While we’re still a couple weeks away from the premiere of the highly anticipated third season of Ted Lasso, we know how you can kill some time: by checking out Apple TV+’s Shrinking.
In the midst of its freshman run (Episode 6 hit the streamer Friday, Feb. 24; the Season 1 finale drops Friday, March 24), Shrinking follows Jimmy (How I Met Your Mother‘s Jason Segel), a therapist struggling with grief after the death of his wife, as he partakes in some painful and highly inadvisable activities. Eventually, he snaps and starts telling his clients exactly what he’s thinking, for better or for worse. His avant-garde approach seems to unlock greatness for both himself and his clients, much to the chagrin of his boss-turned-mentor Paul (played by Harrison Ford). (Watch a trailer here.)
Developed by two Lasso creatives (more on that below), Shrinking, while a tad darker and edgier, shares comedic DNA with the streamer’s Jason Sudeikis vehicle, with performances that are just as effective and heartfelt. Read on for five reasons why you should watch, then let us know your thoughts in the comments once you do.
With reporting from Kim Roots
Its Creative Team Is Aces
Shrinking was developed by three creatives who not only have staying power, but also boast an impressive collective resumé. Bill Lawrence serves as one of Lasso‘s co-creators (alongside star Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly), while Brett Goldstein (who co-stars with Sudeikis) has written over a dozen of its episodes. But that, of course, only scratches the surface of Lawrence’s past work, which includes co-creating Spin City, Cougar Town and Clone High, in addition to developing Scrubs.
Segel’s no slouch either. In addition to his robust list of acting credits, he’s written films (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Five-Year Engagement), resurrected The Muppets and developed a series of his own with the AMC drama Dispatches From Elsewhere. With all three head honchos known for poignant, yet punchy comedy, rest assured that this new series is in very capable hands.
Its Handling of Grief Feels Incredibly Real
As we all know much too well, grief hits everyone differently, and that can be seen through Jimmy, his daughter Alice (Generation‘s Lukita Maxwell) and his friend/colleague Gaby (The Daily Show‘s Jessica Williams). But the show never wallows in its grief; rather, it shows us how different people react to sadness, and what they do to pull themselves out their darkness.
Some viewers may find Jimmy’s journey to be inspiring or helpful, but we assure you: This is not After Life, nor does Shrinking ever skew toward depressing. Instead, it’s a testament to how grief can take ahold, and how someone can work hard to plug back in to save his or her life and family. (And there’s jokes! Funny shenanigans, even! Promise.)
How does the series walk that tightrope between its dramatic and comedic elements so well? Segel credits Lawrence and Goldstein for working that magic.
“I think it is of a piece with Ted Lasso by nature of this super power that Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein have,” Segel tells TVLine, “which is to find a way to navigate some complicated issues and make you feel hopeful at the end of all of it. That even though things are complicated, we’re all going to be okay. I think that that is how you walk away from these episodes feeling.”
Watching Ford play a lovable curmudgeon who’s not afraid to tell it like it is brings nothing but sheer joy and sharp banter to the series. Dr. Paul Rhoades, a senior therapist at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center, tries to evade his mentor/mentee relationship with Jimmy, but their connection and push-and-pull dynamic remains central to the show’s success throughout.
Paul, who happens to have Parkinson’s disease, is an independent, no-nonsense boomer, but when his vulnerability eventually rears its head, it adds loads of heart and humor to the story. Plus, having such a seasoned acting veteran in the role — one who rarely appears on the small screen considering the length of his resumé — is a thrill. Ford both elevates the material, while simultaneously grounding it.
It Hits Similar Emotional Beats
While Lasso is a globally appealing sports series, Shrinking‘s setting “is a lot more intimate and smaller and local,” Goldstein tells TVLine. “It’s a much more intimate emotional landscape. I think the major difference is with Ted Lasso, the character. He is open and loving and empathetic and wanting to connect, and when we meet Jimmy at the beginning of this show, he’s wanting to self-destruct, starting from a much, much darker place.”
While there are blatant differences to each lead’s approach to life and struggles, Shrinking‘s pacing, tone and overall vibe feel oddly familiar. Jimmy strives to turn things around for himself and his clients which often leads to learning and humility, even if his progression can be seen as two steps forward and three steps back.
“It’s a show that has hope in it and warmth,” adds Goldstein, “and ultimately is aiming towards the light.”
You'll Want to Root for Everyone
Aside from Jimmy and Paul, there are plenty of other characters with problems of their own who will suck you into their sentimental vortex. And you’ll want to root for them all. Alice, with whom Jimmy has a strained relationship, is also enduring her own grief from her mother’s death. Ditto for Gaby, who’s also working through her own bumps in the road with her impending divorce. And then there’s Liz (Cougar Town‘s Christa Miller), the crazy neighbor who’s beyond overbearing, but owns up to her many quirks. Regardless of each character’s issues, dramas and personal journey, they’ll all pull on your heartstrings.
“The characters’ progress is measured in, ‘Are they going to be OK?'” says Segel. “Is Jimmy going to be able to rebuild this family? Are we going to get through these tough life moments together?”