Comedy-drama Shrinking might be one of the best shows on Apple TV Plus, but I’m not seeing much buzz about it. This is surprising to me, considering how well-received Shrinking is and its all-star pedigree. The show’s co-creators are Bill Lawrence, Brett Goldstein, and star Jason Segel. Shrinking also stars Harrison Ford and an all-around fantastic ensemble cast. There are plenty of funny moments in the show, but it’s truly a show about love and loss and learning to live again.
Shrinking cast and creators
Some of my favorite comedies of all time were created or co-created by Bill Lawrence: Ted Lasso, Scrubs, Cougar Town, Spin City, and more. While most people know Brett Goldstein as Ted Lasso’s acerbic Roy Kent, he’s also a co-creator on Shrinking, as well as Jason Segel who plays the main character.
The wonderful ensemble cast includes Jason Segel as therapist Jimmy Laird, who is grieving the recent loss of his beloved wife. Harrison Ford plays his mentor and colleague Paul Rhoades. Jessica Williams is Gaby, the other therapist in their practice. Jimmy’s teen daughter Alice is played by Lukita Maxwell. Michael Urie is Jimmy’s best friend Brian and Luke Tennie is Sean, a patient of Jimmy’s. If you’ve seen other Bill Lawrence productions, you won’t be surprised to hear that his wife Christa Miller is in the cast as well, playing Jimmy’s neighbor Liz.
What is Shrinking about?
At the beginning of the show, we meet Jimmy, who is clearly unhappy and acting out with some pretty awful behavior. As it turns out, he’s a therapist, which is a bit ironic considering how much he does not have a handle on his own life. His patients seem to be stuck in their own ruts, so he decides to take a rather unorthodox approach with them. He figuratively shakes them awake, breaking the therapeutic method and more or less forcing them to make major changes in their lives. This is the “breakthrough” method that is sort of the show’s gimmick, or how it was marketed anyway. Personally, I think that’s almost besides the point of this show, and it really finds its groove once it gets past that original premise.
Meanwhile, his daughter Alice is also grieving the loss of her mother, and Jimmy doesn’t seem to know how to talk to her at all. Luckily, neighbor Liz steps in as a mother figure, and Jimmy’s mentor Paul is a friend and father figure to Alice. Both of them help Jimmy and Alice try and find each other again so they can grieve together, rather than alone.
Paul, Jimmy, and Gaby are all therapists at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center. Paul is a mentor for the other two, and the interplay between the three of them is one of my favorite parts of the show. Each of them are dealing with their own life challenges, and they help one another, often through teasing banter and humor. Sean is one of Jimmy’s most challenging clients, and Jimmy takes the most unorthodox approach with him.
Why isn’t there more buzz about Shrinking?
I’m sure it’s always hard to market a drama-comedy. But I think Apple leaned a bit too heavily on the “breakthrough” premise. In fact, the name of the show’s trailer is Breakthrough. This is referring to Jimmy’s decision to stop sitting back and repeating to his clients, “Hmm. And how does that make you feel?” Instead, he crosses boundaries, getting overly involved in his clients’ lives, which has mixed results. But I don’t think that’s what Shrinking is truly about. Unfortunately, this approach might make people dismiss the show as gimmicky or silly, which it really isn’t.
Why you should watch Shrinking
Shrinking is both heartwarming and funny. It reminds me of Ted Lasso, only with therapists instead of soccer coaches. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. It’s truly an exploration of grief and trauma, and all the different ways it affects people. It’s also about love, and not just romantic love. Shrinking celebrates the love between family members and dear friends who become family.
I will say that it took me a few episodes to get into Shrinking. Jimmy comes off as a bit of a jerk at first, until you understand what’s going on with him. The other characters I loved right away, and they kept me going until the show settled into itself. Harrison Ford’s Paul doesn’t have a ton of screen time, but he steals every scene he’s in. The entire cast is stellar, and the writing gets better as the show goes on. If you haven’t already seen Shrinking, give it a shot. You can watch the entire first season now on Apple TV Plus. Luckily, Shrinking has been renewed for a second season, so you won’t be left on a cliff-hanger.