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TV Review: Naomi Watts in ‘Gypsy’ on Netflix

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

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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