Case Number 10365


Paramount // 1995 // 292 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // November 21st, 2006

The Charge

"Weekdays -- it's the thinking man's weekend."

Opening Statement

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist is a lo-fi animated comedy that ran on Comedy Central from 1995-2000. It's probably most famous for being the first show to employ the technique known as Squigglevision, in which the characters don't move, but quiver (or "squiggle") in place to create the impression of movement. And now this cult classic and its unique blend of dry humor returns to DVD with its complete second season.

Facts of the Case

Each episode of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist is divided between Dr. Jonathan Katz's (voiced by comedian Jonathan Katz, not a real doctor) personal life and his therapy sessions, which are usually with comedians who tend to reel off jokes from their acts.

Dr. Katz lives in an apartment with his 24-year-old son Ben (H. Jon Benjamin), a slovenly young man with no job, no ambition, and an overabundance of spare time. Each episode usually contains a fair bit of banter between Katz and his sassy child. At work, Dr. Katz is aided (in theory) by receptionist Laura (Laura Silverman), a stylish young woman who has little respect for her boss and is dismissive of his son, who is obviously in love with her. After work, Dr. Katz often retires to a neighborhood bar and chats with friends Stanley (Will Le Bow) and Julie (Julianne Shapiro).

Every episode of Dr. Katz features two comedians, whose therapy sessions are interspersed within the show's plot. It's the same format as Beavis and Butt-head, except instead of music videos, we get comedians telling some of their more neurotic jokes.

The Evidence

The second season of Dr. Katz contains the following 13 episodes spread out over two discs:

* "Bystander Ben"
The first episode of the season is vintage Katz. Ben "witnesses" a crime and is quoted in the local paper ("No more than three shots, and possibly as few as none, were fired."). The imagined fame this brings gets to Ben's head and he thinks about parlaying it into a showbiz career. This episode quickly established Ben as the best character in the show, and one of the funniest animated characters of all time. Really.

Also, comedian Steven Wright gets major bonus points for not merely regurgitating his act on the couch (unlike the loudmouth Kevin Meaney). Instead, Wright has some humorous interactions with Laura and Ben, and actually has a conversation with Dr. Katz.
Grade: A

* "Real Estate"
After Dr. Katz mistakenly refers to the apartment he shares with son as "my house," Ben starts looking for a place of his own. Dr. Katz tries to convince him that it might be a good idea to get a job before taking on his own rent, but Ben think it's better to make a "bold move" and "let the chips fall where they may."

Of the guest comedians, Barry Sobel, is mildly funny and Rita Rudner is mildly annoying, and both just seem to spew out their acts. This is a solid, but unspectacular episode. If you're trying to get someone into the show, I wouldn't have them start here.
Grade: B

* "Glasses"
Even by Dr. Katz's minimalist standards, this episode's plot is pretty thin. Dr. Katz needs glasses, and he spends the episode worrying that his failing eyesight might mean he is getting old. As always, there are a couple of good jokes, but not nearly enough Ben to rescue the episode.

However, Dom Irrera and Emo Philips are two of the best comedians that are featured on the show. Irrera is particularly good; he is one of the few comedians whose routine is somehow enhanced by Squigglevision, as well as the creative visuals. Philips's comedy, on the other hand, suffers. He might be one of the best comedians of his generation, and criminally underrated, but it's hard to get any kind of momentum going on Dr. Katz when you just spew out a series of one-liners.
Grade: B-

* "Office Management"
This is the first Laura-centric episode of the season. Ben convinces Dr. Katz that Laura is an unhappy employee, and he strives to create a happy work environment. Though Laura's character is somewhat one-note ("surly employee"), she's used sparingly enough that it never gets old. Also, there's a lot of great banter between Ben and Dr. Katz in this episode.

Ray Romano (from pre-Everybody Loves Raymond days) is another comedian whose comedy is enhanced by Dr. Katz's format. In real life he's amusing; on this show he's side-splitting. Carol Leifer gets off a couple of good lines while on the couch, but is really blown away by Romano.
Grade: A-

* "Bees and SIDS"
In dual storylines, a bee infiltrates Dr. Katz's office and brings out his fear of the winged insects, while Ben gets into his father's old medical textbooks and develops hypochondria. This leads to some great exchanges about a possible ovarian cyst, and Ben's worries about developing a latent case of SIDS -- sudden infant death syndrome. The fractured plots somewhat dampen the humor, but this is still a solid episode.

Dom Irrera appears for the second time this season and, with a creepy answering machine message, shows why he is the most frequent gust on Dr. Katz's couch (he actually shares this distinction with Ray Romano at seven appearances each over six seasons). Louis C.K. provides a few chuckles in his supporting comedian role.
Grade: B+

* "Drinky the Drunk Guy"
This is probably the best episode of the year. After Dr. Katz laughs a bit too heartily at one of his own jokes at the dinner table, Ben begins accusing him of having a drinking problem. In addition to nightly harangues, Ben stages an intervention, along with pamphlets and an impassioned hug. And yes, "Drinky the Drunk Guy" is an epithet Ben devises for his father.

Ray Romano provides his typically amusing shtick from the couch in this episode. As an added bonus he even leaves the couch for a hilarious interaction with Laura. Janeane Garafalo (Reality Bites) also makes an unremarkable appearance. Still, great show.
Grade: A

* "Sticky Notes"
In another episode with duel plots, Dr. Katz suspects Laura is stealing office supplies, while Ben stalks a comely new female resident of the apartment complex. Ben's subplot is far stronger, as he spends much of his free time loitering around the building and ends up knocking her over while she's out jogging. All in all, a very strong episode.

Gary Shandling (The Larry Sanders Show) shows up in Dr. Katz's office, and his anxious and self-deprecating humor is a perfect fit for a faux-therapy session. Unfortunately, Judy Tenuda is also featured, and her grating comedy downgrades this otherwise fine episode.
Grade: B+

* "It Takes Some Getting Used To"
Dr. Katz's one night stand with a woman he meets at a conference makes Ben jealous. Meanwhile, Katz slowly gets more excited by the possibility of a new relationship, and starts wearing his old cologne, "Panther Juice" (its strong odor "takes some getting used to"). While this episode lacks any hearty belly laughs, there's plenty of effective dry, subtle humor that is Dr. Katz's stock in trade.

Bill Braudis and Lew Scheider make for the most nondescript pairing of comedians this season. Both are mildly amusing, but imminently forgettable.
Grade: B+

* "The Particle Board"
In this minimalist plot, Dr. Katz and Ben decide to build a new shelf in the living room. Of course, they are not very competent with power tools, and Ben manages to destroy an expensive nail gun by filling it with tacks (out of curiosity). This is another effective episode, but the biggest laugh probably comes from the look on the face of the clerk at the hardware store when Ben tries to return the nail gun. One of the unheralded joys of Dr. Katz is the hilarious affect Squigglevision has on otherwise neutral expressions. It's subtle, and some people might not find it amusing at all, but I get a kick out of it. And I know I'm not the only one.

Marc Maron, who I don't find very funny in real life, is another comedian who seems much funnier in Dr. Katz's format. Ed Brill, like Bill Braudis and Lew Schieder, is decent, but nondescript.
Grade: B+

* "A Journey for the Betterment of People"
Hmmm...maybe this is the best episode of the season. No, wait Sandra Bernhard is in it. Well, it's still pretty close.

After being propositioned by a hooker, Ben feels a calling to take to the streets and help wayward women change their lifestyles. He names this crusade: "A Journey for the Betterment of People." He estimates that he will be able to "save" 3,000 people annually (but never actually stipulates what the requisites are for being saved). This is one of the most inspired plots in the Dr. Katz series and it's executed masterfully.

Todd Barry, one of the funniest comedians in America, also provides great stand-up from the couch. As for Bernhard, well...yeah.
Grade: A

* "Theory of Intelligence"
When Dr. Katz is asked to speak at a local night school, he enlists Ben to help him put together a lecture entitled "Theory of Intelligence." Of course Ben offers little material support, but does crash the lecture with a few inappropriate questions. This isn't vintage Dr. Katz, but it's close.

Joy Behar, of The View fame, has a pretty good dialogue with Dr. Katz in her therapy session. It's always appreciated when a comedian creates some original material to for the show. Brian Kiley gets off a few good jokes, but none of them are gut busters.
Grade: A-

* "Henna"
Ben orders a free supply of henna hair-coloring products and both he and Dr. Katz dye their hair a bright fiery red. Dr. Katz doesn't find the color very becoming, but Ben likes it so much he dyes his arm and chest hair as well. Another great episode.

Kevin Meaney and Fred Stoller are the two guest patients this week. Meany's whiny yelling still isn't amusing, but Stoller -- a relative unknown -- is a pretty funny dude.
Grade: A-

* "ESP"
In the season finale, Ben believes he has developed ESP and spends his days trying to melt plastic spoons and nights trying to levitate (Ben doesn't quite understand what ESP means). Yeah, the show relies very heavily on Ben for laughs, but he is more than capable to handle the load. This is another episode that shows why he is one of the funniest animated characters not in The Simpsons or King of the Hill.

Ray Romano and Tom Agna are the last guest comedians of the season. It's the third appearance for Romano, but his shtick never gets old, and is only enhanced by the Squigglevision visuals. Agna is amusing, but overshadowed by his seasoned counterpart.
Grade: A

In addition to the 13 episodes, this DVD set comes with commentaries from Katz, series co-creator Tom Snyder and actress Laura Silverman on a few select episodes. As one would imagine, this crew gets along very well and prove very amusing. Additionally, the set includes some outtakes of Dr. Katz's therapy sessions.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I should warn those of you with abnormal neuronal activity in your brains: the jerky Squigglevision "animation" might cause seizures. It also might underwhelm those who have been spoiled by the Pixar's CGI animation.

Closing Statement

Yeah, the humor is pretty dry, and the animation is about as lo-fi as it can possibly be, but I find Dr. Katz's minimalist plots and conversational humor somehow comforting and endearing. While I can understand why some might find this show boring, I think it's one of the best animated series of all time, only a few notches below the two pantheon shows, The Simpsons and King of the Hill. And for those of you just jumping on the Dr. Katz bandwagon, take heart, the show's quality remains constant throughout its six seasons.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2006 Brendan Babish; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 80
Acting: 94
Story: 96
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 292 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary by Show Creators Jonathan Katz and Tom Snyder and Cast Member Laura Silverman
* Extra Sessions with the Doctor

* IMDb

* Season One Review