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Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist --
The Complete Series (1995-2000)
Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 11/20/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/18/2007
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. Fans of the show will be interested to learn that every episode is now available in Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist -- The Complete Series.
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. And we get a pretty incredible list of guests here. While some of the "patients" are pretty obscure and will only be known to devoted fans of stand-up, we also have such familiar names as Whoopi Goldberg, Garry Shandling, David Duchovny, Ray Romano, Joy Behar, Winona Ryder, Jon Stewart, Rodney Dangerfield, Lisa Kudrow, Dave Chappelle, and many, many more. This presents a really nice mixture of people whom we know and some that we don't. The good news is that most of them are at least a little funny and some are hysterical.
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.
The humor in Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist may be too subtle for some, but if you like a mixture of over-the-top and subtle comedy, then the show is worth checking out.
Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist -- The Complete Series confides in DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. This 13-disc boxed set contains all six seasons of the show. 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.
One has to wonder what's going on with the Dr. Katz DVD releases. Paramount Home Entertainment had previously released a DVD of Season One and then a DVD of Season Two. The automatic assumption was that these single-season releases would continue. But, then suddenly, we get a humongous boxed set with all six seasons. Perhaps the powers that be decided that die-hard fans would want to go ahead and have all of Dr. Katz and that they'd be willing to pay for it.
The set contains all of the extras from the first two releases, plus some new ones. 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. Series creator Tom Snyder, Jonathan Katz, and Laura Silverman provide AUDIO COMMENTARY on Episodes 201 and 204. These are interesting commentaries, as they are a mixture of scene-specific comments and anecdotes of how the show was done. The three are very frank in their assessments of the shows highs and lows. There are three “Follow-up Calls”, where Jonathan Katz speaks with Joy Behar (8 minutes), Emo Philips (8 minutes), and Steven Wright (11 minutes). These segments are funny, especially Philips and Wright, but they can re-capture the magic of the original Dr. Katz show.
Disc 13 contains three unaired "lost" episodes; "Bakery Ben" featuring Dave Attell, Catherine O'Hara, and Steve Sweeney; "Uncle Nothing" with Kevin Brennan and Louis C.K.; and "Lerapy" with Whoopi Goldberg and Conan O'Brien. These are regular, full-length episodes. "An Evening with Dr. Katz: Live at the Comedy Central Stage" (44 minutes) is essentially a live-action version of the show with Jonathan Katz, Laura Silverman, and H. Jon Benjamin playing their characters from the show, with Kathy Griffin, Maria Bamford, Andy Kindler, and Paul F. Tompkins playing themselves as patients. There are two problems here; 1) one misses the animation, as Dr. Katz's animated expressions are priceless, and 2) this isn't very funny. This feels like an intro to improv college class. "Why I Haven't Been Coming to the Bar" (7 minutes) are four conversations between Dr. Katz, Julie, and Stanley. They are essentially voiceovers shown over animated backgrounds. As with the abovie, this isn't very funny. These two extras feel like pale imitations of a very funny show. The set also contains an illustrated booklet with an hilarious biography from Dr. Katz and comments from some of the the guests from the show.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long