Shrinking is a quiet, charming, but still hilarious workplace comedy from television veteran and Ted Lasso creator Bill Lawrence as well as rising writer and Lasso star Brett Goldstein. Audiences can expect the same feel-good comedy Lawrence is famous for, but with a little more realism and depth when portraying the human psyche–which does make sense, given it’s a show about therapists.
The Apple TV+ series follows Jimmy (Jason Segal, How I Met Your Mother), a dissociated therapist and father who struggles to come to terms with his wife’s passing. Tired of not telling his clients what he really thinks about them, Jimmy sets out to tell them precisely what they need to hear, even if it goes against all of his training as a therapist. Segal helped create Shrinking with Lawrence and Goldstein, serving as one of the show’s head writers, producers, and stars. He’s an excellent addition to this creative dream team. Fans of The Muppets may forget that Segal is an accomplished and skilled dramatic actor who seamlessly flips between comedy and drama.
Also in the cast is Jessica Williams as Gabby, another therapist who works at Jimmy’s clinic. Her positive outlook on life and bubbly demeanour are a treat in any scene she’s in, but it will be interesting to see how her relationship with Jimmy plays out next season. Recent breakout television star Harrison Ford is Paul, the irritable but lovable head therapist at the clinic who is hiding his own secret. Ford is a series stand-out in a role that he could have easily phoned in. Between this and 1923, the beloved actor has found his new home on the small screen, and there ain’t no shame in that!
When Shrinking premiered in January, it wasn’t clear if creator/writer Bill Lawrence had another hit on his hands. The show’s tone was jarring and didn’t completely gel. It takes some time to adjust to the contrast between the dramatic situations these characters find themselves in, like Jimmy grieving the death of his wife, and the happy-go-lucky tone that Bill Lawrence is synonymous with. However, as the season progresses, Lawrence finds the balance. To many people’s surprise, audiences have enjoyed every second they got to spend with these characters in the same way they love spending time with the characters of Ted Lasso.
Although the series sets up the very intriguing premise of Jimmy being brutally honest with his clients to help them, it delivers way more as a dramedy about therapists who need a lot of therapy themselves. The only client of Jimmy’s that we get to spend a lot of time with is Sean (Luke Tennis), who tries to get his anger issues under control, but even Sean starts to feel more like one of Jimmy’s lifelong friends by Episode 3. Though it would have been nice to see Jimmy’s other clients explored in more depth, watching his own journey throughout the season is equally as compelling.
Along with honest and heartfelt performances, the show does an incredible job of exploring the grieving process people experience after losing a loved one. There were a lot of very poignant moments of Jimmy and Alice struggling in vastly different ways to live after losing the most important person to them. Still, it doesn’t top the best show to handle the topic of grief, which will always be WandaVision.
One aspect of the show that may not be super accurate is the therapy itself and the show knows it, spending most of its time focusing on Jimmy, Paul, and Gabby instead. Jimmy hands out some questionable advice to his clients during the few scenes of Jimmy doing therapy, like when he tells a woman dealing with her emotionally abusive boyfriend to shove his coffee off the counter and ‘boop’ him. But I applaud the show for challenging Jimmy’s very questionable therapy technique in the final scenes of the season, where we get a great cliffhanger (literally!) that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a show in this vein.
When it comes down to it, what makes Shrinking special is its unique characters and their complex but heartfelt relationships with one another. We all want to see characters that mess up–TV would be boring if they didn’t. However, we also want to see them given another opportunity to better themselves so that they can grow. And maybe, we’ll grow along with them. If you’re looking for a new show that’ll have you shedding tears one second and then cracking up laughing during the next, you should definitely give Shrinking a shot. Who knows? By its season’s end, you might find yourself in control of your own emotions.
All episodes of Shrinking are available to stream now on Apple TV+.