Judge Kristin Munson has issues. She's not trying to be funny; she just thought you should know.
"Do you want my honest opinion?"—Dr. Katz
Dr Katz, Professional Therapist has been off the air since early 2000, thwarting the common man's desire for good comedy, cheaply animated (Never mind Adult Swim, I said good comedy). The first and second season came to DVD in 2006. Since then, fans have been left waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Is Dr Katz, Professional Therapist: The Complete Series worth it?
No, and it's important and healthy to let these feelings out.
Facts of the Case
Dr. Katz (Jonathan Katz, Hopeless Pictures) is a therapist in the city, along with apathetic secretary Laura (Laura Silverman, The Sarah Silverman Program), slacker son Ben (H. Jon Benjamin Home Movies), and a roster of neurotic patients who deliver their problems in two-minute sets.
Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, which aired in the mid-nineties on Comedy Central, stood out among the endless reruns of Saturday Night Live, Kids in the Hall, and Whose Line is it Anyway, and not just because of the squirmy animation. It merged the sitcom with stand-up comedy, added a generous dose of improv, and became an award-winning, animated hit for Comedy Central, years before four foul-mouthed kids from a certain mountain town arrived on the scene.
There's really not much to an episode of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: the doctor sees two or three patients, he and Ben interact in person and on the phone, and Laura gets snarky with everyone. What made the series unique and entertaining for six seasons was that there were no scripts; the cast would improv their lines in the recording booth, creating dialogue that sounded like actual conversation, not something that had been hammered and molded by a committee of writers.
Katz and Benjamin have a realistic father/son dynamic and do their best work when playing off one another. Together they can take a prompt like "Dr Katz buys an electric bike" or "Ben want to change his image," go into a booth, and churn out some genuinely funny material. If the Sahara dry, laid-back style that Katz employs isn't your taste, Laura Silverman raises withering sarcasm to an art form and a huge variety of comedians is sprinkled across the series. Everyone from the classic (Rodney Dangerfield, The Smothers Brothers), to the now-famous (Jon Stewart, Ray Romano, Dave Chappelle), to the downright bizarre (Winona Ryder, Jeff Goldblum), pops in for a comedy session, although occasionally there's someone who just doesn't get it and acts like they're really in therapy.
Both the video and the audio have transferred to disc surprisingly well, considering the earlier seasons were animated and recorded in the producer's home. Squigglevision, the show's trademark wiggly-line animation, lends the program a frenetic charm and also disguises that the animated characters aren't quite so animated. The technique becomes more refined each season, with smaller humps and less jitters so, by season four, fewer of your friends and family will be reaching for the Dramamine.
Looking at the sidebar, you'd think there are a lot of extras on this set, but almost all of them are recycled from the Season One and Season Two releases. New for the series release are "Why I Haven't Been to the Bar Lately," a series of phone calls played over still frames of animation, and a stage version of the show. The live Dr. Katz features sessions with three talented comedians (and Kathy Griffin), and the tight improv between Katz and Benjamin, but the whole thing drags on too long. Other than that, there's a nicely illustrated booklet written by Katz and some former "patients" that also acts as an episode index. I guess the folks at Comedy Central were too busy repackaging, re-airing and re-releasing Chappelle's Show every six months to contribute anything from their vaults.
Episodes are organized by original broadcast order across thirteen plastic pages in a book the size of the DSM IV (If you don't know what that is, congratulations, you're either not insane or too crazy to realize it). Look up the episode or guest star you want to watch and flip through the cases for fast access without the intense origami training needed to operate a gatefold. Here's the problem: a regular book is attached to its cover at the spine and at the front and back covers if it's a hardcover. The Complete Series is attached only at the back cover. Thirteen plastic cases are held to a slice of cardboard the thickness of a greeting card by a squiggle of glue and your own clammy grip. Drop this sucker and you'll need some counseling yourself, mainly of the anger management variety.
When a studio makes an audience wait a whole year between releases of an older series, and then forces them to repurchase previous sets to get the rest of a favorite show, it doesn't foster much goodwill. Factor in flimsy packaging and an anemic offering of new extras, without so much as a retrospective featurette or added commentaries to reward your cash and patience, and there's even less goodwill. I'm not sure what the logic behind these decisions was, because casual viewers are going to balk at the set's hefty price tag and there's no added incentive for fans beyond the episodes themselves. Add this one to your Netflix queue and wait for the price to drop.
The court declares…oh, I'm sorry, our time is up.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Dave Attell, H. Jon Benjamin, Jonathan Katz, Ray Romano, and Tom Snyder
Review content copyright © 2007 Kristin Munson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.