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Analyzing TV shrinks

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Cracker, welcome to the club. Over the years, TV has given us enough fictional shrinks to staff the psychiatric wing of a big-city hospital. Unlike in real life, however, these small-screen Freuds seem as loopy as their patients. (Okay, so it’s exactly like real life.) We asked Dr. Will Miller — Nick at Nite’s on-air therapist — to analyze a few high-profile tube psychologists. So, Dr. Miller, what’s on your mind?

PATIENT: Gerry ”Fitz” Fitzgerald (Robert Pastorelli), the disheveled crime psychologist in ABC’s new fall drama Cracker
DIAGNOSIS: Cracker‘s cracked. ”This guy has severe narcissistic personality disorder,” asserts Miller. ”He could be a full-fledged sociopath. He has no desire to be accepted in the community.” Fitz’s tantrums, heavy drinking, and neglect of family indicate he’s been ”disturbed from the very early years of his life….He could benefit from Prozac. He would be best suited to manual labor.”

PATIENT: The unnamed therapist (Oprah Winfrey) who guided Ellen out of the closet on last year’s much-hyped episode on ABC
DIAGNOSIS: We don’t know much about this shrink’s personal life, but her therapeutic technique is aces. ”She did a terrific job,” says Miller. ”Very credible.” Specifically, she was supportive and refrained from making moral judgments, but didn’t sugarcoat the consequences of this tough decision. Also, she ”didn’t initiate too much. She let Ellen talk. I’d refer someone to her in a minute.”

PATIENTS: Frasier (Kelsey Grammer) and Niles (David Hyde Pierce), the fussy brothers on NBC’s Frasier
DIAGNOSIS: ”These boys are really struggling with rage toward their father [a retired cop],” says Miller. ”It’s like they said, ‘I am so enraged at you, I am going to cultivate a personality that’s the polar opposite of you.”’ To Miller, their ill-at-ease demeanor indicates ”they are waiting to have a psychological breakthrough. It could mean they discover their homosexuality. It could mean they discover they should have been cops.”

PATIENT: Jonathan Katz, the shrinking shrink on Comedy Central’s Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist
DIAGNOSIS: ”His passivity is his most worrisome trait,” says Miller. Katz barely objects as his comedian patients lambaste, prod, and taunt him. ”The question is, Is he doing this because he’s very devoted, or does he have some issues himself about needing to be abused and punished?”

PATIENT: Bob Hartley, the button-down Chicagoan of the classic 1972-78 sitcom The Bob Newhart Show, currently residing on Nick at Nite
DIAGNOSIS: Like his colleague Dr. Katz, Hartley has trouble in the assertiveness department. Take his notorious stammer. ”It’s a communication disorder,” says Miller. ”He’s saying in effect, ‘I’d really rather play music or draw pictures for you, but bear with me, I’ll get this out eventually.”’ Dr. Hartley, however, does get kudos for holding group-therapy sessions. ”In this time of rabid individualism, more people would benefit from a group process.”

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