Dr. Katz Professional Therapist – The Complete Series – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Creators:
Jonathan Katz & Tom Snyder

Cast:
Jonathan Katz….Dr. Katz
H. Jon Benjamin…..Ben
Laura Silverman….Laura

Paramount Home Entertainment presents Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: The Complete Series. Running time: 12 hours 54 minutes. Eighty one episodes on thirteen DVDs. Episodes aired: May 28, 1995 to Dec. 24, 1999. DVD release: November 20, 2007.

The Show

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist was appointment TV for Comedy Central in the late ‘90s. People always get a laugh out of TV shrinks. Bob Newhart Show and Frazier were popular when they poked their client’s brains. Who didn’t get a chuckle when Dr. Melfi asked Tony Soprano about his friends and family? Instead of having fictional recurring characters hit the couch, Dr. Katz specialized in stand-up comics. This made perfect sense since comics merely vent the stuff they’d tell a therapist except the audience pays him for the hour of breakthroughs. They tell us about their mothers from the stage of the Chucklehut. Their time with Dr. Katz isn’t about being cured, but perfecting their material and timing. Many of the great comics of the ’90s were squiggled on the show.

What made Dr. Katz unique was its Squigglevision animation. In the era before flash animation, Squigglevision was a rather inexpensive way of doing computer graphic animation that didn’t involve the CGI costs and computer crunching power necessary for a Pixar epic. The show was made in Tom Snyder’s house in Boston. Squigglevision made the lines around the characters would squirm to create a greater sense of animation. The characters look like they are breathing or about to have a seizure. This technique makes it hard to marathon view Dr. Katz. Squigglevision can easily irritate the eyes after an hour. What this series lacked in technology, it overwhelmed us with heart or at least a therapist who thinks he can tap into your heart.

Dr. Katz’s was the anti-Bob Newhart, although not by his choosing. Katz barely kept up with his patients’ background. He zoned out during their responses. The only thing that gets his attention was the music that signals an end to their hour. Newhart had a chaste relationship with Carol, his receptionist. Dr. Katz has repressed desires for Laura, his slack receptionist. His rival for her attention is Ben, his adult son. Ben isn’t much of a romantic threat since he’s clueless and unemployed. Ben declares his profession as daredevil in the first episode, “Pot-Bellied Pigs.” After not finding many want ads for the next Evel Knievel, he decides to mate pot-bellied pigs as a side gig. Newhart commuted home to his lovely wife. Katz’s wife left him and stuck him with Ben. That doesn’t stop Katz from giving advice on how to save your marriage.

The show was structured so that two comics would swap time on the sofa throughout the episode. You’ll recognize their material that passes for confession. Ray Romano was practically a co-star in the early seasons with his numerous appearances. He does his routine about how he saves money with his twins because he takes a picture of one of them and copies it. He talks about his mother’s insane fears about overfeeding one of the twins. You can consider Everybody Loves Raymond a spin-off of Dr. Katz. “Electric Bike” flips between Ray Ramano and Dave Chappelle. It’s a tag-team of 2003’s biggest comics on network and cable.

Other comics that received Squiggle therapy include Dave Attell, David Cross, Steven Wright, Garry Shandling, Emo Philips, Judy Tenuta, Janeane Garofalo, Kathy Griffin, Richard Jeni, Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants), Mitch Hedberg, Jon Stewart, Wanda Sykes and Rodney Dangerfield. Their comic riffs are mildly illustrated so we’re not just staring at their animated faces. The cutaways predict the future of Family Guy humor.

A few non-comics such as Winona Ryder, Ben Stiller and Whoopi Goldberg arrived for help. The best of this batch was David Duchovny. “Metaphors” has him as a patient who wants his session to be conducted while he’s in the broom closet. He doesn’t want to be told what to do anymore. He knows how to play with his image in an animated world. Dr. Katz and his son become a pair of java junkies as they go hardcore into the world of coffee.

“Movies” has the father and son slip off to the cineplex to bond. This time they get addicted to buttered popcorn. Patton Oswalt wants Dr. Katz to be his archenemy. He begs to be strapped to the couch. Whenever he reveals a deep secret, he wants the doctor to say, “Advantage Katz!” “Drunky the Drunk Guy” has Ben concerned about the time his father spends at the local bar. He wants to stage an intervention.

The major surprise of the boxset is the three “lost” episodes. Of the final dozen shows, Comedy Central marathon dumped nine episodes on Christmas Eve in 1999 and left three in the vault. Now you can behold “Bakery Ben” with the son getting into the bread business. Dave Attell is drawn so he’s balding unlike his first season. “Uncle Nothing” has Louis C.K. with a full head of red hair. Ben sneaks down to the bar to quiz Julie about what his dad is like after a few drinks. The final episode of the series was pure gold. “Lerapy” has Dr. Katz treating Conan O’Brien. The talk show host uses one of Katz’s responses as part of his opening monologue. It draws big laughs. Katz fears Conan is exploiting the doctor-patient confidentiality. Ben pursues a showbiz dream by filtering his jokes through dad to Conan. Whoopi Goldberg shares her fear of being thrown off airplanes over the ocean.

Jonathan Katz had the perfect voice for his nebbish character. He sounds authoritative yet ready to correct his observations. H. Jon Benjamin nails the slacker son. You can believe he did his voice work in a pair of sweat pants and yesterday’s t-shirt. Laura is voiced by Laura Silverman. She currently plays herself on The Sarah Silverman Program. Laura was a Comedy Central star a decade before her sister finally made it on the channel.

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: The Complete Series reminds us that crude animation doesn’t mean crude entertainment. This is a cult show that deserves a second life on DVD if just for the chance to experience the late Mitch Hedberg’s routines. Like The Bob Newhart Show, this was a cerebral comedy about the workings of the mind. It’s just a shame nobody came up with a drinking game for Dr. Katz.

The Episodes

“Pot-Bellied Pigs,” “Pretzelkins,” “Bully,” “Cholesterol,” “Everybody’s Got a Tushy,” “Family Car,” “Bystander Ben,” “Real Estate,” “Glasses,” “Office Management,” “Bees and SIDS,” “Drinky the Drunk Guy,” “Sticky Notes,” “It Takes Some Getting Used To,” “The Particle Board,” “A Journey for the Betterment of People,” “Theory of Intelligence,” “Henna,” “ESP,” “Monte Carlo,” “Blind Date,” “Fructose,” “Earring,” “Koppleman and Katz,” “Guess Who,” “Day Planner,” “Studio Guy,” “Mourning Person,” “L’il Helper,” “Big Fat Slug,” “New Phone System,” “Reunion,” “Ben Treats,” “Memoirs,” “Electric Bike,” “Broadcaster Ben,” “Trash Day,” “Sharon Meyers,” “Mask,” “Closets,” “Wild Weekend,” “Chopper,” “Alibi,” “Ben-Centennial,” “Undercover,” “Old Man,” “Fanny Pack,” “Metaphors,” “Movies,” “Ticket,” “Phone Luv,” “Chain Letter,” “Babysitting Ben,” “Miles Away,” “London Broil,” “Feng Shui,” “Alderman,” “Paranoia,” “Waltz,” “Anniversary,” “Community Theater,” “Ping-Pong,” “Thanksgiving,” “Sissy Boy,” “Pullman Square,” “Wisdom Teeth,” “Past Lives,” “Ben’s Partay,” Walk for Hunger,” “Used Car,” “Ball and Chain,” “Snow Day,” “Garden,” “Big TV,” “Vow of Silence,” “You’re Belinda,” “Radio Katz,” “Expert Witness,” “Bakery Ben,” “Uncle Nothing” and “Lerapy.”

The DVD

VIDEO:
The picture is 1.33:1. Even though the show is slightly letterboxed, there’s no anamorphic enhancement.

AUDIO:
The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital Mono. Five of the six episodes from the first season have commentary tracks from Katz, H. Jon Benjamin, Tom Snyder and Ray Ramano.

EXTRAS:
The Biography of Mr. Katz (8:31) is a short cartoon that puts Jonathan on the couch. He talks about his father. He delivers his stand up material from a reclining position. This early Squigglevision cartoon is from 1992.

Shrink Wrapped: An Original Squigglevision Short (0:49) has a young kid discover his dysfunctional family. It just stops without a real ending.

Too Attached (1:07) was created for Comedy Central’s old Short Attention Span Theater. Dr. Katz has a patient who gets too emotionally involved with her cab drivers. She has seperation anxiety at the end of the ride.

Law and Food (1:01) has kid whose lawyer father would cross examine him at dinner. How different can you make lima beans? This was also featured on Short Attention Span Theater which was once hosted by Jon Stewart.

A Conversation with Dave Attell (5:07) has the former host of Insomniac gabbing with Dr. Katz about his segment. Dave’s animated self has hair. Dave had to pay for his trip to Boston to record his lines. Dave lovingly called the show a “comedic garbage dump of our material.” Katz thought he could cure Dave.

Follow-up Calls from Joy Behar (7:42), Emo Philips (8:32) and Steven Wright (11:07) has Dr. Katz on the phone with various guest patients. Dr. Katz calls Behar so he can promote his new book, Marriage: A Three-Legged Table. Behar doesn’t feel good admitting that she’s gone to therapy. She gets him to admit he doesn’t know what the third leg represents. Emo is as spaced and excitable as ever. He misses his sessions with Dr. Katz. Wright calls Katz from the airport in an attempt to get help with his fear of airplane crashes. Wright confesses he gets sexually aroused while driving to the airport. Maybe Wright will run for Congress? They have a drawing of the guest on the screen while the audio plays.

An Evening with Dr. Katz: Live at the Comedy Central Stage (44:28) lets the performers go live. The guest patients include Kathy Griffin, Maria Bamford, Andy Kindler and Paul F. Tompkins. The story involves Laura accepting Ben’s wedding proposal. This was shot recently since Kathy jokes about Oprah’s boarding school in Africa. It does demonstrate that this show wouldn’t work as well in live action.

Why I Haven’t Been Coming to the Bar (7:11) has Dr. Katz calling Julie and Stanley in the middle of the night. He fears his drinking buddies worrying why he hasn’t been on his stool lately.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Dr. Katz Professional Therapist: The Complete Series
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

8
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

4
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
8
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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