Down the Ballot

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Go Screen Yourself: Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist Season 1

Dr. Katz was a therapist to some of the most eccentric patients ever. He seemed to not be able to avoid these highly strange, neurotic individuals. They all had problems; all were somewhat successful celebrities. Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist was an animated television series that aired from 1995-1999 on Comedy Central. It was in the trend of adult animation shows that were hitting the airwaves in the 90s. Once The Simpsons opened the door, shows like Dr. Katz started being produced.

The show utilized a  form of animation called 'Squigglevision' pioneered by animator Tom Snyder. Don't remember Squigglevision? Well here's a sampling from Dr. Katz talking with Patton Oswalt about Han Solo.

Basically Squigglevision was a computer animation process that layered several slightly different drawings in a sequence called a 'flick'. The animators then merge the flicks into a scene, and synchronize them with the voice and music of the soundtrack. While some people complained of adverse health effects (mostly headaches and some vomiting) most people really only had aesthetic complaints about the form. Still Squigglevision allowed many shows to flourish. Mostly they used Squigglevision as a cost saving measure. It was a cheap way to animate for cable tv.

Dr. Katz is probably my favorite, he was voiced by comedian Jonathan Katz and his son Ben was voiced by H. Jon Benjamin (of Bob's Burgers). Laura Silverman played his assistant at the office. Episodes generally revolved around his celebrity patient sessions. There were usually two per episode and in the first season the comedians that were patients mostly preformed modified versions of their standup routines. By later seasons the show started to explore the bonds of the three characters (not much, but at least they weren't only doing recycled stand up).

Some of his patients include: Jon Stewart, Emo Phillips, Dave Attell, Kathy Griffin, David Duchovny, Ray Romano, and many others. Dr. Katz would try his best to help, but he never seemed to be really to get through to any of them. Along with Squigglevision, the show also relied on a 'retroscripting'. Most shows rely on a  script and writers get very upset when you deviate from that script. On Dr. Katz, only a basic outline was given with what a scene should be and often Katz and Benjamin would improvise a lot of the dialogue. If done right, it can add a lot of realism to a show. 

There were six episodes in the first season. Three of the episodes featured Ray Romano. I think the show really hit its stride by the third season. In 2002, Comedy Central aired three episodes that did not get aired in 1999. The last show featured Whoopi Goldberg and Conan O'Brien. The music chimed and that signaled the end of not only a therapy session but also the series. Here is a clip from a season one episode featuring Dom Irrera.
While this show might not be for everyone, I always enjoyed it. Growing up my parents had a love hate relationship with cable tv and for many years we didn't have it. So when I would go to my aunts house I would always try and watch Comedy Central and this was one of the shows I always tried to watch.
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