Before it picked up the British-made AbFab, Comedy Central was best known as the fortress of solitude for Mystery Science Theater 3000 geeks. Amusingly, AbFab — so energetically relentless in its own bad taste — ended up giving Comedy Central some class, and the cable outfit is capitalizing on its current visibility by introducing a few new series — another British import, Drop the Dead Donkey, and a domestic cartoon, Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist.
Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist was cocreated by comedian Jonathan Katz, who also supplies the voice for Dr. Katz, a bald, middle-aged Manhattan therapist who speaks to everyone, from his patients (voiced by various comics) to his teenage son Ben (H. Jon Benjamin), in tentative, lulling tones. Dr. Katz is already being compared to the old Bob Newhart Show, and there’s certainly something of Newhart’s gentle wackiness in the way Katz deals with his eccentric analysands.
But Dr. Katz is actually more like the comic sketches that Mike Nichols and Elaine May used to perform; the cartoon’s dialogue is low-key and yet suffused with high emotion. Sometimes Dr. Katz is a little too early-period Woody Allen — more whines than jokes. But so far, Dr. Katz has proved capable of a brisk originality. Jonathan Katz avoids all trite psychiatric yuks, while the animation — a minimalist variation in which the figures don’t so much move as pulse softly across the screen — is perfectly suited to the show’s verbal tone of muted hilarity. B+