Judge Neal Masri is one great big ball of bitch.
"My father tried everything to quit smoking. He tried hypnosis and it didn't really take. Then he tried that thing with all the needles, what do they call that…Heroin. He loves it."—Bill Braudis
Many fans' prayers have finally been answered with the release of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: Season One. The six episode first season of this Emmy-winning show is finally available to the cult of Katz on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Dr. Katz. lives with this unemployed son, has a sullen receptionist who can barely mask her contempt for him, and has a practice where he treats a number of comedian patients. Series co-creator and star Jonathan Katz puts comics Ray Romano, Joy Behar, Larry Miller, Dom Irrera, Dave Attell, and others on the couch for therapy.
Dr. Katz was born from a series of shorts created for a Comedy Central show called Short Attention Span Theater. The shorts basically involved stand-up comedians doing their bits in the guise of being in therapy. The premise of these shorts was eventually expanded to create Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.
Every episode is, for the most part, plot-less. Each show features banter between Dr. Katz (Jonathan Katz, Daddy Day Care), his son Ben (H. Jon Benjamin, New York Minute), and Katz's receptionist Laura (Laura Silverman, Half Baked), along with a few secondary characters. Interspersed with these conversations are sessions in which Dr. Katz is conducting therapy with guest star comedians.
The guest stars are all stand-up comedians and their sessions are essentially greatest hits of their stand-up acts. In the commentary for the second episode Katz says he generally told them to go into the sound booth and do their set. They would then build a therapy session around it and drop in Katz's lines. Most stand-up comics worth their salt have at least five minutes of very funny material. By taking the crème de la crème of each comedian's act, the creators of this show constructed some gut-busting episodes.
The real stand-out in Season One is a pre-Everybody Loves Raymond Ray Romano. Ray is featured in three of the six episodes and with good reason. His sessions are hysterical. Katz relates on one of the commentaries that Ray is much funnier in his stand-up than he was on his sitcom. I agree wholeheartedly. Ray's take on Burger King in Canada is worth the price of this disc alone.
Don't let the comedian angle fool you though; some of the most entertaining scenes are the ones featuring Dr. Katz and his slacker, unemployed son Ben. The character dynamic between Dr. Katz and Ben is dead on from the first episode and is quite entertaining throughout the entire run of the series. Most of the dialogue is adlibbed and, as such, comes across as organic rather than scripted. The verbal delivery of everyone on the show can best be described as conversational. The style is very distinctive and if you watch a bunch of episodes in succession, you will probably find yourself talking just as the characters do.
Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist was the first show ever animated in the process that became knows as "squiggle vision." It's a bit hard to describe, but essentially it means that all the shapes wiggle and undulate constantly. It was subsequently used in several animated shows. It can be a bit hard to watch at times. I found myself wondering if it had ever caused any seizures in television viewers.
The disc has commentaries on five of the six episodes in the set. The first episode features a commentary by Jonathan Katz, producer Tom Snyder, and H. Jon Benjamin. The commentaries take on the same conversational style as the episodes, with Katz and Benjamin interacting in much the same way as they do in character. The participants goof off most of the time while discussing the show sporadically. Ray Romano makes an appearance on two commentaries with Jonathan Katz covering his episodes. Romano mostly reminisces with Katz about his work on the show. Romano also relates that, twelve years later, he is still performing exactly the same bits that he did on this show. Dave Attell also makes a brief commentary on his couch session in the extras section of the disc.
Also included in the set is an early Katz feature titled The Biography of Dr. Katz featuring Katz himself in therapy. It has the look of an early effort that was used to sell the concept. There are also two Short Attention Span Theater shorts which feature Dr. Katz. They are funny but very brief, clocking in at about a minute each. The set is rounded out by an early squiggle vision short entitled Shrink Wrapped.
Video is hard to judge due to the odd jiggling inherent in squiggle vision. Trying to judge sharpness here would be quite difficult. As someone who saw every episode during its original run, I can tell you that the disc is a fair representation of the source material. I am reasonably sure that this is the best that the show has ever looked. Dialogue comes through loud and clear in the stereo audio.
This brief first season will provide you with a great introduction to the good Doctor. If you missed this show during its initial run in the mid to late Nineties, you owe it to yourself to check it out. This is some of the funniest television of the Nineties.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The comedian "patients" are obviously regurgitating some of the best bits from their stand up act. If you close your eyes you can easily picture them with bad '80s haircuts, wearing a skinny leather ties, and standing in front of a brick wall.
It's great to see this consistently funny (and often hilarious) show out on DVD. Much of the comedy is observational rather than topical, meaning that the material has aged well. Even though the show sticks slavishly to its format, the introduction of new patients each week keeps things very fresh. Add to that fantastic voice work by the regular cast members and you have a great show that never got the recognition or audience that it deserved. You know what the music means, our time is up.
Not guilty by reason of mental defect.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Dave Attell, H. Jon Benjamin, Jonathan Katz, Ray Romano, and Tom Snyder
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