Synopsis: Meet Dr. Elizabeth Goode, Ph. D (Alexandra Wentworth), a brash and judgmental therapist who uses her own unconventional methods of therapy to treat the elite of the entertainment, sports and music industries. Her unique brand of treating the celebrity psyche has made her the “it” therapist in Hollywood and NY with an undeniably thriving practice. Rosanna Arquette, Andy Dick, Ione Skye, Lea Thompson, Richard Kind, James Denton, David Alan Grier, Greg Grunberg, Monica Potter, Joel Madden, Christopher Lloyd, Jason Lewis, Jonathan Silverman, Jennifer Finnigan, Ahmet Zappa, Trudie Styler, Cindy Margolis and Jeff Goldblum guest star as themselves in this Starz Originals series that the New York Post hails as “unscripted, unusual, funny and real!”
eyelights: Jason Preistly. Ralph Macchio. Alanis Morissette. Fred Willard.
eyesores: the humour is slightly heavy-handed at times.
‘Head Case’ is a TV series that aired on Starz, a US cable channel. It’s akin to the BBC’s ‘The Office’, in that its humour can be biting, its lead is embarrassingly inappropriate, its setting is a workplace and it’s shot in a semi-documentary style.
It’s a smaller production, though, featuring three recurring cast members and very little outdoors activity. This first season is also exceptionally short, with only 10 episodes of 12 minutes each – which suggests a trial run by Starz before fully committing to the series.
‘Head Case’ follows the travails of Dr. Goode, a therapist for celebrities, as she deals with her clients, the office dynamics and her own personal life. The central figure, of course, is Dr. Goode, a confident if astringent character with relatively unconventional work practices – not all of them entirely professional and/or ethical.
The other two key players are Lola, the friendly office receptionist, and Dr. Finkelstein, a psychiatrist with a Donald Trump hairdo who shares office space with Dr. Goode.
Lola is a woman who is far too casual to be professional; she constantly interrupts sessions and has personal conversations with clients in the waiting room. She’s sort of sweet, but she obviously doesn’t know where to draw the line, knitting clothes for some of her favourite celebrities and asking for autographs at inopportune times.
Dr. Finkelstein, meanwhile, is an unusual character. His career on a downswing; he can be seen waiting around the waiting room hoping that the clients are his. He will even sometimes try to coax them to come see him instead of Dr. Goode, so desperate is he to restart his practice. He can be amusing at times, but he’s often dull and/or annoying.
What makes the show so much fun, really, is the way in which each celebrity pokes fun at his/her image. There’s nothing more fun than a celebrity taking public perception and riffing off of it, because it indicates self-awareness and (some) humility, groundedness. It’s obviously more fun if one is familiar with them, though, otherwise the satire is neutered.
Episode 1: Jason Priestly has had a difficult time shaking off his pretty boy image, and it is reflected in this episode as Dr. Goode is convinced that he is gay. He asserts that he isn’t, but she nonetheless forges ahead with trying to get him out of the closet. 8.0
Episode 2: Ione Skye discusses her sexuality and some of her dreams – all of it a bit unusual, or at least non-traditional. I liked Skye, but she came off as one-note, which made the bit less interesting. 7.0
Episode 3: Andy Dick is perhaps too neurotic and flamboyant for my taste, but he made for a really good patient in that sense. Here he’s trying to deal with an upcoming audition. Meanwhile Shelby Lynne discusses her alcohol issues, which are obviously making her incapable of functioning properly. 7.25
Episode 4: In this episode, Tom Sizemore plays up his erratic nature and reputation as a dangerous character, while Tracy Lords ends up seeing Dr. Finkelstein due to Dr. Goode not being available. Finkelstein, who is clueless with respect to pop culture, has no idea what’s in store for him. 7.25
Episode 5: Dr. Goode gets a visit from Ralph Macchio, but doesn’t see him for who he is: an adult with a spouse and children. She still thinks of him as the cute kid from those ’80s films – and treats him like one. Then she fishes for dating tips from Liz Phair. 8.0
Episode 6: Tom Sizemore returns for more shenanigans. Frankly, I’m not that thrilled with him; he’s not that interesting a character. But Jonathan Silverman and Jennifer Finnegan are a hoot as they go to Dr. Goode for couple counselling. just as she’s reacting to some unpleasant online dating encounters. 7.5
Episode 7: This episode is different from the rest in that there are a couple of patients, but the focus is on Dr. Goode and Lola’s outing to a sushi bar. There, they also happen to meet a celebrity couple and find ways to embarrass themselves. Of course. 7.5
Episode 8: Dr. Goode goes on a date with a sleazy agent and falls head over hills for him, casting aside all her professional responsibilities – which, in turn, means that Willie Garson is left by his lonesome waiting for her. 7.5
Episode 9: I was very pleased to see Alanis Morissette send up her reputation in this episode; I always find her interesting. Fred Willard also amused me greatly. Meanwhile, Willie Garson ends up playing cards with Dr. Fineklstein. 7.5
Episode 10: In this closing episode, a few celebrities return in cameos for a few final giggles, and Dr. Goode’s blooming relationship suddenly hits a wall. 7.5
The setting and set-up of the shows is everything.
In the opening credits, we are treated to some hand-drawn doodles that explain Dr. Goode’s background. This not only suggest a child-like simplicity and vulnerability to the character, even though she often comes off as a shrill, emotionally unstable nutter. And it brings any new viewer immediately up to speed, which is good.
Then there is her office, which contradicts all her claims to being a professional, safe place. Not only are the walls paper thin, but there are windows everywhere, so people can easily peer in. Furthermore, the reception desk has this fabulous painting of a crying toddler blown up behind it – easily the least comforting welcome one might expect in a therapist’s office!
Is ‘Head Case’ a great show? Well, it’s a good one – and certainly an interesting one with lots of potential. Will it fulfill its potential in the second and third seasons? I really do plan on finding out. I love the idea too much to write this off: the mixture of psychology, celebrity watching and offbeat humour really appeals to me.
It’s headed in the right direction. We’ll see where it goes from here.
Date of viewing: April 3+8, 2013