Jason Segel stars as a therapist whose life is in disarray, in a comedy where the drama is even more rewarding than the jokes.

A comedy series in which the dramatic moments are more fulfilling than the comedic is not necessarily a bad thing.

If you’ve ever watched sitcoms like Family Ties, Happy Days or even The Partridge Family or The Brady Bunch, there were always scenes about three quarters through the episode where Michael Gross / Tom Bosley / Shirley Jones / Robert Reed would impart words of wisdom to Michael J. Fox / Ron Howard / Danny Bonaduce / Barry Williams.

Don’t worry, Shrinking isn’t that. But the point is comedy needs its dramatic moments to rise above the punchlines. Since the 70s / 80s / 90s TV comedy has evolved. We’re now knee-deep in single-camera comedies that challenge us. They are no longer just situation comedies, but have layered characters who don’t always return to the point where they started.

Shrinking is created by Brett Goldstein, Bill Lawrence and its star, Jason Segel.

Segel features as Jimmy, a therapist who rails against conventions by telling his patients what he really thinks. In the first episode this includes telling one very unhappy wife to walk out on her husband and start anew.

“Just f**ing leave him…… leave him or I’m done being your therapist!” he demands.

This horrifies his senior colleague Paul (Harrison Ford) who subscribes to the theory that their role is to help the patients make decisions for themselves.

But Jimmy is also dealing with grief, having lost his wife and mother of teenage daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell). In the wake of this tragedy, father and daughter are also struggling to communicate. Alice prefers to hang with Liz (Christa Miller), an oversharing, overcaring neighbour who prepares Taco Tuesdays and attends school counselling when Jimmy drops the ball.

Also at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center is fellow therapist Gaby (Jessica Williams), with whom Jimmy enjoys ribbing “silver fox” Paul, largely about his ageing.

But Paul shares a grandfatherly role with young Alice, offering sage advice in a sweet bridging of the generation gap -both coming together due to Jimmy’s failings.

“Nobody gets through this life unscathed,” Paul tells Alice.

Finally there are Sean (Luke Tennie) a court-enforced patient who has a problem controlling violent urges, and gay lawyer Brian (Michael Urie) who was Jimmy’s best friend until they had a falling out.

But it is Jimmy’s push-back against therapy by the book that drives this story, much to the disdain of Paul. This often sees him with patients in the real world, instead of just on the couch, where breakthroughs come as a happy accident.

“I think I can help people if I can just get my fingers a little dirtier,” he insists.

Segal as “resting dead white face” Jimmy may not necessarily be a ‘loveable loser’ but he is walking paradox as a therapist whose life is in need of its own overhaul. Brett Goldstein and Bill Lawrence have also surrounded Jimmy with a universe of engaging characters who manage to interact in unexpected ways… watch for an awkward driveway scene between Gaby & Liz.

Nabbing Harrison Ford as Paul is clearly a major coup. His timing is effortless. Together with his recent role in 1923, this new small-screen career is welcome indeed.

Apple will no doubt be hoping Shrinking can attain the success of Bill Lawrence’s Ted Lasso.

It’s off to a good start.

Shrinking premieres Friday January 27 on Apple TV+.

6 Responses

  1. If people want to be precious can’t handle “my truth” not my problem. At least they know “exactly” where they stand with me. No beating around the bush.

  2. Good review David. The setup has potential and your comparisons sound intriguing.

    If only Goldstein could have made a cameo as an anger-filled Roy Kent. Now that would have been perfect! Plus, “he’s here, he’s there, he’s every___where, Roy Kent”. 🙂

  3. This is right up my street, I don’t hold back saying it how I see it, good company or not. Admire anyone who has the confidence and courage to do exactly that. A spade is a spade after all unless someone decides to use a big shovel instead 😂

Leave a Reply