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TV Review: ‘Shrinking’ Uses Comedy to Help the Medicine Go Down

Long ago back, way in 2019, the world was a simpler place. It was a simpler time before the streaming wars were really in full. The newest addition to the field, Apple TV+ streaming service which had launched the year before, but was not making the ground you would expect from the biggest companies in the world.

That all changed the following year. A delightful little show about soccer of all things starring Jason Sudeikis and a cast composed of relatively unknown actors (at least in the US) was building incredible buzz. That series is now a household name, Ted Lasso – the tough to dislike comedy which was equal parts heart and humor. It has now won 11 Emmys, multiple SAG awards and just about every other industry honor. Most importantly, Ted Lasso put Apple TV+ on the map, firmly establishing it as a source of some of the best content of all streamers.

Now, Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence, one of the series’ biggest stars, Brett Goldstein, and Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) have teamed up to deliver what certainly could be the next big thing on the service, Shrinking. The series centers around Jimmy (played by Segel), a therapist grieving the sudden and tragic loss of his wife. Understandably, his world is crashing down around leaving him grasping to keep it all together; his family, his practice, his friendships, and himself. The therapist whose career revolved around helping others work through their problems has turned to drugs, alcohol, casual sex, and air piano to drown out his own.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Jimmy then takes things to a new level by becoming, as he puts it, a “psychological vigilante.” Casting aside conventional treatment for his patients and replacing it with a straightforward unorthodox approach, as he bypasses his professional therapist filter and tells his patients exactly what he feels. That ranges from demanding Grace (Heidi Gardner) to leave her emotionally abusive boyfriend to taking Sean (Luke Tennie), a patient with a violent streak resulting from his time in the military, off to fight out some of the pent up rage in a local MMA ring. None of which goes over too well with his colleagues. 

Shrinking prescribes a heavy dose of humor with its grief, each complementing the other – a spoonful of sugar helping the catharsis go down. One moment it will have you laughing out loud only to be gut punched with a heart-felt reminder of the pain with which the characters are dealing. The anguish extends beyond Jimmy and his patients to his colleagues, Gabby (Jessica Williams) who is pushing through a divorce and Paul (Harrison Ford) who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, something he is struggling to share with his daughter. Misery loves company and there’s a lot under one roof – not to mention them having to deal with a partner who has gone rogue.  

In addition to trying to change his life, Jimmy’s attention shifts to his daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell) who seems to be the adult of the house since the loss of her mother. Their relationship is strained at best, mainly due to Jimmy’s ineptitude to handle his own pain. They are reduced to living mates rather than the father/daughter relationship they truly need during such a difficult time. The moments shared with Jimmy and Alice are the most sincere and capture a lot of authentic emotion that hits hard.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

This is mainly due to the fantastic chemistry between Segel and Maxwell – lots of dad-is-trying-too-hard cringe moments covering the hole in each of their live. One example is a small, hopeful breakthrough between the two where Jimmy reveals to Alice his struggle to parent since the loss of his wife stems to just how much she looks like her mom. The poignantly written dialogue tapped into so many emotions, and shattered my heart into a million pieces. 

Those sentimental moments are present throughout, but are balanced by a steady flow of comedy. This is one reason, while completely different in premise, Shrinking does retain frequent Ted Lasso vibes. Both series tackle heavier subject matters and diffuse them with humor and likable characters though as a whole Shrinking lives in a darker place. Where Lasso goes big with the universal language of sports often taking center stage, Shrinking stays smaller and more personal, letting us sit with the characters as they expose their pain. 

The cast is exceptional, led by the underrated Jason Segel whose Jimmy floats between goofy, broken, and resilient. Segel nails the sadness of a grieving father struggling to reconnect with his daughter without making his character pathetic. In addition to his dramatic work, Segel’s first-rate comedic delivery and complementary facial expressions squeeze every ounce of comedy out of every scene from the silly to the dramatic. All this is elevated by his knack for physical comedy. Jimmy remains a character you want to rally around, most of all you just want to do is give him a hug as he bumbles through life..

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Several of the Shrinking cast look ready for their big breaks. Jessica Williams, who I have expected big things out of since her time on The Daily Show continues to watch her star rise as Gabby. She’s a spirited and refreshing breath of fresh air, able to add some levity to every situation. The aforementioned Lukita Maxwell and Luke Tennie are both now firmly planted on my radar after delivering two memorable characters who more than hold their own with veterans like Segel and Ford.

It was Ford’s take on Paul had me worried at first. He starts off with one-note as he grumbles his way through just about every scene, dispensing often unsolicited advice with a gruff, unlikeable tone. Thankfully his character finds his groove a few episodes delivering some quieter yet big laughs as he strays from the expected. The more sides we see of Paul the more I wanted him on screen. There is also Christa Miller as Jimmy’s neighbor, Liz whose husband is played by the ageless and funny Ted McGinnley. Rounding out the cast is Michael Urie as Brian, Jimmy’s best friend who had been locked out of his life since the passing of his wife. 

With all these characters vying for time the show leans more toward sitcom-y than originally promised. The characters are given some far-fetched excuses to share screen time, trapped in a fish bowl where all their life problems dominate the subject of conversation. Where the soccer team aspect of Lasso makes more sense, here it seems forced and a bit of a letdown. It would have served the premise and the characters better to take its time to get there. You have to earn it. The more it accelerates to the familiar the more the series loses what made it so promising. 

The comic sensibilities are strong – combining those with the warm-hearted moments and the more complex emotional terrain of grief is not an easy task. Shrinking succeeds to keep you hooked, by the time each episode wrapped up I was hitting play on the next. Keeping episodes around 30 minutes in length works well giving us enough time with the characters. Just when you think it may lose its way, someone else steps up to the plate to make sure we never stop caring. Shrinking will have no trouble keeping viewers invested in the characters from one session to the next.

The first two episodes of Shrinking are now streaming on Apple TV+, with new episodes dropping every Friday through its 10-episode season.


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Connie Simonton
Connie Simonton
1 month ago

My grandma has Parkinson’s disease, she is about 75 years old it was detected 7 years ago. Right now it’s getting more difficult to live for her, because of stiff muscles she can’t even move. L-dopa and carbidopa medicines are given, but won”t give much relief. She can”t eat food and the skin is damaging forming ganglia. I thought this might be the last stage and the medications she was given did not help at all, so I started to do alot of research on natural treatments and came across Parkinson’s Herbal Treatment from Health Natural Centre, the treatment has made a very huge difference for her. Her symptoms including body weakness and her tremors disappeared after few months on the treatment. She is getting active again since starting this treatment, she is able to walk again ( down the street and back ) and able to ride her treadmill again. God Bless all PD Caregivers. Stay Strong, take small moments throughout the day to thank yourself, to love your self, and pray to whatever faith, star, spiritual force you believe in and ask for strength.



Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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