Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Head Case" - Cable's Creative Psyche

20 years ago HBO and Showtime begin showing us we no longer needed to rely on the four major broadcast networks to satisfy the bulk of our entertainment needs.
For a few bucks a month, we could get perfect reception AND great programming by subscribing to cable.

Two years ago, AMC became the first non-premium cable channel to really give HBO & Showtime a run for its money with "Mad Men." Now comes Starz, a premium channel that's come up with what very well might be the best show that you're not watching. Unless you're like my partner and me - TV junkies who simply must have the entire premium cable package (sans sports & Spanish TV) to satisfy our TV needs.

"Head Case" is one of a growing list of shows that has you sitting there entirely uncomfortable, and sometimes with your jaw dropping in a combination of amazement and disgust (see The Office, Parks & Recreation, The Comeback). I admit, these shows can be like a hang nail. They can hurt, but you just can't stop pulling at it. That's why I'm not sure I even love "Head Case," and yet I cannot stop watching it.

Alexandra Wentworth (pictured above) and Steve Landesberg star as Los Angeles psychologists who share a "practice to the stars." You guessed it; that means a parade of celebrity guest stars playing themselves. Sometimes they poke fun at themselves, but most of the the time they play it straight and let Wentworth's character go off on a tangent of delusional hilarity, supporting the notion that some of the craziest people in the world are the not the patients, but rather the shrinks.

"Head Case" has something else going for it. The show relies heavily on improvisation. I believe it's scripted, but the actors frequently get into character on ad lib riffs, rather than executing lines. This gives the show the feel of a Christopher Guest movie such as "Best In Show" or "For Your Consideration."

Celebrity guest stars playing themesleves have included Rosanna Arquette, Andy Dick, Lea Thompson, Richard Kind, James Denton, David Alan Grier, Christopher Lloyd, Jonathan Silverman, Cindy Margolis and Jeff Goldblum, Tori Spelling, and Hugh Hefner... and a whole lot more.

"Head Case" premieres new episodes Wednesdays' at 10pm on Starz, with repeats throughout the week. Check your local cable or satellite provider for On Demand episodes. Below are two clips - one with guest star Geri Halliwell and another with one of Wentworth's tour de force scenes.

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Lisa said...

Thanks for writing about this! I have Starz but haven't watched the show yet, though I have perused the listings and thought the loglines were intriguing. Now I'm going to dig in -- sounds well worth checking out!

Jane said...

Thanks for this update Scott. I'm glad we have another pair of eyeballs helping us with heads up for all the great TV out there. It's impossible to watch it all and also work full time, though. My dilemma...never enough hours in the day!