In 2013, NBC did a single cam sitcom with Matthew Perry called GO ON. The show dealt with a man in therapy, dealing with grief over the death of his wife. Now granted, he wasn’t a therapist himself. But the similarities between that sitcom and SHRINKING, the new show from TED LASSO creators Bill Lawrence (SCRUBS) and Brett Goldstein (aka Roy F**king Kent!), are pretty striking.
GO ON, while not nearly as good as SHRINKING, wasn’t a bad little show, but was still canceled after one season and promptly forgotten after huge weekly ratings drops. It just never found its audience. But in some ways, it’s sort of indicative of how audiences would have probably viewed a show like SHRINKING 10 years ago vs. today.
However, SHRINKING is what happens when you find the comedy in a heavy topic but with stronger writing, showrunners, an audience that’s ready to handle it, and a medium that allows them to watch it at their convenience. In short, it’s GO ON, but done better.
The series introduces Jason Segal’s Jimmy, a therapist emotionally spiraling after his wife’s tragic and sudden death almost a year prior. Those in his life find him failing horribly as a parent, friend, and therapist, particularly his daughter Alice, who he’s constantly neglecting. But one day, after suddenly snapping at one of his patients in a way that prompts her to proactively change her life, Jimmy feels a sudden spark to get back into the swing of things by becoming a “vigilante” therapist, helping his patience in risky, somewhat dangerous, unorthodox ways, that are surprisingly effective, honest, and actually helpful. Which, in turn, inspires him to start helping himself as well.
Segal, a co-creator of the show, has honestly never been better. Jimmy is terrible at times, but we understand why. And like the people who love him, we never hold it against him. On the contrary, we love and worry about Jimmy because he’s a good person. And because Segal’s performance is sympathetic and heartfelt. It also helps significantly that for all his failures, he’s persistently trying to be better. In short, it’s a very human performance, and one that should put him in similar Emmy conversions as the other Jason that’s sweeping the other Lawrence/Goldstein show.
Segal’s performance isn’t the show’s only strength, though. Co-stars Luke Tennie, Christa Miller, Lukita Maxwell, and Jessica Williams turn in tender and often hilarious performances themselves. All of these characters feel so real and complicated, which makes everyone so relatable. However, the show’s MVP is, of course, Harrison Ford. I don’t think Ford has given as tender, multi-layered, yet hilarious performance as this in decades.
Ford’s Paul, Jimmy’s boss, and friend, is a character reminiscent of PARKS AND RECREATION’s Ron Swanson. And you can’t help but laugh at him and embrace his curmudgeonly but ultimately caring ways,
The writing by Segal/Lawrence/Goldstein is also terrific, as is the direction by James Ponsold. As a creative team, they manage to wring out tender, tragic human drama and balance it with side-splitting comedy. For instance, there’s a sequence of really hilarious physical comedy scenes toward the end of the first episode that’s just incredibly brilliant. And finding and blending those tones on a show like this is so tricky. But they stick the landing!
Is the show going to reach the heights of a phenomenon like TED LASSO? Probably not. Audiences, in general, tend to stray away from shows that have the potential to make them feel sad. And SHRINKING is definitely more somber and serious at times than LASSO. But it’s no less heartfelt, human, or hilarious and absolutely worth your time so far if you give it a chance.
In short, we recommend you schedule a session ASAP!
The first two episodes of SHRINKING are now available on Apple TV+!