It wasn’t difficult to understand the fascination when Ted Lasso initially took off in 2020. It had all the elements of a hit sitcom, including a likable cast, funny jokes, love interests, and many touching moments of connection. It was praised by critics and spectators alike as a heartwarming show that provided much-needed distraction during national sadness (a time that never really ended).
But Ted Lasso stands out for its courage to go dark, which keeps its wholesomeness from becoming hollow sentimentality. It’s a program that frequently addresses mental illness, heartache, betrayal, and all the other human suffering that a positive outlook on life cannot remedy.
The new Apple TV+ dramedy’s pilot For apparent reasons, Shrinking frequently reminds people of that other Apple TV+ dramedy. One of its three co-creators is the Ted Lasso showrunner, while another co-creates and stars in that program. (Star Jason Segel comes in third.)
While the high-concept notion of Shrinking may seem harmless fun, the script by Lawrence, Segel, and Brett Goldstein highlights the ethical murkiness baked in. This is where Bill Lawrence’s impact can be seen most clearly.
A therapist named Jimmy Laird (Segel) is sick of promoting the tedious process of incremental self-improvement. He believes that conventional therapy approaches are too time-consuming; in some cases, waiting for people to reach their judgments when you might inform them is not worthwhile.
One day, he decides to get to the point during a session with Grace (Heidi Gardner) and tell her that her spouse is emotionally abusive, he has no intention of changing, and she needs to end her relationship with him forever. He yells, “Leave him, or I’m done being your therapist.”
Grace takes Jimmy’s advice and relocates back with her sister. She even calls to express her gratitude. It reassures him that he may be suitable to alter his approach and become a “psychological vigilante.” Of course, there’s more to Jimmy’s search for a new career path than just the typical irritation that can occur when you’re a therapist experiencing “compassion fatigue.”
He lost his wife in a car accident about a year ago, and since then, he has relied on alcohol, drugs, and s*x to get by. His adolescent daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell), who has primarily been left to grieve and take care of herself when she isn’t caring for Jimmy, suffers from this destructive self-care. She spends more time with her dad than their empty-nester neighbor Liz (Christa Miller), with whom they hardly have any contact these days.
Jimmy is desperate to get in touch with his daughter and escape his ongoing depression. Perhaps he believes that this novel and intriguing thought will help him achieve that; perhaps by hastening everyone else’s recovery from mental illness, he would hasten his sorrow and return to “normality.”
But there are a zillion reasons why it’s obviously a horrible idea. People frequently need to reach realizations at their own pace; hurrying might be harmful. Additionally, getting personally involved in your patients’ lives is just immoral. “It’s nice to see you have your spark back, but ruh-roh. Ruh-roh, Jimmy.” Adds Jimmy’s friend and coworker, Gaby (the invariably charming Jessica Williams). You go, Jimmy.
After a few meetings with Sean, a young soldier Gaby recommended that Jimmy first deal with his new strategy’s significant repercussions. Sean has been arrested for assault several times in the six months since he was discharged due to his PTSD. Jimmy has the fantastic idea to take him to a boxing gym so he can get his aggressive urges out in a controlled environment.
It appears successful initially because Sean keeps going, and Jimmy starts to warm up to him after learning about his late wife. (Although it was apparent what had happened to her, it is only at that point that we have proof.) One day in the street, Sean stumbles into someone, but he manages to resist the urge to punch him.
That, in Jimmy’s opinion, is the second concrete indication that his new experiment with “getting his hands filthy” may be successful. To get to Alice’s soccer game, he and Sean suddenly leave on a happy drive (and later run) around Pasadena.
Everything seems to be going smoothly as they arrive at the venue to wow Liz and watch Alice score a goal, but then Grace’s husband comes and headbutts Jimmy in retaliation for what he had instructed Grace to do. Sean then becomes enraged. As a result, he leaped to defend Jimmy but gets taken away and imprisoned for yet another attack.
It’s a sad moment that serves as a stark reminder that Jimmy’s new strategy would never be successful without drawbacks. But at least Alice has a little moment of compassion, and she thanks Jimmy for coming. He says, “I would’ve arrived sooner, you know.”
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After a lengthy pause, the person said: “You look so much like your mum.” It’s a short and perhaps a bit apparent moment, but it makes for a satisfying conclusion. Jason Segel’s sad smile and “what are you going to do?” shrug, which convey so much, might be even more potent than the statement itself.
Segel, who is pleasant and entertaining by nature, roots this intriguing but rather unsatisfying first episode of the show with his performance. It’s beautiful to see Harrison Ford in comedy mode as Dr. Paul Rhoades, his deadpan playing well off Segel’s joyful earnestness.
There’s also some excellent cast chemistry, which is a good reason to keep watching. The jokes themselves seem like they could be a little snappier, and I wonder if this idea would hold up over time. Jimmy and I could see from “Coin Flip” on its own that Jimmy’s new proposal would ultimately fail. Do we have to see Jimmy learn the same lesson in nine more episodes?
It’s difficult to predict whether Shrinking will be able to hit the humorous or dramatic heights of Ted Lasso based solely on the pilot. But so far, it’s a fun film that’s challenging to detest. With this cast and staff, there is a lot of potentials.