Judge Brendan Babish thinks he might be falling hard for Dr. Katz.
"Weekdays—it's the thinking man's weekend."
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 second season of Dr. Katz contains the following 13 episodes spread out over two discs:
• "Bystander Ben"
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.
• "Real Estate"
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.
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.
• "Office Management"
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.
• "Bees and SIDS"
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
• "Drinky the Drunk Guy"
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.
• "Sticky Notes"
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.
• "It Takes Some Getting Used To"
Bill Braudis and Lew Scheider make for the most nondescript pairing of
comedians this season. Both are mildly amusing, but imminently forgettable.
• "The Particle Board"
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.
• "A Journey for the Betterment of People"
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.
• "Theory of Intelligence"
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Show Creators Jonathan Katz and Tom Snyder and Cast Member Laura Silverman
Review content copyright © 2006 Brendan Babish; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.