Apple TV+’s Therapy Comedy ‘Shrinking’ Is Another Victory for the ‘Ted Lasso’ Team

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Would you think that one of the funniest shows of 2023 is about a group of people managing loss, health problems, divorce, war trauma, alienated relationships, and haunting regrets? I’m perfectly aware that this sounds profoundly unfunny, but feel-good programs like Ted Lasso — which oozes pleasant humor without avoiding difficult issues like divorce, mental health, and death — remind us that comedy can be a reassuring coping strategy for both characters and viewers. The new half-hour comedy for Apple TV+, Shrinking, does the difficult task of capturing the paradoxical reality that loss and amusement frequently coexist.

The sitcom, created by Bill Lawrence, Brett Goldstein, and Jason Segel (three of Ted Lasso’s greatest), follows Jimmy (Segel), a therapist who is grieving the loss of his wife, failing as a parent and friend, and losing tolerance with clients. Jimmy, fed up with feeling trapped, disregards his professional expertise and ethics in order to embrace the position of “psychological vigilante.” But once he adopts alternative therapy approaches and offers honest advise in sessions, he is forced to face unanticipated consequences.

 

It’s not unusual to discover Jimmy by his pool at 3 a.m. playing air piano to Billy Joel next to a bowl of painkillers, but he’s not the only therapist on the show going through this. His coworkers, Gabby (Jessica Williams) and Paul (Harrison Ford), both have their own emotional baggage, with Gabby’s marriage disintegrating and Paul — just diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease — seeking to reconcile with a daughter who considers him “a selfish prick.”

If you overthink Shrinking’s core premise — a program about therapists with messy lives who are unable to use their expert knowledge and talents to assist themselves — it may seem too contradictory to work. Shrinking regularly reassures us that its three protagonists are qualified for their professions by enabling them to be vulnerable, impart persuasive advice, and demonstrate a notable concern for others. According to Paul, “grief is a clever little jerk. It is a surprise.” Moreover, therapists are human at the end of the day.

If you begin to lose interest in the show, it won’t be for long. (Except, perhaps, if you are a licensed therapist.) Shrinking’s strong execution is supported by breezy episodes, astute writing replete with irrefutable jokes, and razor-sharp relatability. However, the film’s biggest quality is its delightful ensemble with good chemistry and likable characters. Alice, the teen daughter of Jimmy, is portrayed by Lukita Maxwell with grace. Luke Tennie delves deep as Sean, a young soldier sentenced to rehabilitation following an assault conviction. Christa Miller is energizing as Liz, Jimmy’s inquisitive neighbor. Michael Urie exudes charisma as Jimmy’s best buddy Brian, who kindly re-enters his life a year after being ghosted.

Shrinking’s stellar stars, who seem to easily embrace some of the most charming roles of their lives, are the only thing that elevates an already impressive supporting cast. Williams exemplifies vivacity, whether she’s dishing out fiery comebacks in the break room or brazenly screaming “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” in the vehicle. Segel, a maestro of physical comedy, perfectly captures the delicate contradiction of a man who cracks dad jokes one moment and has dead wife face the next. Jimmy’s demeanor could be considerably less likable in less capable hands, but the How I Met Your Mother star makes it easy to empathize with a silly, sad man striving to regain his spark. Segel’s writing for his character also demonstrates a critical comprehension of the part.

But the greatest and most satisfying surprise for viewers will likely be Ford, who imbues Paul with tremendous heart, wit, and empathy. The 80-year-old film great, who now plays in Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone prequel, 1923, portrays this ferociously intellectual and complicated man at a pivotal crossroads in his life. And regardless of whether Paul is eating Fun Dip, flirting with his doctor, or submitting to profound periods of deep meditation and weighty emotion, Harrison’s performance is Emmy-nominated.

Observing on-screen depictions of familiar forms of mourning can be cathartic. You may see yourself in the adventures of specific characters and find inspiration in watching them work hard, endure arduous emotional labor, and rise from their lowest points. If you’re a fan of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, you should give this one a shot. Aside from the fact that Shrinking was created and written by Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Cougar Town) and Ted Lasso star and writer Brett Goldstein, the shows share numerous writers, producers, and directors (hello, Zach Braff! ), as well as songs that slap, courtesy of composer Tom Howe. Both Ted Lasso and Shrinking explore and develop distinctive character dynamics by pairing mismatched scene mates. And Shrinking scripts also adopt Roy Kent’s penchant for profanity, which I greatly admired (based on the nine episodes provided for review). Story-wise, Shrinking is distinct from Ted Lasso, but the two series offer the same uplifting sentiments, keep us laughing, seek to destigmatize loss, and celebrate the modest steps individuals take to live with and overcome it.

The premiere of the first two episodes of Shrinking on Apple TV+ occurs on January 27, 2023. New episodes are released every Friday.

 

»Apple TV+’s Therapy Comedy ‘Shrinking’ Is Another Victory for the ‘Ted Lasso’ Team«

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