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Friday, July 29, 2011

Login to Web Therapy

     Now on Showtime is Web Therapy. Web Therapy began life as a series of short webisodes available online. Now Showtime has ordered it to series, so what is airing on television is a compilation of the shorter bits, edited together with connecting scenes. In the first two episodes, we meet Fiona Wallace (Lisa Kudrow, Friends), who is starting a new "modality" for therapy - offering three minute sessions via web cam. This works for her, as she is lazy, and would rather avoid the human contact that comes with fifty minute meetings in person. To begin, Fiona calls upon some people she already knows in the "real world," hoping to establish a brand, then franchise it and become rich. Ideally, this will happen within a couple of months. The series is made up completely of web cam shots.

     Two episodes in, Kudrow has banished Phoebe from the minds of viewers. A different voice and mannerisms assure virtually no connection between the character Kudrow is most famous for, and the one she now inhabits. Fiona herself is odd, with an annoyingly lilting tone, and her own, distinct pattern of dialogue. One episode in, she is easy to despise. Two half hours, and suddenly she is incredibly enjoyable, even though it is still apparent she is a horrible human being. For instance, she tries to exploit a patient named Jerome (executive producer Dan Bucatinsky), who thinks he was unknowingly sleeping with his half sister (Rashida Jones, Parks and Recreation). Fiona takes the role of victim when it turns out the woman is not related to him. After all, she intends to use his story to get investors! How dare he be boring!

     Part of the reason Fiona may be the way she is could be the lack of affection she gets from her husband, Kip (the great Victor Garber, Eli Stone, Alias). Kips is, to keep with the show's format, only seen via web cam, too, whether he is on Fiona's computer, sitting next to her, or being called while in the bedroom on his own laptop. It makes for an odd communication style between the two, and most moments of their lives are missed by the viewers. However, there is enough insinuation to figure out that Kip wants to stay in the marriage, cares about Fiona, but avoids her sexual advances. Could he be gay?

     To compensate, Fiona acts inappropriately towards other men, but can't bring herself to go through with anything. One in particular, Richard (Tim Bagley, Monk, Will & Grace), she now counsels, and tries to interfere in his new relationship. You see, her departure from her previous job came after she made many advances, but she rejected Richard when he tried to act on them. Now she doesn't want him to be with anyone else, and he is confused. Wholly unethical, it's still a pretty funny situation, and actually exposes a vulnerable side of Fiona. Which is when she begins to be a character fans can get behind, if only slightly. What is shown most of the time is a persona, and this situation peels down into a deeper layer.

     High quality guest stars abound in the first season, including Jane Lynch (Glee), Lily Tomlin (Damages, The West Wing), Alan Cumming (The Good Wife), Courteney Cox (Cougar Town), Jennifer Elise Cox (The Brady Bunch Movie), Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock, Weeds), Julie Claire (24, Dirt), and more. It should be an exciting bunch of whackos, perfectly complimenting Fiona's insanity.

     Web Therapy is nowhere close to realistic, but it is pretty funny. Check it out Tuesdays at 11 p.m. EST on Showtime.


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Article first published as TV Review: Web Therapy on Blogcritics.

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