episodic running times and the structural integrity of individual installments don’t matter all that much. Streaming drift continues to be a problem with no signs of abating: While there are many fantastic gems on the TV scene, there is also a lot of tedious, undisciplined filler.

At least “Gypsy” can lay claim to one distinction: It is likely to be the year’s most painful example of streaming drift. It strands a capable cast in a diffuse, predictable drama that seems less necessary with every minute that ticks by.

Naomi Watts plays Jean Holloway, a well-to-do therapist who is more than a trifle bored with her patients and her picture-perfect life. Every frame of her existence looks like a elegantly curated Pinterest page, but the quiet prosperity and tasteful neuroses that infuse her life and the lives of her patients just aren’t enough for her.

It’s hard not to compare this show to “In Treatment,” the HBO series about a therapist which had the good sense to keep its episodes to under 30 minutes. Not only did that series do a better job of turning most clients into three-dimensional people, it distilled the intensity of sessions into efficient, effective installments.

What transpires in Jean’s office, however, usually lacks insight and spontaneity, and her patients — who nurture obsessions with people who don’t return their interest — are a pallid, moderately annoying bunch. Jean’s eyes often glaze over with boredom, and it’s easy to see why.

We’ve seen dozens of ambitious dramas that explore the frustrations of middle-class men, thus it’s a shame that a series that focuses on a woman who wants more than the safe life she’s settled for is, in the end, so thinly envisioned (and, like much of the Prestige TV realm, still so white — there are a few characters of color on the screen, but they are very clearly not the focus). Jean is a female Don Draper; like the “Mad Men” protagonist, something compels her to make questionable decisions and put her respectable existence in danger. Unfortunately, “Gypsy” doesn’t live up to the promise of the premise, nor are its characters, dilemmas and dialogue compelling. 

Jean’s secret and unprofessional forays into her clients’ lives — she checks out the stories they’ve told her and learns they’ve lied during sessions — should crackle with the spark of illicit knowledge. But the series — which derives its questionable and incongruous title from the Stevie Nicks song that plays during the opening credits — just plods along through the minutiae of Jean’s life and lies, going nowhere very slowly.

Watts does a good job of conveying Jean’s simmering frustration and her yearning taste for danger, but the clarity of her performance is not enough to inject the series with sustainable energy. “Gypsy” is clearly meant to be the tale of a smart adult who likes playing with fire, but it is too somnolent and superficial to ever make her dilemmas ever come alive. Like Jean herself, the viewer is likely to be left wanting more.

TV Review: Naomi Watts in 'Gypsy' on Netflix

Drama; 10 episodes (2 reviewed); Netflix; Fri. June 30. 60 min.

Crew

Executive producers, Lisa Rubin, Naomi Watts, Sean Jablonski, Liza Chasin.

Cast

Naomi Watts, Billy Crudup, Sophie Cookson, Lucy Boynton, Karl Glusman.

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  1. LG says:

    LOVED it! The slow build up is part of what makes the series and the final climax. Attention spans are so short these days but if you are really paying attention you can’t get bored! Naomi Watts is amazing and the rest of the cast really great as well. Maureen seems like she blew through it so fast to get to her review that she missed a lot of the subtext and really great psychological play of the characters. It’s definitely not a show for the lazy intellect. tho’. I say it’s a winner! Can’t wait for season 2!

  2. Claire Focault says:

    I liked the show. Naomi Watts did a good job as usual. You spent most of that review complaining about the pace and how long the episodes are. I also don’t agree with the assessment that the encounters into her patients’ lives doesn’t go anywhere or that every character is boring. I don’t know, it’s like I was watching a very different show than you did. You also manage to squeeze in a line about how “white” the show is…really? First, it’s not even remotely accurate and, second, it’s a show about an upper class suburban therapist in NYC who lives the stereotypical white picket fence life. Of course there’s a focus on that world and not the poc actors in the show. That was just a really lazy review, IMO. It was just so dismissive and kind of pompous in tone.

  3. Laura Young says:

    I really enjoyed the show. But I love psychological dramas so maybe that’s why. I did not find it at all boring.

  4. TheBeav says:

    I tuned in for the gay but Gypsy murdered me with boredom. I’m writing this from hell.

  5. Janet L. Spiegel says:

    I’ve missed the texts (too small to read on my screen) I feel like i’m missing quite a bit, right?

  6. Mark Hutch says:

    Naomi Watts should be in good projects.

  7. Kajol says:

    Poor Ms. Watts seems to be starring in one too many critically maligned productions. Shame for such a talented artist.

  8. David Russell Foley says:

    The only way this series could be worse is if Jensen Buchanan was in it.

  9. DFilm says:

    The trailer actually advertises the core issue with the series – writing problems. Subtext is not inferred, it’s bluntly spelled out in nearly every line of dialogue.

    “Your’re not getting emotionally involved again, are you?”

    “You blurred so many boundaries.”

    “I guess I feel like I’ve been living my life like two people. I don’t know which one is real.”

    “I don’t know who’s in control anymore.”

    “Does it make you feel powerful to manipulate people like this?”

    These are all leading questions that audiences need not (nay, should not) be literally asked through dualogue. Sloppy and annoying to watch.

    Btw Variety, would be great if you include trailers with reviews. Thanks.

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