Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: Season One review by Mike Long

Following the success of The Simpsons, prime-time television was flooded with animated shows, and this trend still continues to this day. (In fact, this trend spilled over from prime time into late night with the "Adult Swim" shows on Cartoon Network.) These shows have come and gone, with varying degrees of success and quality, but few of them, no matter how successful were able to create their own niche. An exception to that rule was Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. This unique show is now available on DVD.

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist is essentially two shows in one. Dr. Katz (voiced by Jonathan Katz) is a...well...professional therapist. He is a quick-witted, yet subdued man, who speaks with a stammer. He lives with his 20-something son, Ben (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), who doesn't have a job and spends most of his time sitting around Dr. Katz's apartment. Despite the constant nagging and hinting by his dad, Ben never shows any interest in getting a job. Ben seems to be much more interested in snacking. Dr. Katz doesn't get any respect at work either, where he has a lazy and surly secretary named Laura (voiced by Laura Silverman). When he has problems, Dr. Katz turns to his friend Stanley (voiced by Will Le Bow), who is a fast-talking blow-hard.

The other part of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist deals with Dr. Katz's patients. The patients that Dr. Katz sees are all (save for some exceptions) professional stand-up comedians. While Dr. Katz asks them questions, the comedians essentially do there stand-up routine. This may sound odd, but as most comedians exorcise their demons on stage, the therapist's office setting doesn't seem that weird.

We will re-visit the dichotomous nature of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist in a moment, but one can't discuss the show without talking about the animation style. The used a process called "Squigglevision", which was created by the show's co-creator/producer Tom Snyder (not the famous TV host). Squigglevision is a bizarre animation style in which the actual animated movements by the characters is very limited -- typically only their mouths, or possibly an arm move -- but the entire image is constantly moving, or squiggling. The process is quite disconcerting at first and it looks as if the whole picture is underwater. The animation also uses an unusual mixture of colors, as the show is in color, but some parts of some scenes are in black and white.

Now, back to the show itself. Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist is a very funny show which offers incredibly funny dialogue, combined with the kind of sight gags that only animation can provide. Most of the show is improvised, as there is just a loose story idea for the voice actors to follow. Again, the show is divided into two parts. The scenes with Dr. Katz and Ben offer a hilarious back and forth as they constantly discuss, but never argue, Ben's stagnant station in life. The improv nature of the show is clearest here as the two actors often giggle at each other's lines. The other part of the show consists of comedians doing their act opposite Dr. Katz. Again, it's Katz's reactions which increase the already funny aspects of these moments. While the actors and comedians are talking, we are treated to animated scenes which often illustrate what is being said. These pictures are especially humorous during Ray Romano's scenes, most notably his shower problems. Just for reference, the comedians featured in Season One are listed below:

Episode 101: Bill Braudis, Dom Irrera

Episode 102: Wendy Liebman, Ray Romano

Episode 103: Joy Behar, Ray Romano

Episode 104: Dave Attell, Laura Kightlinger

Episode 105: Larry Miller, Ray Romano

Episode 106: Anthony Clark, Andy Kindler

We all have our "Why isn't that on DVD yet?" list and Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist was near the top of mine, so I'm glad that Season One is finally here. The animation may seem terribly low-budget and annoying to some, but the show's clever and sly comedy makes it one of the most intelligent programs of the past decade.

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: Season One confides in DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The episodes contained on this DVD are presented in their original full-frame aspect ratio, but the show itself is letterboxed at about 1.78:1. The episodes look good, as the image is sharp and clear. There is no discernible grain here and no defects from the source material. The "Squigglevision" doesn't help with the fact that there is some video noise on the image which makes some jagged lines in the animation. The colors look good, most notably the reds. The DVD contains a Dolby digital stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and music. The audio sounds fine, but as this show is very dialogue driven, the important thing is that the voices are clear. The stereo effects are very discreet, but effective at times.

For a six episode DVD, the Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist disc has a nice amount of extras. Episodes 101, 102, 103, and 106 contain audio commentary by Jonathan Katz, H. Jon Benjamin, and Tom Snyder. These are fun commentaries as the three men constantly question everything happening on-screen and Benjamin doesn't remember many details of making the show. The problem with these track is that all three speakers have very low voices, so it's hard to hear at times. Episodes 103 and 105 have commentaries by Katz and Ray Romano. These chats are fun as well, as the two stand-ups fire jokes at one another. "The Biography of Mr. Katz" (8 minutes) doesn't have an intro, but it's clearly an early attempt at both the show and "Squigglevision" as it features an interview with an animated Jonathan Katz and there are some funny lines here. "Shrink Wrapped: An Original Squigglevision Short" is a 43-second oddity. There are two "Dr. Katz" shorts taken from the old Short Attention Span Theater show from Comedy Central (Man, I miss that show!). Finally, "A Conversation with Dave Attell" is essentially a 5-minute commentary to episode 104.

9 out of 10 Jackasses

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