Stand-up comedy as psychological therapy
Loves: "Dr. Katz", H. Jon Benjamin, Stand-Up Comedy, Dave Attell
Likes: Jonathan Katz, Ray Romano
Hates: Wendy Liebman
In the first season, the roster of acts included Bill Braudis ("Home Movies"), Dom Irrera, Wendy Liebman, Ray Romano, Joy Behar, Dave Attell (with hair!), Laura Kightlinger, Larry Miller, Anthony Clark and Andy Kindler. Though Romano is the best of the bunch easily, with his bits about his daughter's daydreaming and his wife, there's no one who fails to get a laugh, and Attell, Kightlinger, Miller and Kindler are extremely funny. Attell's act, which is often nonsensical, lends itself best to the animation, while Irrera integrates the most into the overall series.
The show complemented the therapy sessions with Dr. Katz's home and office life, both of which can get very surreal. Though Dr. Katz is very laid-back, his son Ben (H. Jon Benjamin, "Home Movies") is an emotional eternal child, getting himself into some weird situations, like raising pot-bellied pigs or driving without the ability to drive. Ben has an infatuation with Laura (Laura Silverman), Dr. Katz' acerbic receptionist, who has a stand-offish relationship with just about everyone. When Dr. Katz isn't listening to comics, he's listening to his pal Stan (Will Lebow) at their friend Julie's (Julianne Shapiro) bar.
The whole set-up really just allows the show to move from punchline to punchline. The show never lingers very long on a joke, separating scenes with musical transitions. Without the commercials that ran between transitions, the pacing can get to be a bit manic, bouncing from moment to moment, but after a while it all sorts out if you give it a chance.
Unfortunately, there are just six episodes here, which is really a tease, as once you get into the show, it's over. Later seasons had 13-episode runs, so what you get is a taste of Dr. Katz. Instead, Comedy Central should have combined it with Season Two, the way "Newsradio" was released.
On a side note, it's kind of cool to see the old "Presented by Comedy Central" end screens on these episodes, including the original (I think) version with voice-over by Penn Jillette. It makes me nostalgic for the old days of the network when stand-up was king.
The audio, delivered in a Dolby Digital Stereo track, is just as it should be, with crisp dialogue. There's not much else to the show's audio, so this is more than acceptable, though a DTS mix of two characters just talking would be a blast, wouldn't it?
Due to the low-key style of the commentators, these tracks can be slow in spots and they do slip into inside bits at times, but they are having a good time reminiscing. I expected much more from the Katz/Romano tracks, but the second one has long breaks of silence, and neither lets loose. Yes, they are funny, but not as funny as one would expect. These tracks really show what kind of effect personality can have on a commentary
The packaging indicates there's a commentary with Dave Attell, but oddly, his episode is the only one without a commentary track. That's because his commentary is actually presented as a separate extra, titled "A Conversation with Dave Attell." It's really an audio commentary with Katz and Attell, over only Attell's scenes from the fourth episode. It's a bit random, as they quickly seque from the show to the early Comedy Central line-up and a frozen Walt Disney.
The packaging gets it wrong again, listing a special feature titled "The Biography of Dr. Katz." Close, but it's actually "The Biography of Mr. Katz," which is like a pilot for the series, as Katz talks about his life, and that life is animated in an early example of Squigglevision. It's cute and will appeal to fans of Katz' understated comedy, though the laughter from an unseen woman could have been disposed of. "Shrink Wrapped", another early Squigglevision effort follows, but the 48-second short is neither all that fun or interesting, though as an animation artifact it might have some value. It also shows an unusual interest in psychiatry in the creators.
Two shorts from the old "Short Attention Span Theater" are also included, though these may just be clips from other episodes. "Too Attached" features Cathy Ladman while "Food and Law" has Larry Miller. They are very brief, but funny nonetheless.
The disc also has three Central Quickies (clips from "Drawn Together", "Mind of Mencia" and "South Park"), and a few previews for other Comedy Central shows.
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