In Apple TV+’s upcoming dark comedy The Shrink Next Door, sibling rivalry is unfortunately taken to extremes.
Inspired by true events and based on the podcast of the same name, the series (which premieres this Friday with its first three episodes) stars Will Ferrell as Martin “Marty” Markowitz, a naïve, passive and panic attack-prone man who is grieving the loss of his parents and a split with his girlfriend. But when his younger sister Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) recommends he see a psychiatrist to help reclaim his life, the relationship between the two men takes an ominous turn, as the charming Dr. Ike Herschkopf (Paul Rudd) begins inserting himself into every aspect of Marty’s life.
With ethics thrown completely out the window, Marty falls prey to an exploitative relationship that’s chock-full of gaslighting and manipulation. (Read our full review here.)
“When we first meet them, Marty is clearly in need of some help,” Hahn tells TVLine. “He is crippled emotionally, and [Phyllis] is desperate for him to get some care that he needs. There’s nobody else that she loves as much as her brother. Slowly throughout the series, we see this doctor — that she ironically has recommended — force a wedge between them, and the gulf becomes wider and wider.”
As Marty and Ike’s relationship veers into extremely unprofessional territory, Phyllis sees all of the warning signs and tries to get her brother to see the truth. In addition to weaseling his way into their family business (Marty winds up naming Ike president of their fabric company), the doctor and his wife move into and take over Marty’s Hamptons home, throwing elaborate parties and making major financial and real estate-related decisions. And that’s only the beginning.
“It’s clearly unethical,” Hahn adds. “Even if Phyllis had been to a therapist before, she knows those things don’t happen with a normal therapist and patient relationship.”
With her own life in shambles — she’s a recently divorced mother of three — Phyllis takes Marty’s advice and meets with Ike for a session of her own. Unsurprisingly: It does not turn out well.
“She can feel Marty slipping from her fingers, so she takes his advice and meets with [Ike],” says Hahn. “The session starts off awkward, then starts to go well. He’s a great doctor, he’s legitimately good at what he does, so she opens up and they start to establish a new relationship, sans Marty. Then some comments are made that are breaches of trust and confidentiality, and all of her fears are confirmed. He’s not right!”
With her apprehension on high alert, Phyllis’ feelings about Dr. Ike create a clear divide between the brother and sister, one which has a decades-long effect on their relationship. Despite the fact that they were formerly other’s number one ally and supporter, Marty begins to pull away as he gets sucked deeper and deeper into Ike’s gravitational pull.
“I’m a sister myself, and I cannot imagine being shut out of one of their lives,” says Hahn.