“Shrinking” Review (Apple TV+): Harrison Ford Towers Over Ted Lasso 2

“Ted Lasso” co-stars Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein join Jason Segel for an Apple TV+ sitcom about a therapist who goes rogue.

Jimmy Laird, an affluent therapist who works in an original practice somewhere in Pasadena, is disappointed. His patients complain — about their spouses, their friends, their chatty barista — and Jimmy (Jason Segel) tries to steer them toward better choices with a healthier way of thinking. But no matter how hard you listen, they don’t answer kindly. Jimmy’s mentor Paul Rhoades (Harrison Ford) senses his younger co-worker’s desperation and puts what he’s going through into two simple words: “Compassion fatigue,” Paul says, explaining to Jimmy that what he’s feeling is typical. All therapists suffer from stagnant cases and just do their best to be “non-judgemental”.

Jimmy, like the patients who drive him crazy, doesn’t listen. Instead, Paul becomes a “psychological guardian” and begins to control his patients. He breaks boundaries, blackmails them, and generally tries to speed up their breakthrough with his own breakthrough. Jimmy’s rogue technique is an essential half of “Shrinking,” the new Apple TV+ comedy from Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein (both of “Ted Lasso” fame), and the show does a great job of setting the stakes for such an endeavor. : outlines why Jimmy’s pushiness defies the tenets of modern psychology while understanding the urge to rush into healing. It turns out that people are at risk of being deprived of their autonomy, and not just patients.

But “shrinkage” is subverted by its other half – the frivolous half; half of the 2000s sitcom; the half that wraps bad behavior in a warm and fuzzy blanket, making it seem homey and kind. The successor to Apple’s overzealous “Ted Lasso” exudes the same strange kindness that transcends the dark reality. Instead of a football coach applying his to believe system in a new sport, we get a grieving therapist who maps his own problems onto patients in pain. The relentless charm offensive of the half-hour comedy hums like casual fun. The episodes are well structured, the production is full of homey yet expensive style, and the indie rock soundtrack is equal parts pathos and joy. It’s just that the longer you think about “Shrinking” and specifically Jimmy, the more infuriating it becomes.

But hey, who can criticize a guy whose wife just died? This heavy backstory reinforces Jimmy’s bad decisions early on after his death sends him into a year-long spiral. (Note to manufacturers: Use “Mid Air” by Paul Buchanan showing the memory of a lost loved one is emotional manipulation in the first degree and is retroactively illegal for all movies and TV shows after “About Time”.) He numbs his pain by isolating those who really care about him – until the show starts , when she’s at her lowest point and ready to embrace herself towards the light.

This means we connect with characters who never feel like real people; overwritten and overplayed neighbors and friends who are always nice, always love each other, and always (eventually) do the right thing. There’s Liz (Christa Miller), a retired friend of the family who lives next door. Loves gossip and hates people (or at least pretends to). Burns constantly, except when grinding stones. She is notoriously mean to her husband, but in a “funny” way, and is always around, which becomes her defining character trait. His initial foil, Gaby (Jessica Williams), soon becomes his best friend (because of course). Gaby is one of three therapists at Paul’s practice, as well as the best friend of Jimmy’s late wife, Tia. But despite his close connections (and Williams’ mesmerizing performance), he’s rarely more than a utility player—asked to slot into any position at any time, whether his natural arc allows for it or not.

There’s also Brian, a real estate lawyer and Jimmy’s best friend whom Michael Urie manages to revive beyond the “gay best friend” stereotypes, and Sean (Luke Tennie), a patient who becomes a pet project (and with Tennie’s kindness). , an underutilized source of real struggle). These sweet people are very watchable—as long as you can endure their infectious cuteness—but they always take things too far with a line, a laugh, a gesture. The “shrink” on heartwarming humor is harsh enough to send some into cardiac arrest, and even so, success ultimately falls on the two leads: Jimmy and Paul. They are both therapists. Both struggle to connect with their daughter. Both struggle to relate (or at least pretend to). Given the father-son dynamic, one can forgive a bit of biographical overlap, but it’s harder to excuse one’s faults when they’re in stark contrast to the other’s strengths.

Jimmy might be exhausted by his patients, but spending time with Jimmy himself would exhaust a fitness guru on Adderall. With Segel’s trademarks — playing the piano in the air, quoting “Dracula,” wearing no pants — it’s often hard to separate the actor from his role, but “Shrinking” manages to transcend both. Despite his professional training, Jimmy often confuses his own feelings with the needs of his patients. Much of this is done for humor (which can work!), but much of it is also nonsensical. (Maybe don’t ask a veteran to reveal their repressed war trauma because you’ve had a bad day?) Understanding that therapists are people is all well and good, but no one in a million years should attend a session like this. guy—and there aren’t many obvious advantages to knowing him at home. (He really does treat Brian like trash, and that’s his best friend.) By the end of the season, you can see how some stray traits can be brought back into his wayward state, but many more appear in permanent aspects of his personality. (Some are more tolerant of the man-baby daddy type.)

Harrison Ford in "Decreasing"

Harrison Ford in Shrinking

Courtesy of Apple

And then there’s Segel. While it was easy to invest in the actor’s encouragement after the breakup ( Forgetting Sarah Marshall remains a gem), it’s hard to buy Segel in this role. He’s too sensitive to leave his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) for even a year, let alone get lost in a sea of ​​drugs, booze and sex workers. “Shrinking” cleverly tries to skip over this Jimmy image by starting it when it’s on the rise, but Segel has yet to sell it—a task too big to repeatedly trot the mope between exaggerated gestures, comedic shouts, and constant yelling. his face. tics. When he breaks away from his professional crusade and sends him into full sitcom mode, Jimmy can be funny. (There’s a scene where Alice learns about her first sex, which gets a few laughs, mostly thanks to Segel’s over-the-top intensity.) And yet, even then, her grief is more frustrating than endearing.

Jimmy obviously isn’t the same winner as Ted, but you know who doesn’t need shades and a Southern drawl to embody our new TV hero? Harrison Ford. Paul is dry-witted, open-minded, and has just the right level of exhaustion (compared to his over-familiarity). He becomes the cold chaser for Jimmy’s sugar shot, but Paul ends up balancing the whole show. Lawrence, Goldstein and Segel each find a scene between Ford and almost every character, whether it’s working with Gaby, planning the future with Brian, giving secret grandfatherly advice to Alice, or running into each other. Liz in a restaurant. Even when he’s not acting like everyone’s dad, Ford juxtaposes his own gravitas to make the big moments sink in (like when Paul sings Sugar Ray!), or cracks his nonchalant exterior to make the tender scenes resonate. (When Ford cries, we all cry.)

Without Ford, “Shrinking” might have been unbearable, but with him, I ended up happily re-watching episodes just to enjoy the actor’s spark. Perhaps I’m alone in my sympathy fatigue when it comes to Segel’s cartoonish, sensitive types — I wouldn’t be surprised if “Shrinking” helps expand Apple’s “Ted Lasso” TV universe of pretty white guys. Just maybe dial the cuteness up a few notches. Otherwise, any judgment is fair game.

grade: B-

“Shrinking” premieres Friday, January 27 on Apple TV+ with two episodes. New episodes are released weekly.

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