The premise of the Bright Sessions is straightforward but refreshingly unique: a psychologist with “atypical” patients records their therapy sessions, but the question arises – is she genuinely trying to help them, or instead use their unique abilities for her own ends? A fully self-contained story told within four seasons, I can faithfully say that I haven’t been more invested in an audio drama than I was with this compelling podcast.
While avoiding writing about any plot or story elements, which would ultimately spoil some of the very rich storytelling, I want to impart elements of the story, and its production thereof, that really make TBS stand above the many of similarly-themed podcasts out there, meaning those that fit into the “otherworldly” or “slightly-off” category that other works such as Welcome to Night Vale and Alice Isn’t Dead made so rightfully popular.
First off, I have to absolutely commend the cast and crew for top-notch sound design. The Foley work is outstanding, the recordings all but immaculate, and each scene has a very true sense of place, without clunky window-dressing lines that would detail where the characters are. No matter where the story takes place, it has an intimacy, an immediacy, that genuinely feels like the listener is sitting just a few feet away from the action.
Second, the cast is phenomenal. Without singling out any one actor in particular, everyone who made an appearance in TBS is perfectly suited for the role and their place in the story. The characters feel and sound real; true-to-life people who could walk out of the headphones at a moment’s notice. Some characters give off the “something isn’t right here” vibe immediately, while others trigger that instinct to protect and care for them, often within just moments of their introduction. The cast is enormously talented, reflected not solely in their individual resumes but also in the delivery of every line. The emotional impact they’re able to convey is simply staggering – these are true career professionals at the top of their game.
The writing – there’s no way to say it other than the script is phenomenal. Hard-hitting, heart-felt, and visceral, the story paints a complete picture of the world in which it’s contained, while each character is distinct, unique, and seamlessly interconnected. The stories of Dr. Bright and her patients, both past and present, are compelling and true to life, with each character, no matter how fantastical, firmly grounded in reality. These aren’t caricatures or stereotypes – every character speaks and acts like a real person, something that is very difficult for many podcasts to master.
Ostensibly a drama about a therapist and her clients, it is obvious from the start that a lot of thought and effort went into understanding the nature and process of therapy. While there are many portrayals of psychologists and clinicians in modern media, rarely have I really seen the viewpoint of a therapist, the relationship with clients, and the mental stresses on both sides of the table so elegantly explored.
In this review I’ve glossed over or omitted many critical facts – I don’t even describe what I mean by calling her patients “atypical” – but this is a story best experienced in the moment, without knowledge aforetime.
Would I recommend this podcast? Absolutely and without reservation.
Length: 56 episodes across 4 seasons, usually ~25 minutes each
Perfect for Fans of: Welcome to Night Vale, Kings Fall AM, or Within the Wires
Find The Bright Sessions at: The Bright Sessions Website, Soundcloud, and iTunes