Review of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (1995)

Moving picture, 33 hours

A middle-aged ex-hippie psychotherapist named Jonathan Katz, played by the comedian of the same name, has a private practice in New York and a clientele composed mainly of comedians. Each episode has several scenes of ostensible therapy where the patients vaguely play themselves but mainly just adapt material from their stand-up comedy routines to the conversation.

Each episode also has an overarching plot, generally initiated as Jonathan has breakfast with his son Ben, a 24-year-old NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) who lives with his divorced dad in an ongoing failure to do anything with his life after leaving college. Ben has very few friends and no ability to combine his short-lived ambitions with effort. However, he quickly develops a one-sided stalker’s love for Laura, an unsociable and slightly less lazy young woman who works as Jonathan’s assistant. Her humanity slowly bleeds through her acerbic exterior. After work, Jonathan hangs out with two friends at a bar.

Ultimately an episodic sitcom, but with intriguing realistic and romantic injections. Characters laugh at one another’s good jokes in lieu of a laugh track.

This less-ironic Seinfeld (1989) clone is spasmodically illustrated radio, animated in “Squigglevision”, an extremely cheap way to create the illusion of life at the heart of animation. Squigglevision was used in several other shows but died an ugly death with the rise of Flash and similarly superior alternatives in 1999, the year of Katz’s final season. Living things and moving objects are drawn in a single pose per shot, like frizz on “La Jetée” (1962). Mouths and eyes move, and there is the occasional gesture or fragment of greater motion, but most of the time a handful of cels are sloppily created and looped without any diegetic action. A lot of dialogue is improvised around a basic plot outline and sounds uncommonly credible, but there is very little visual input in support of it.

Two indifferent appearances by Jon Stewart as a patient. Ray Romano dominates as a very funny patient early on, but is later replaced by the unfunny Dom Irrera as part of the extensive shark-jumping of the last two seasons. That also involves Todd the utterly forgettable video rental clerk, and a lamentable failure to provide any sort of character development or plot serialization. The third- and second-to-last episodes had enough material to motivate lasting change, but it’s all annihilated in the usual American way. Rita Rudner is probably the single funniest patient. Ben is a wonderfully tragic-comic character, and Laura is sexy for a character who is practically just a voice.

References here: The Midnight Gospel (2020).

moving picture animation fiction series