Katz, Professional Therapist - Season One
Sound: B-†††† Extras: A-†††† Episodes: A-
When the then-fledgling comedy channel Comedy Central was
attempting to break out to more markets and greater numbers of viewers in the
mid-to-late-1990s, the channel increasingly relied on original programming to
accomplish their goals.† South Park
(reviewed elsewhere on this site) was the most successful of Comedy Central's
creations, and continues to be one of their flagships.† Another important component was The Daily
Show, originally hosted by Craig Kilborn.†
Like South Park, The Daily Show has proven to be a
catalyst for drawing viewers and cable companies alike to the network.
But an equally important piece of the puzzle was Dr.
Katz, Professional Therapist.†
Starring comedian Jonathan Katz as an animated shrink helping solve the
quandaries of patients like Ray Romano, Dave Attell, and Larry Miller, Dr.
Katz was a draw as much for his muted hilarity as it was for its odd
animation.† Done in Squigglevision, a
style of animation in which characters don't move beyond mouth movements and
instead are vertically squiggled to create the appearance of spatial movements,
Dr. Katz was unlike anything on television.
For six seasons, Dr. Katz was a staple of Comedy
Central's original programming.† But,
unlike the other staples South Park and The Daily Show, went off
the air after six seasons.† Despite its
cult popularity, the fact that the show was on TV for as long as it was is,
frankly, astounding.† Considering
television from an early-21st century standpoint where daring, original,
groundbreaking programming isn't given much of a chance despite any amount of
critical success, audience following, or Emmy awards (see: Arrested
Development), Dr. Katz is an anomalous program.† It was ahead of its time, as South Park
was, but operated on a level of quirkiness that wasn't appealing to large
audiences the way South Park was.†
But, at the same time, it was allowed to foster an audience and grow the
popularity of a fledgling network.
Watching the first season of the show, a season that saw
only six episodes, again on DVD in this new era of TV is both refreshing and
disappointing.† Refreshing because it's
wonderful to be reacquainted with a show that continues to be hilarious and
engaging even 11 years after itís originally airdate.† But it's disappointing because there is nothing on TV that is
like it -- and there likely will never be again.† This first season is an essential addition to any comedy or
television fan's library.
The six episodes included on the set's one disc are
presented in 1.33 X 1 full-frame image and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which is
how they aired originally.† The episodes
look and sound good, but to be fair it's a bit difficult to judge the visual
successes or shortcomings of these episodes given the Squigglevision
animation.† But what isn't debatable is
how impressive the extras complement for this disc is.
Five of the six episodes have commentaries attached to
them, which is wholly impressive, and there are three Dr. Katz shorts
included:† Short Attention Span Theater
shorts "Too Attached" and "Law and Food" and "The
Biography of Mr. Katz."†
Additionally, there is a fourth short, "Shrink Wrapped," an
original Squigglevision creation.† A
veritable sixth commentary is found in the feature "A Conversation with
Dave Attell," in which Katz and Attell discuss over footage from the show
Attell's involvement with Dr. Katz.†
It's an interesting extra for Dr. Katz fans, but it seems a bit
crass considering how much of a Comedy Central darling Attell is.† Similarly, the final "extra" on
the disc are three Comedy Central Quickies -- one from Drawn Together,
another from South Park and a third from Mind of Mencia.† They're funny shorts to be sure, especially
the South Park bit, which is about Paris Hilton, but they're wholly
advertorial.† When you couple that with
the five minutes of Comedy Central
ads for other DVDs that you can't skip through, there's a bit of a salacious
feeling creeps into the set that's hard to get past.
But that said, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist -
Season One is worthy of a place on your shelf.† That's directed not to fans of the show -- they're so devoted to
the program that there's been a space reserved on their shelves for this series
since the first days of DVDs -- but rather for those who missed the show
originally or just want to watch something they can't find on TV today.† It's a nice window on a better time in
television, the early days of one of TV's biggest cable channels, and a primer
on one of the most original shows of the past 15 years.
-†† Dante A.