Is HBO Making Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease A Prime Time Topic?

In the event that you may have missed the return of HBO’s riveting series, In Treatment, it’s back for a 3rd season on Monday and Tuesday nights. The show revolves around the superb actor Gabriel Byrne’s character, Paul Weston, a middle-aged therapist seeking solace with himself and struggling with both his issues and those of his neurotically eccentric patients.

The show is a witty, smart, bold, conversation-based exchange program void of mindless jabber, caustic violence or cattle prod laugh track garbage that major networks try to pass off as television entertainment. Not since My Dinner With Andre have I seen an appreciation for the art of conversation as displayed on In Treatment..

Last season, Paul faced a divorce from his long-time wife, a custody battle over his 2 sons and daughter, a lawsuit over patient negligence, and the loss of his estranged father due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease.  The show fearlessly takes on real world issues and everyday situations in a novel and entertaining manner. The dialogue is crisp and real and edgy. It’s smart. You know good writing when you see it and In Treatment has got it.

Last night, Byrne’s character, a man no later than his early fifties, at best, showed a rapid and uncontrollable tremor in his hand. Suspecting early warnings of Parkinson’s, he calls a doctor friend for a referral of a good Neurologist. Wow, welcome to prime time, Parkinson’s Disease (PD)! Now we wait to watch if what Paul has is truly PD or not.

Thank you HBO and the talented writers associated with the show for taking on this story. This may just get PD the platform for public understanding that it so desperately deserves. Maybe with HBO’s help we can shed light on our illness and add another non-elderly face along with Michael J. Fox to the PD public eye. Finally, maybe the message will get out that PD isn’t just an illness that strikes the elderly.

I am hopeful that this show portrays Paul and his symptoms, if is PD, in an accurate and insightful manner. This show takes on a huge responsibility in bringing PD to the mainstream and it has the capability of educating millions of viewers around the globe. I applaud and thank HBO and anyone associated with In Treatment for taking on a character  that may be dealing with early onset PD an I am eager to see how hero deals with his PD, if that turns out to be the diagnosis. If it is PD, as it looks to be, this would be one the biggest developments in Parkinson’s awareness ever!

If it is PD, and they have the proper medical advisors, which I bet they do, an accurate portrayal of the life altering changes that come with PD will be de-mystified and maybe no longer misunderstood. At least, a television character who may have early onset Parkinson’s Disease. I never thought I would see it happen, and it just may become a reality!

I have faith in you HBO. I’ll be watching. This could be very big!

(This is just my opinion. If you missed In Treatment try catching up with On Demand on cable or Netflix. New episodes air Monday and Tuesdays. Check your local listings for your time zone)

About Karl Robb

Karl Robb has had Parkinson’s disease (PD) for over twenty-five years. Karl believes he has had PD since he was seventeen years old and was diagnosed at the age of twenty-three. Now fifty, he is a Parkinson advocate, entrepreneur, inventor, writer, blogger, photographer, Reiki Master, and speaker on PD issues. Karl is the author of the book, A Soft Voice in a Noisy World: A Guide to Dealing and Healing with Parkinson’s Disease. He has been chosen as a blogger partner for the 4th World Parkinson Congress being held this September in Portland, Oregon. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His writing has been featured in The New York Post and he has appeared on BBC radio, the CBS Saturday Evening News, Japanese television, as well as several local Washington, D.C., television stations. Karl is a former board member and a Virginia assistant state director of the Parkinson’s Action Network and a board member of the Parkinson Voice Project. You may reach Karl via email at, visit his blog at, on Facebook, or contact him via Twitter @asoftvoicepd.

Posted on October 26, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I can’t say I’ve seen this show but I do give credit to HBO for the attempt to bring Parkinson’s Disease into the mainstream. I am always looking for television and movies that do this so I can alert people living with this disease and not, to share an aha, or is it more like a hmm moment? Either way it gives the PD community more recognition so long as its done tastefully.

    There is a movie being released on Nov 24 called, “Love and Other Drugs” starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. They play a couple who fall in love ending years of (Jamie) Gyllenhaal’s character’s playboy lifestyle. (Maggie), Hathaway’s character is diagnosed with Young Onset PD and suddenly the relationship is threatened. There are several scenes that leave you hanging as to whether or not the relationship survives as she struggles with medication and long term care. It is kind of a racy and clearly an “R” rated movie, so leave the kids home but I think it is something for the PD community can be proud of and perhaps start a dialogue about relationships and PD. Check it out Nov 24th!

  2. I’m excited by the prospect of a prime time TV show portraying PD and it’s effect on the character and those around him. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Karl!

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