Dr. Frasier Crane stopped listening to patients a few years ago, but Dr. Elizabeth Goode’s couch currently is open for business on “Head Case,” an original series now in its second season on Starz.
Actress Alexandra Wentworth plays Dr. Goode, a psychologist whose client list resembles a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood celebrities. “Her office mate Myron Finkelstein, played by Steve Landesberg (“Barney Miller”), is a psychiatrist. She can’t prescribe drugs, but he can, so there’s that balance or imbalance in the office. He’s got no patients and she’s got nothing but celebrity patients,” Executive Producer Robert Bauer said via telephone.
Alexandra Wentworth Tends to be the Creative Filter of “Head Case”
“Head Case” is a co-production of Starz Entertainment and UNCLE Film + Television, but Bauer said that Alexandra Wentworth is the one who really created the show. “The three of us: Jason Farrand, who is my partner at UNCLE, and Ali, who I have known for many years, executive produce the show. We write the show, Jason directs every episode. That’s the core team.”
“Ali tends to be the creative filter, the end-point creative filter and the thing from which all things funny emanate. Jason and I will throw a lot of things into the mix and we’ll come up with an idea and Ali will fashion it into something far funnier than we had imagined,” he said.
Bauer also said that he thinks Alexandra Wentworth is being generous by sharing the “Created by” credit with him. “This character resides within Ali. She’s been around for a long time. She’s a trained Groundlings actress. She’s a writer, a performer.”
“Head Case” is Largely Unscripted
Bauer said that during a session, Dr. Goode tends to “pull focus” away from the patient. “Whatever is going on in her life at any given moment, she will weave into the fabric of the session or pull focus and start talking about a lack in her life or a relationship in her life,” he said. “There’s nobody we know that we could do this talent-wise other than Ali. She’s ridiculously lightning fast.”
The show also is largely unscripted, Bauer said. “What we do is frame up each episode and the season’s story arcs and character arcs. So, from episodes 1-8, we know over the course of those episodes that XYZ are going to happen or ABC is going to happen,” he said. “We frame that up to supplement and help drive those storylines per each episode. What we don’t do is we don’t write dialogue.”
Dr. Elizabeth Goode Gets Repeat Business
Bauer said that celebrities such as Jeff Goldblum and Rosanna Arquette have sat on Dr. Elizabeth Goode’s couch and want to come back for another session. “They really have a good time because they are not held to saying something that’s right or wrong. They are not held to being funny because Ali does a lot, if not all, of the comedic heavy lifting as it were,” he said.
Bauer said that some of the issues that they create for a particular celebrity may not realistically be theirs. “But it gives us the fodder to make fun of celebrity. It’s great when celebrities come in and poke fun at themselves and don’t take themselves too seriously. That’s the other real fun part of the show,” he said.
“Head Case” Was a Hard Sell to Some Agents
Because the nature of the show is unscripted, Bauer said, they don’t send scripts out and there’s no pages that they can really show people. “We would talk to agents and managers and they were very protective of their clients. There was the initial hurdle of convincing the town to get on the ride, to come in and do this. Now we’re kind of in that place where we are getting calls and everyone who has been on the show wants to come back and are considering themselves returning patients of Dr. Goode’s.”
Everyone is Welcome to Talk to Dr. Elizabeth Goode
Because “Head Case” is unscripted, one might assume that celebrity guests would need some background in improvisational comedy, but that’s not the case. “Liz Phair did the show last season. You know, Liz Phair, the rock star. Wonderful, wonderful musician, not a trained actor, not an Improv actor, and Liz had a blast. You don’t have to be Andy Dick, you don’t have to be Jonathan Silverman, you don’t have to be Jeff Goldblum,” Bauer said. “You come in and just be yourself and self is where we find the funny. In the truth of the scene is where the funny comes out.”
“Head Case” is in session every Wednesday at 10 p.m. (ET/PT) on Starz.