Do you remember Starz’ Head Case, a somewhat adlibbed comedy starring Alexandra Wentworth as her own unique brand of unorthodox therapist? Well, we do, and at times we still mourn it. But thanks to Showtime we finally have something to fill the void. Lisa Kudrow’s web series Web Therapy condenses the on-the-couch talking heads of Head Case, or even HBO’s much more serious In Treatment, into three-minute psychiatric sessions, and despite her Dr. Fiona Wallice’s unorthodox attitude, that is the kind of therapy we could get behind! Consisting of the original web episodes, cut together with some additional material, each half-hour episode has Fiona embarking on online sessions with a variety of patients. She doesn’t believe in letting them ramble on about dreams or fears or memories “that add up to a whole lot of nothing,” as far as she is concerned, which is why she keeps it short and sweet, but at times they still manage to go wildly off-topic.
The premiere episode, “Click to Start,” starts with Fiona and her husband (Victor Garber) sitting down side by side to film a test session through two computers’ webcams. Presumably it is to star on her website as an example of what her patients, or clients, as they sometimes appear more to be, will get with this new technology approach, but it also serves to explain as much to the audience. Each session is its own self-contained vignette, in a way, that informs a little bit more of Fiona’s own issues each time a character recurs.
And we can’t help but note that we hope to see more of Garber as they unfold. The two have a natural ease with each other that translates nicely into a banter, that let’s just say, is far from lovey-dovey. You might not expect to laugh out loud with this type of more subtle comedy, but we found ourselves doing so at least a couple of times during the mock session that very quickly goes awry, revealing chinks in the armor of their coupling, as well as Fiona’s ability to guide or aid others in general.
Kudrow really seems to go back to her comedy troupe roots with Web Therapy, transforming into Fiona with simple inflections in her speech and facial ticks that inform Fiona’s sense of entitlement and at times holier than thou attitude. What can we say? It is Kudrow playing to her strengths, and it is something we have missed since The Comeback was unjustly, prematurely, cancelled! It’s the world according to Fiona, and those seeking her help are going to have their own minds opened to the way in which she sees things. Let’s just say she more often than not makes it about herself, and she may be more like Dr. Phil than an actual doctor. Yet somehow she still manages to espouse moments of wisdom that do give her patients, and Showtime’s viewers (and hell, herself), something to think about.
Expect lots of great comedic character actors to pop up as patients, as well. In the first episode alone we get Tim Bagley as an old colleague of Fiona’s who seeks her counsel regarding his current relationship but may still have some unresolved feelings for her after an inter-office flirtation. Jennifer Elise Cox is another former colleague, done up like a Real Housewife of the O.C. reject, who Fiona seems to hold much more disdain for but provides her with the gossip on which she (and her business) will thrive. Finally Dan Bucatinsky is a man with newly discovered incest issues (turns out his girlfriend is actually his father’s biological daughter, as well) attempts to terminate his work with Fiona but she won’t go down quietly.
And stick around through the credits for some out of character outtakes moments. Kudrow still has one of the best laughs in the business. Too bad Fiona is too uptight to let it loose thus far, though.
Web Therapy premieres on Showtime on July 19th at 11pm.
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