When I reviewed “The Critic: The Complete Series” back in 2004, I noted that it and “Dr. Katz Professional Therapist” were the two cult TV shows I was hoping would make it to DVD. At last, the circle is complete. Well, not quite: this is only season one, and there like five or six more seasons to go, but you get the point.
“Dr. Katz” stars, unsurprisingly, Dr. Katz, a mild-mannered, Bob Newhart-esque therapist who plays the foil for his dimwitted son’s buffoonery, his acidic receptionist’s lack of a work ethic, and his patients’ comedy routines. Yes, comedy routines—you’ll hear plenty of good stuff from Ray Romano, Dave Attell, Joy Behar, and other comedians who drop by the office to rant about their lives.
Each of the six episodes on this season one DVD features three or four of Dr. Katz’s appointments with his patients. They form a thread that stitches together a loose storyline involving his always-amusing interactions with his son, Ben, and his receptionist, Laura. Occasionally he gets away from it all to chat with his friend, Stanley, at the bar where Julie works. Admittedly, the bits at the bar tend to be the weakest ones, since Stanley and Julie are fairly normal; this show is at its best when Dr. Katz is contending with the lunatics who run the asylum that is the rest of his life.
Yeah, the animation is crude, and I realize the SquiggleVision thing isn’t for everyone, but you have to look past that and appreciate the humor. Series creators Jonathan Katz and Tom Snyder also do a great job of throwing in the goofiest images at just the right moments—Dr. Katz is talking about his son’s harebrained scheme to buy a pair of Vietnamese pigs, for example, and we see the hogs arrive at his house with their luggage, the male in a bow tie and the female with a bow on her head. It’s delightfully silly, and it works.
All but one of the episodes feature commentaries by Snyder, Katz, and H. Jon Benjamin, who played Ben. Unfortunately, they spend more time goofing off and reminiscing about the good old days than they spend talking about the show’s origins, but there are a few gems to mine in there. Ray Romano also shows up for commentary tracks on two of the episodes (he appears in three of them, delivering some very funny pre-“Everyone Loves Ray” material); it’s basically more of the same.
For whatever reason, the episode with Dave Attell and Laura Kightlinger doesn’t have a full commentary track. Instead, we get a five-minute commentary in the bonus features section; it has Attell and Katz reminiscing over one of the scenes from the episode.
Moving on, we have “The Biography of Mr. Katz,” a pre-“Dr. Katz” animated short that runs about eight minutes. Mr. Katz is actually the patient, and it sounds like Julianne Shapiro, the actress who played Julie on the show, voices the therapist. We also get to see an early version of SquiggleVision. I’m not sure if it ever aired anywhere. It’s not bad, but I can see why the decision was made to turn Mr. Katz into Dr. Katz and let other comedians play off him.
Next we have a 45-second (yes, 45 seconds) SquiggleVision short about a troubled kid who sees a therapist. We also get a pair of SquiggleVision shorts that run about a minute apiece. Each one features an early version of Dr. Katz talking to comedians Larry Miller and Kathy somebody-or-other (I recognize her voice but can’t think of her last name). My guess is all three of them probably ran as between-show bits on Comedy Central, but I don’t know.
Three Comedy Central Quickies, which I do know ran between shows, round out this disc: “Drawn Together: Hang in There Baby,” “Mind of Mencia: Tag!” and “South Park: Stupid Spoiled W***e.” There’s also a five-minute promo for other Comedy Central DVDs that obnoxiously plays when you first put the disc in your player. Why must Comedy Central and Paramount Home Entertainment torture us with stupid promos when we just want to experience a little Dr. Katz?