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Web Therapy: Series Premiere

By Matt Meier · July 21, 2011

The concept of new media within the entertainment industry is an extremely new development, one that presents as much potential as it does questions.  Of course, being a part of the entertainment industry – industry being the key word – the primary question that arises with any successful new webisode is, “how do we make this profitable?”  This has always been the case of our industry, the constant search for new original material ripe to adapt for film or television.  So when Web Therapy exhibited some success as a webisode series, the obvious question among executives became, “how do we take this clever yet monetarily limited webisode and spin it into something profitable?”  The answer: take it to television, of course.

If you’ve seen the online episodes, then you’ve seen the TV show – the Showtime version of the show literally pulls various webisodes from online and throws them into a half-hour block with a tiny amount of new material added.  So, just like the webisode series, the format is Lisa Kudrow as Fiona Wallace speaking over video chat with various clients in very brief counseling sessions.  The dialogue is entirely improvised and the talent (especially Kudrow) executes the roles with deft precision, truly bringing the characters to life.  Fiona Wallace proves a particularly entertaining character based on the premise alone.  As the son of two psychologists, I chortled quite a bit at Fiona’s analysis of therapy:  “What I’ve discovered is I have done the 50-minute sessions with people, but they end up going on and on about dreams and feelings and memories and past experiences that ad up to a whole lot of nothing, as far as I’m concerned.  And what I found is that the bulk of the help was really done in three minutes.”  Kudrow is truly the perfect actress to take on the role, skillfully and hilariously portraying a sense of narcissistic indifference and air-headed self-indulgence; and the other featured talent on the show – which draws from a well-equipped pool of actors and actresses as guest stars – prove equally dexterous and entertaining as well.

Alas, what would seem like a generally positive review now must turn sour.  Yes, the characters are well conceived and well performed by an amply talented cast.  Yes, the dialogue is extremely witty and jocular, with the fact that it is improvised, making it all that much more impressive.  But no, this should not exist as a TV show.

We’ve seen it time and time again: a perfectly capable concept foisted within an improper medium.  Watching Web Therapy on TV is like watching Saturday Night Live in the movie theater – it’s simply not the proper venue for it. I mean, the name of the series is Web Therapy.  Does that really sound like a concept that can easily be transferred from the internet to our living rooms?  Furthermore, the format of the show is literally meant to replicate a computer screen; so instead of laughing at the jokes, I found myself distracted and wondering, “when are they going to return to normal format and stop with this pseudo-computer layout?”  Yet when watching the show online, that question never once crossed my mind because I was watching it on my computer

The truth is, I have even less incentive to watch the TV show again since most of the little skits infused within future episodes already exist online as easily accessible webisodes, and the webisodes are even more watchable because they exist as they should: 7- or 8-minute single sketches without the haphazardly glued together narrative of the TV show.  If you find yourself at all intrigued by the concept of the show, I highly suggest checking out the webisodes first and foregoing the full 30-minute TV version.  When Showtime’s version flops after the first season, perhaps then the network executives will begin to realize stories are not always interchangeable between mediums – you can’t make lemonade out of limes.