Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist: Season One (TV)

(1995) *** 1/2 Unrated
132 min. Comedy Central. Cast: Jonathan Katz, H. Jon Benjamin, Laura Silverman, Ray Romano.

Dave Attell once cheekily called Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist "a comedic garbage dump of material," and the appraisal is somewhat accurate. Veteran stand-up comedian Jonathan Katz teamed with producer Tom Snyder to develop the animated Comedy Central series, in which Katz played a shrink who catered to neurotic comedians (is that an oxymoron?). The setting proved as conducive as a talk show to the bits of working comics like Ray Romano, Joy Behar, Dom Irrerra, Larry Miller, and Attell, all of whom hit the couch in season one.

Arguably, the more satisfying elements of the series were its miniaturized sitcom elements, which in their way did The Bob Newhart Show one better in their low-key, true-to-life ramblings. At work, Katz contends with agressively inept secretary Laura (Laura Silverman), and after hours, the doctor unwinds with friend Stanley (Will LeBow) and bartender Julie (Julianne Shapiro).

The series was its best, however, in the practiced, dry-witted rapport of Katz and H. Jon Benjamin as his TV son Ben. Their hilariously circuitous dialogues carom through artful interruptions to arrive at emotional stalemates. The series' humor relies heavily on cadence, so it doesn't translate well to print, but it works like gangbusters over the "Squigglevision" vision of Snyder (Squigglevision is a wobbly animation style in which little more than the character's lines move).

Since they share time with two comedians per episode, the simplistic plots never get overextended. In one of the first season's six episodes, Ben borrows his dad's car—that's about the extent of the plot, but it's frightfully amusing. Both men are constantly at odds with their relative maturity: though both are awkwardly single, and both succumb easily to childish distraction (Katz makes a very square nightclub folk singer in series favorite "Bully"), at least the doc has a job that gets him out of the house. Luckily, for comedy fans, Katz isn't very good at that job, so five seasons of Dr. Katz would follow.

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Aspect ratios: 1.33:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Street date: 5/9/2006

Distributor: Paramount Home Video

Paramount's packed one-disc special edition of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist: Season One features six commentary tracks that amount to sequels to the series. Four of the tracks feature co-creators Katz and Snyder with actor H. Jon Benjamin, and two more pair Katz with frequent guest star Ray Romano. All six conversations are appealingly loose, and the Katz-Snyder-Benjamin tracks keep up a particularly good pace of anecdotes and mock-caustic cutting-up (when Romano and Katz run out of steam, they resort to duelling bits, also entertaining).

The disc also includes several Squigglevision shorts, starting with "The Biography of Mr. Katz" (8:31), which peppily strings together Katz stand-up material, and "Shrink Wrapped" (0:49), the Snyder short that inspired the series. You'll also find two vintage Short Attention Span Theatre shorts: "Too Attached" (1:07) and "Law and Food" (1:01), both of which play as warm-ups to the Dr. Katz series. "A Conversation with Dave Attell" (5:07) is a mini-commentary of reminiscing between Attell and Katz.

Finally, Paramount includes a few trailers and Comedy Central Quickies for Drawn Together ("Hang in There Baby"—1:09), Mind of Mencia ("Tag!"—1:17), and South Park ("Stupid Spoiled Whore"—2:37). Especially at its budget price, Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist: Season One is well-worth a purchase.
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