Internet TV, Anna Pickard: Three-minute Friend is a little too fast

Internet TV, Anna Pickard: How did Lisa Kudrow manage to fit in with that lot on Friends for 10 years? In everything else she positively fizzes with a strained comedy weirdness

Lisa Kudrow: she's just ace, isn't she? She must have been on some serious horse tranquillisers to tone down from 1994 to 2004. How else did she manage to fit in with that lot on Friends for 10 years? In everything else she positively fizzes with a strained comedy weirdness.

In Web Therapy, her improvised comedy series for a new online TV site, Kudrow plays Fiona Wallice, a psychiatrist who has tried working with people through the traditional 50-minute session; "but," she says, "they end up going on and on about dreams and feelings and memories and past experiences that add up to a whole lotta nothin', as far as I'm concerned. And what I found was that the bulk of the work was done in about three minutes."

And so, dispensing with all the pointless yapping, Wallice - I hesitate to say "Doctor" Wallice, because that seems like a rather over-hopeful attribution of qualifications - pioneers a new form of therapy: a three-minute webchat where she can get all the snappy "curing" done without having to worry about the boring talking bits in between.

It's a nice idea for a short, punchy series, and a talented improvisational comedian like Kudrow - along with producing partner Dan Bucatinsky (co-producer of her Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque comedy The Comeback) and writer-director Don Roos (who worked with Kudrow on The Opposite of Sex, amongst other things) - should be able to make good with it.

But there's something not right about the series. Mainly - and I don't want to speak too soon - one might hope a comedy would be a bit more, well, funny.

The first three of 15 episodes were released in a little burp all at once on L-Studio, the car manufacturer Lexus's attempt to move into the world of online television and establish itself as more of a lifestyle brand (it's a car. What's wrong with just being a car?). These episodes were entirely concerned with Fiona and her first client - as far as we know - Richard (played by Tim Bagley), a man whom she is quickly revealed as having a complex personal history with.

"It can be hard getting over a heartbreak, from what you're wearing I can't tell whether you've gained weight or lost weight - there's just a lot of cloth there," she says, shortly before we realise that she thoroughly expects his heart to have been broken by her, when they previously worked on his therapy together. And after that, it just gets odder.

The character Kudrow has created - a beautifully unsympathetic, judgmental, borderline delusional therapist trying to give snap-cures - is funny in itself.

I could watch her all day, mainly trying to work out how she does that thing where she talks and talks and talks without once cracking her perfect white-toothed shit-eating grin. But the problem is that the first three episodes, released a couple of weeks ago, were a little too crazy, too fast.

Just because we're talking short-form television, do we have to splurge the good stuff all at once? If you're going to trust your talent to create characters that people are going to want to watch, and create stories that they're going to want to come back for, then what's the rush?

I want to like Web Therapy, and I want to follow Kudrow's character, but I just feel as if I've seen everything she's capable of already. Where can they possibly go with it now?

You cannot level that criticism at the other original series on L-Studio not to involve lingering shots of posh cars. Puppy Love has plenty of scope. The first episode was about a beautiful lady whose love for her Boston terrier was getting in the way of her finding true love with a real human boy - mainly because it kept insisting on sleeping in her bed and growling and whining and farting and doing all the other things a normal human boy would do if only she could get that far with one.

You could think of it as Sex and the City with pooper scoopers, mainly because, with many of the same people involved, that's exactly what it is. And oh, the places they can go with it! One week perhaps it will be a woman having trouble juggling her love life and her little chihuahua. The next, the dating disasters of one lipstick lesbian and her labradoodle.


Anna Pickard

The GuardianTramp

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