Therapy itself is a kind of drug: Someone (preferably intelligent and insightful) spends an allotted amount of time listening to nothing but your problems and issues, and offers their own two cents, which you can then either take to heart, toss in the trash, or spit right back at them. For The Heathens, said person is the eternally underrated Griffin Dunne, who becomes as frustrated with Johnny Rock and the gang as we should be with Denis Leary’s rocky-as-hell series.

For weeks, many of you readers have emphasized that Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll suffers from its half-hour format, failing to offer any substance or meditative drama in the wake of its ribald and vitriolic humor. You’re not wrong: What this show continues to lack is any depth, which couldn’t be more obvious in an episode like “Doctor Doctor”, where we spend a little over 20 minutes receiving myriad character profiles that pale by comparison to a pack of Fleer Ultra cards.

At least those came with stickers and gum.

No, “Doctor Doctor” checks in at a time when the show needs to keep building rather than slow itself down. At the end of last week’s episode, “What You Like Is In The Limo”, without a doubt the strongest of the five we’ve seen yet, there was an indication that perhaps Leary understood where this show might need to go. Gigi sideswiped Flash by overriding their initial agreement to kick out Johnny Rock after another misstep, leaving The Heathens unplugged in lieu of Gigi and the Assassins.

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Everybody on? Good. Great. Grand. Wonderful!

Not so fast, though, as everyone’s back in another claustrophobic studio space—perhaps evidence of the show’s minimal budget, but still, they could get a little creative—griping, complaining, and biting each other’s heads off again, to comedic effect. The episode begins at the Center for Modern Therapeutic Studies, where Dunne, “a licensed psychiatrist who can prescribe any and all FDA-approved medication as well as medicinal herbs,” much to Rehab’s delight, speaks to each and every member.

Here’s an honest question: What else do we know about Rehab, other than the fact that he’s the quirky guy in the band who stays true to his name by obsessing over various drugs and what have you? Or Bam Bam, the heavyset drummer who of course has a problem sticking to healthy foods? Or Ava, who has apparently slept with everyone? Or Flash, who (un)naturally dies his hair to further hammer home the idea that he can’t act his own age? Hell, even Johnny regurgitates his own Dulli and Grohl joke again.

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All “Doctor Doctor” does is prove the assembled paper-thin characters have zero clue who they are, what they can be, and even worse, what they can do. It’s reminiscent of the ending of Vanilla Sky, when an agitated Kurt Russell pleads that he’s real despite drawing a blank when Noah Taylor asks for the names of his two daughters. Pressed by Tech Support, the Heathens might explode—or, if we’re to take their actions here to heart, shrug it off and continue being dull and one-note.

Take, for example, the way Ava or Johnny Rock crap on Dunne’s therapy. After a few of the members contend they might benefit from a little democracy and empathy, Ava shuts it down, shouting the true thesis of their outfit: “This is a dictatorship on the verge of a military coup because that’s how rock ‘n’ roll bands work.” Later, Johnny insists that “great bands are full of talented people and most talented people are vain, egomaniacal, insecure assholes.” In other words, this was all just one big runaround.

Again, it’s the half-hour format. Because even amid all the admittedly funny one-liners (Bam Bam: “I like salmon. I know that’s weird, not that fattening, but if you eat the whole thing…”) or the clever back-and-forth dialogue (see: The Steve McQueen Argument), Leary still feels inclined to shoehorn drama into the episode. For instance, Gigi’s quiet times with Dunne, in which she “tearfully” admits, “I’m afraid all the time and I don’t think anyone in the band knows that.” No time for tears, Dr. Jones!

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Sadly, in the context of a 22-minute episode overwhelmed with grouchy comedy, a moment like that will always come across as cheap and fatty and unnecessary, even if it’s probably what this series needs more of in the long run. At least, if it’s going to be anything more than a guilty pleasure that nostalgic rock ‘n’ rollers can snort up for a few weeks each summer. Hey, maybe that’s all Leary wants in the end: a platform where he can weep and moan and spit out his aching frustrations.

It’s addicting, sure, but who’s gonna keep listening?

Stray observations

  • Rest assured, Rehab truly owns his name. He’s been to five detox centers!
  • It only took the episode 19 seconds to acknowledge it was riffing on Metallica’s Some Kind Of Monster. ::golf clap::
  • Ava on Steven Tyler’s lips: “It’s like he’s wearing a vagina on his face.”
  • Shots fired (part deux): “I don’t look like Claire Danes, but I look ugly when I cry,” Gigi insists.
  • That pizza delivery guy better add his one-liner to his reel: “It’s a pizza, man. Not a bag of blow.”
  • Gigi on Ava’s ukulele: “I hate that goddamn midget Game of Thrones guitar.” Flame on, SJWs.
  • Anyone else prefer to see a spin-off series with Griffin Dunne, instead?

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