Head Case stars Alexandra Wentworth as Dr. Elizabeth Goode, a slightly unhinged psychiatrist to the stars who shares an office with Dr. Myron Finklestein (Steve Landesburg), a fellow inept shrink who never seems to have any patients. The series began on Starz in 2007 as a series of 15-minute shorts and was expanded to a half-hour format in 2008. Unfortunately, the show is a prime example of what happens when a successful series is changed for the worse.
In its original short form, Head Case was quirky and inventive: Celebrities like Jason Priestley, Ione Skye, and Tom Sizemore played over-the-top versions of themselves while in session, with Goode jumping to offensive conclusions about her patients (e.g. believing Priestley was a closeted homosexual or that Sizemore will attack her) and engaging them in inane psychiatric exercises. Loosely scripted, the show allowed the actors to invent dialogue as they went along, similar to HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. The editing was also sharp: Scenes rarely lagged and things were more focused on the bizarre therapy sessions than on the doctor’s disastrous personal life.
In its debut as a half-hour series in 2008, however, the show shifts focus and its pace grows sluggish. We’re still introduced to a bizarre collection of celebrity patients in every episode (sometimes two or three), but the show now centers on Dr. Goode’s frazzled status as a single woman and her inability to maintain a healthy relationship. Relying on such a typical sitcom prescription to help expand the show into a longer format only dilutes what was at first an unusual and slightly daring cable program. And for a series without the baggage of network censorship, Head Case doesn’t push many comedic boundaries. Instead, the 2008 series reins things in further, resigned to obeying conventional sitcom rules. Even the celebrity therapy sessions have lost much of their humor as they linger on for far too long and feature more and more obscure celebrity patients—like Richard Kind and Ahmet Zappa.
Other short-form comedy series like the BBC’s Posh Nosh or the Cartoon Network’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force were smart enough to maintain their original format because it worked best for the stories they wanted to tell. Head Case doesn’t appear have a bigger story to share. Expanding it has simply made the show formulaic, cluttering up what was once a distinctive vision.
Production values are better for the 2008 series on disc one than the 2007 series included on disc two, and so the image on the later episodes is a little clearer, but it's not a major difference. The stereo sound is and only offered in English, as are the subtitles. Unfortunately, there are no chapter breaks within the episodes so it's impossible to jump to the next therapy session or skip the less interesting scenes.
This DVD release of the first season includes the original 2007 series labeled as "Head Case Bonus Shorts," which is a little misleading because the half-hour series grew out of these shorts. And so storylines that began in the 2007 series and carried over into the 2008 series are now relegated to the second disc where viewers unfamiliar with the shorts won't know to watch them first. Essentially, the series is presented out of order. A bizarre decision on the part of Starz. Other bonus material includes a six-minute blooper reel and the eight-minute "Making of Head Case," which features interviews with the cast.
For including the original Head Case shorts, disc two is the keeper.