Shrinking: A Comedy About Therapy, Grief

Jason Segel and Harrison Ford in "Shrinking," premiering January 27, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Shrinking follows a grieving therapist as he resorts to whatever habits he can while not hesitating to break the rules with his clients.

I know what you’re thinking–how is this series any different from the Tim Baltz-starring Shrink? Can both series co-exist in a world where therapists break the rules? It’s quite possible although I would love to see more of Baltz in action after the Seeso series got the short end of the stick. As someone familiar with the Chicago improv scene, one could understand why the series is so sentimental. But I digress.

Jimmy Laird (Jason Segel) is still grieving the passing of his wife, who died in a car crash one year earlier. It’s having a tremendous impact on his daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell), since Jimmy has become an absentee father as a result of his grief. Their relationship is so bad to the point that neighbors Liz (Christa Miller) and Derek (Ted McGinley) are filling the parental roles. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s own grief has reached the point where his own work at the Rhoades Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center is in a rut. In short, the therapist needs his own therapist. There’s where colleague Gaby (Jessica Williams) and boss Paul Rhoades (Harrison Ford) come in. Paul is not a fan of Jimmy’s new tactics but sometimes a therapist has to do what a therapist has to do! Will it work?

A few clients recur throughout the series but Sean (Luke Tennie) is the client with the biggest focus. The veteran is a series regular and suffers from PTSD. Anyway, Sean’s therapy sessions are court-ordered. In many ways, both Jimmy and Sean help each other. We’ll see just how they make progress over the course of the season. One early incident forces Jimmy to bring best friend Brian (Michael Urie) back into his life. Jimmy’s grief led to him forcing Brian away because of Brian’s high-on-life attitude. After another incident occurs, Jimmy does the one thing that a therapist should not do under any circumstance.

Harrison Ford in Shrinking
Harrison Ford in “Shrinking,” premiering January 27, 2023 on Apple TV+.

The chemistry between Jason Segel, Jessica Williams, Lukita Maxwell, Christa Miller, and Harrison Ford are essential to making the series work. The grief impacts everyone in their own way but they have to rebuild somehow. When Lukita’s Alice isn’t at home or school, she’s either with Liz or meeting with Paul. She has to do something because her father basically stopped doing anything helpful. Meanwhile, Gaby and Paul have their own issues going on, too. While Michael Urie is a series regular, he starts getting an increase in screen time after the series premiere. He’s an attorney and re-enters Jimmy’s life as if nothing had changed. Not surprisingly, Jimmy is having none of it.

Ford plays elder therapist Paul in a way that only Ford can. The comedy comes through the situations in how he responds or how others respond to him. I will say that he’s not even making any sort of attempt to disappear into the character, for better or worse. When it comes to an actor of Ford’s stature, you know exactly what you’re getting in the performance. Even if he doesn’t disappear into the role like other actors might, he’s still bringing his A game. He also brings his own clothing, too. I was already here for Jason Segel but seeing Ford join a TV series as a regular is what gives the audience another reason to watch. I would say more about his character but I do not wish to give it away.

While Shrinking is mostly a comedy, there are some lighter moments of drama in its storylines. I won’t get into the particular details because audiences will be watching the story play out during the next few weeks. There are ten episodes in the series so a lot of comedy and drama is left to come. Well, more comedy than drama. After all, this is a series that walks a fine line in its approach to grief. Let me tell you: comedies are super important especially after the last few years.

Shrinking may break the rules but the chemistry makes the therapy comedy worth watching.

CREATORS: Bill Lawrence & Jason Segel & Brett Goldstein
DIRECTORS: James Ponsoldt, Ry Russo-Young, Randall Winston, Zach Braff
WRITERS: Bill Lawrence, Jason Segel, Brett Goldstein, Brian Gallivan, Rachna Fruchbom, Bill Posely, Annie Mebane, Wally Baram, Sofi Selig, Neil Goldman
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Bill Lawrence, Jeff Ingold, Liza Katzer, Jason Segel, Neil Goldman, Brett Goldstein, James Ponsoldt, Randall Winston
CAST: Jason Segel, Jessica Williams, Michael Urie, Luke Tennie, Lukita Maxwell, with Christa Miller and Harrison Ford

Apple premieres the first two episodes of Shrinking on January 27, 2023. New episodes will follow weekly. Grade: 3.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.