Dr Katz, Professional Therapist: Season 1
”Successful cartoon characters either have a speech impediment, like Daffy Duck or Elmer Fudd, or they look very cute,” says Jonathan Katz in his commentary on the first episode of his cartoon series. Indeed, the animated version of the comedian Katz — who plays a meek psychiatrist saddled with gloomy middle-aged singledom, a slacker son dreaming of becoming a daredevil, and the taxing demands of his pesky patients — is neither afflicted with a stammer nor cuddly. But he does shake a whole lot, which offers one positive effect for the viewer: It’s impossible to fall asleep amid the many sluggish moments because we’re perpetually paralyzed by the fear of epileptic convulsions.
The producers have named the crude so-called computer technology used to animate Dr. Katz ”Squigglevision.” But really it just resembles an Etch-A-Sketch in motion set to static, drab, largely black-and-white backdrops. The outlines of characters constantly twitch, as if everyone in Katz’s cartoon realm is stricken with some debilitating neurological disorder (and maybe they are).
It may not be fair to fault the shaky animation, since Katz and cocreator Tom Snyder already do that for us on the commentaries. ”For every five people that hated it,” jokes Snyder, ”there was one person who didn’t mind it that much.” This self-deprecating tone prevails throughout the commentaries on the six episodes included in this set, and helps sustain the funny factor during the ‘toon’s more sedate moments.
And Dr Katz, Professional Therapist: Season 1 can be a funny show, even if it revolves around a hit-or-miss formula. ”It basically was a comedic garbage dump of material,” snipes regular guest Dave Attell (Insomniac) on an interview included on the disc. The cartoon doctor specializes in treating stand-up performers, essentially playing themselves. That is to say, therapy sessions turn into performances of actual stand-up routines, with a sprinkling of Katz’s droll analysis and illustrated digressions (like a patient complaining about the constant sensation of ants crawling up her face). Given this clever conceit, any appreciation of individual eps wholly depends on who’s sitting on that couch. Dom Irrera caustically asking ”Do you ever get so hungry you just wanna punch someone in the face?” is a riot, but then up-and-comer Ray Romano’s bits feel like rehearsals of material for his future hit CBS sitcom. Perhaps it was funny and fresh back then, but Ray‘s domestic derision feels too tried and tired now, in a cartoon format a decade later.
The later Katz seasons, when the show attracts the likes of Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien, Janeane Garafalo, and even Winona Ryder, are clearly the DVDs to hold out for. Katz himself admits on the commentary that he hadn’t yet found a rhythm in the frosh season, taking his role as therapist a bit too seriously: ”I bored a lot of people to death.”
Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist: Season 1