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Stars play themselves on improv comedy



Published: Sat, March 21, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Frazier Moore

NEW YORK — A therapist in practice on a comedy or drama can’t always claim progress for the client being treated.

Sure, Dr. Jennifer Melfi made some inroads with moody mobster Tony Soprano. But Dr. Bob Hartley was often psyched out by the kooks he counseled on the classic “Bob Newhart Show.” And as for Dr. Frasier Crane — well, the advice he dispensed on his call-in show was worth every penny his callers paid.

The point is, in TV make-believe as in real life, some shrinks are better than others.

Dr. Elizabeth Goode is one of the worst. As she comically demonstrates on “Head Case,” she’s pushy, judgmental, self-absorbed and less than self-aware. But it all works out. At $450 per hour, she’s a Beverly Hills-based clinician to the stars, which means her clients are too self-absorbed to notice most of her shortcomings.

Alexandra Wentworth is the engaging cutup who plays the Goode doctor in this half-hour improvised series, which she co-created and co-produces. It’s back for its second season Friday at 10 p.m. on the Starz cable network.

Real-life celebs play themselves as Dr. Goode’s “clients.” On the premiere, Janeane Garofalo rages at the unappealing tendency of children to grow into teenagers, and, beyond that, young adults: “Have you seen ‘The Hills’?!”

And another of her clients, Macy Gray, spills out graphic fantasies of getting freaky with President Barack Obama: “I want to give him a roofie and take him home!” Visibly uncomfortable, Dr. Goode doesn’t want to hear it. She prefers to talk about her fianc .

Not that she pays much attention to her clients. She’s more likely to be focusing on herself, especially these days, with her impending marriage. For example, during the session with Gray, this bride-to-be is being fitted for her wedding gown.

Other guest stars in the 10-episode season include Jeff Probst, Hugh Hefner, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, Larry Miller, Paulina Porizkova and Jerry Seinfeld, plus “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry in an intervention with James Denton, who is protesting a plan that his “Housewives” character, the macho plumber Mike Delfino, should come out as a gay man.

“We want you to be able to be comfortable and open to having a gay story line,” says Dr. Goode.

Wentworth brings to “Head Case” her experience as an actress, sketch comic and improv performer. Her credits include the Fox series “In Living Color” and “The Tonight Show,” the films “Office Space” and “The Love Bug,” as well as a short-lived syndicated talk show. (She currently appears on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as a member of its “Fridays Live in Chicago” panel.)

But, not surprisingly, “Head Case” also draws inspiration from Wentworth’s history with shrinks, notably back when she was living in Los Angeles.

Now the 44-year-old Wentworth lives in her native Washington, D.C., with her husband, ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos, and their two daughters.

It’s been six or seven years since she last saw a therapist, she says, and, rolling her eyes, cracks, “Now I’m fixed, I’m healthy! But I have had a bouillabaisse of crazy therapists. Crazy! Like when I was crying about my divorced parents and she asked me where I got my shoes.”


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