Showtime’s new comedy “Web Therapy” has taken a pretty circuitous route to television. It began life as an online series, running for three years and winning a couple of Webby Awards during its run.
That sparked some interest from TV networks, and the show’s creators, Lisa Kudrow, Dan Bucatinsky and Don Roos, figured they could string together some of the existing webisodes and package them as a half-hour comedy.
Just one problem: “Three webisodes together only added up to 12 minutes,” Bucatinsky tells Zap2it. “So when we finally got together with Showtime, we talked with them about letting us fill it out a little, spending a little money to make more content.”
They did, and you can see the result Tuesday nights on Showtime, with Fiona Wallice (Kudrow) dispensing small pieces of pretty bad advice to her patients via webcam. Bucatinsky also stars as one of Fiona’s most put-upon patients, Jerome; the cast also includes Victor Garber as Fiona’s husband and Lily Tomlin as her mom, plus a host of guest stars who play clients of Fiona’s new therapy “modality.”
Beefing up the show to a half-hour length turned out to be “about 50 percent more work” than they had anticipated, Bucatinsky says, but it also led to some new ideas.
“Once we saw the existing footage and decided how we were going to fill it out more, it gave us the idea of putting the mother in, which is what made us ask Lily Tomlin,” he says. “It did give us ideas — even the story of what happened to her, adding characters … it was really fun.”
Bucatinsky and Kudrow became friends while filming “The Opposite of Sex” (written and directed by Roos, who’s also Bucatinsky’s husband) in the late 1990s, and they went into business together in 2003, forming Is or Isn’t Entertainment. They’ve produced Kudrow’s HBO show “The Comeback” and several TV movies and pilots, along with “Web Therapy” and the celebrity-genealogy series “Who Do You Think You Are?,” which will air its third season on NBC in 2011-12.
Both he and Kudrow also do other work as well. “Lisa and I a couple years ago felt like we’d be better served by treating the company as a place where we do all the things we really want to do,” Bucatinsky says, “and yet of course all of have to do things we have to do in order to pay the bills.”
For Bucatinsky, that outside work has included guest appearances on “In Plain Sight,” “CSI: Miami” and “Grey’s Anatomy” in recent years, as well as other writing gigs (he’s also working on a book about being a gay parent). He also really enjoys the improvisational nature of acting on “Web Therapy,” even though it means taking (fake) abuse from Kudrow’s Fiona.
“The hardest thing is, Lisa and I have a business together, we’re good friends, we see each other every day,” he says. “[But then] I become this doormat, Jerome, that she’s abusive toward as Fiona Wallice. It’s a lot of fun. My goal is always to make her laugh every time we do it, but she has really good concentration. Better than mine.”
“Web Therapy” airs at 11 p.m. ET Tuesday (Aug. 9) on Showtime.