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Shrinking Review: Maybe the Best Show on Apple TV+, and Yes That’s Saying A Lot

Photo Credit: AppleTV+

While mental health is certainly an explored theme in the Apple TV+ hit show Ted Lasso, two of the men behind that show, Brett Goldstein and Bill Lawrence, paired with Jason Segal to create Shrinking for the streaming platform, in which mental health is unquestionably the focus of the story. In it, Segal plays Jimmy, a therapist who, while grieving the loss of his wife, tries some unconventional and certainly unethical techniques with his patients, with mixed results.

Despite its very serious subject matter, it remains heartfelt and funny with laughs as big as patient breakthroughs and layered characters that are given time to be fully realized and appreciated. It’s a show that makes it clear that everyone is dealing with loss of some kind, whether that is the loss of loved ones, their personal autonomy, or even a loss of purpose.

With therapy, it’s often said that progress isn’t linear, it’s messy and you work even when things are incredibly uncomfortable. In Shrinking, there are plenty of uncomfortable moments, and then there are incredibly beautiful ones where you feel genuine joy for a character’s success, whether it’s a patient, Jimmy, or any of his eccentric coworkers, family, or friends. Each episode leaves you on a big note but doesn’t always feel the need to pick things up right from that spot in the next episode. It’s more interesting to see how people may approach things given a bit of time to take a step back from it all.

The entire cast is stacked with talented actors, and they all feed off Segal, who may be doing his best work here. You can find a lot of similarities early on with his Forgetting Sarah Marshall character, as he plays melancholy so well, at one point rejecting that he has a sad face, “this is just a face, I have a resting dead wife face.” But as the story evolves, so does he. We watch him ride the highs and lows of working to repair a relationship with his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell, Generation), reestablish a friendship with his best friend Brian (Michael Urie, Ugly Betty), and fully invest in his new unconventional therapy methods with Sean (Luke Tennie, Players), a combat veteran suffering from PTSD. Every episode is full of choices and hardships, and he messes up often, but he finds solace in these connections and a renewed purpose, even though the weight of losing his partner is always present.

Jimmy’s mentor Paul (Harrison Ford, Star Wars) is less than thrilled with his new methods – especially since he owns the practice he works from – but despite his grumpy demeanor, he genuinely cares for Jimmy and Alice, which is evident through his tough love approach. Harrison Ford is having another moment in his illustrious career right now, as he has two successful shows (Shrinking and 1923), will don the fedora and whip again in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and is also set to join the Marvel Universe. If you aren’t familiar with some of his comedic work, then you may be seeing a new side of the actor with this series. Whether he’s jamming out to Sugar Ray, high on the couch demolishing Doritos, or just being perfectly sarcastic, he has impeccable comedic timing as Paul.

While he never loses his sense of humor, the most beautiful and complex thing about Ford’s role is that his character has Parkinson’s disease. It’s easy to have dialogue around it, make it part of an episode’s narrative, or have the camera call attention to it with a clear shot of a hand tremor, but its his nuanced performance throughout his scenes, always keeping it in the back of his mind and subtly showing its symptoms on occasion, that is so powerful. Paul is a man that’s always been successful, and fiercely independent, and its not easy for someone like that to ask for or accept help. In his role as a therapist, but mostly in park bench conversations with Alice – which are always a highlight – he’s able to instill the wisdom that he has, but he clearly gets just as much out of them, or more.

A character that begins as a fun change of pace for the tone of the show when needed is Gaby (Jessica Williams, Love Life), the third therapist at Paul’s practice. She has some of the best quips and jokes, and, like everyone else around Jimmy, she does her best to help him, but over the course of the first season she has developed into one of the show’s biggest strengths. She’s absolutely integral to the story and enhances every scene she’s not the focal point of. Her dialogue is undoubtedly well written, but her delivery is flawless and engaging. She’s that friend that’s always going to have the last word, and it’s going to be good.

If anyone rivals her in that regard, it’s Jimmy’s nosy neighbor Liz (Christa Miller, Scrubs), who stepped in to help with Alice when Jimmy mentally couldn’t but has trouble taking a backseat as he tries to be a parent again. Miller has been a staple of television for the last 30 years on long-running comedies like, The Drew Carey Show, Scrubs, and Cougar Town for a reason, and she demonstrates her immense talent here as well. She excels in the comedic moments, but she is just as good conveying the sense of loss that can accompany being an empty nester. If an award is created for doing the absolute most with the least screen time, it would go to Ted McGinley, who plays her husband Derek. He absolutely deserves it because he is a delight. Anytime Derek pops up on screen you just start smiling because you know it’s going to be good.

A show like Shrinking, which has all of the ingredients to make you laugh and cry in each episode, is a rare find and should not be taken for granted. Incredibly written and acted, you’re invested in all these characters quickly, as you laugh with them, and your heart breaks for them. You’re watching these people struggle in very plausible ways, and you can likely relate to many of the emotions they are trying their best to navigate. While it’s doubtful any therapists are going to endorse Jimmy’s methods, the show has a lot to offer your soul, and at the very least a lot of earned laughter. Every episode is now streaming on Apple TV+, and it cannot be recommended enough.

Shrinking is now streaming on AppleTV+

Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison is a regular contributor for TV and Movies. He’s that guy that spends an hour in an IMDb black hole of research about every film and show he watches. Strongly believes Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the best show to ever exist, and that Peaky Blinders needs more than 6 episodes per series. East Carolina grad, follow on Twitter and IG @bdmurchison.


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