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‘Shrinking’ Season 1: An Intimate Look at the Intricacies of Grief (REVIEW)

Shrinking, created by Bill Lawrence, Brett Goldstein (we love to see it!), and Jason Segel, follows therapist Jimmy (Segel) in the aftermath of the loss of his wife, Tia (Lilan Bowden). Coping well Jimmy is not. When we first meet him, it’s three o’clock in the morning and Jimmy’s being told to keep the noise down by his neighbor, Liz (Christa Miller), as he blares Billy Joel from his backyard pool, the patio table covered in booze, Adderall, and painkillers), with two female “friends” who may or may not be hookers. All while his teenage daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell), is asleep in the house.

We see Jimmy’s relationship with Tia through a series of flashbacks throughout Shrinking Season 1. Where many shows fall flat trying to make audiences care about a character only shown in the past, Shrinking takes a page out of This Is Us playbook. Whether we’re witnessing the playfulness of Jimmy and Tia’s relationship and the deep love they shared or the moments of strife that every marriage has, Shrinking‘s flashbacks are a heartaching frame for Jimmy’s profound loss.

This loss affects every aspect of his life, and, in some cases, maybe that’s for the better. Fed up with how stagnant he’s become in the year since Tia’s death, Jimmy starts choosing unethical ways to help his clients. First, he tells his patient Grace (Heidi Gardner) he’ll quit as her therapist if she doesn’t leave her emotionally abusive spouse. Next, Jimmy takes Sean (Luke Tennie), a young combat veteran who recently returned home, to MMA as a healthy outlet for the violent impulses that have Sean trying to fight every person who he thinks so much as looks at him the wrong way. All Jimmy hopes is that something unorthodox will make a difference for them – and, in turn, for him. And his unethical methods do start to have an effect – for better and for worse.

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Jason Segel as Jimmy Laird and Luke Tennie as Sean in Shrinking. (COURTESY: APPLETV+)

The biggest effect is on Jimmy’s relationship with Alice. Since Tia’s death, Jimmy has been selfish, swimming in his own grief without stopping to consider that his daughter also suffered a massive loss and is hurting just as deeply as he is. Lukita Maxwell absolutely shines in this role. It’s no secret that TV teenagers can be absolutely insufferable, but Maxwell’s Alice comes to life about as far away from a Gen Z caricature as possible.

The show is also laced with pop culture references. In Shrinking Episode 2, Jimmy’s best friend Brian (Michael Urie), who happens to be a lawyer, proclaims “I AM JULIANNA MARGULIES…I AM ELLE WOODS” and it’s absolutely hilarious. The series’ supporting players each bring an impeccable charm and wit to their performances. Shrinking‘s cast plays off of one another beautifully – and, in a rare move for a show with an ensemble this size, creates a series of unlikely duos as Season 1 progresses. You’d think there would be no reason for Miller’s Liz (Jimmy’s next-door neighbor) and Harrison Ford‘s Paul (Jimmy’s colleague, mentor, and pseudo-boss) to interact, but Shrinking finds ways for every cast member to share multiple scenes with one another. Most delightful is the fact that these scenes aren’t forced – the interactions between the characters happen naturally and move the story along.

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Harrison Ford as Paul Rhodes (COURTESY: APPLETV+)

On that note, Ford, whose Paul is as grouchy-yet-lovable as Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley) from Bill Lawrence’s Scrubs, has Shrinking‘s biggest supporting role. This comes as no surprise (he is, after all, Harrison Fucking Ford), but the show uses him perfectly: every cast member shares the screen with him several times throughout Shrinking Season 1, but the show never loses its sense of balance by relying on Paul’s blunt wisdom too heavily. It’s going to be so exciting when Ford beats Brett Goldstein at this year’s Emmys (if Ted Lasso ever comes back, that is). But despite all that, Jessica Williams‘ Gaby, the practice’s third therapist as well as also one of Jimmy’s friends and Paul’s other protégé, somehow absolutely steals every scene she’s in.

In case this review wasn’t clear, Shrinking is laugh-out-loud funny. As I write this, certain one-liners come to mind and I find myself cackling at my laptop in the darkness of my fortress of solitude (iykyk 😉). The show reminds us that we’re all grieving something, whether it’s a person, a relationship, or the past, and that it takes a goddamn village to get through and out of it.

Rating: 8/10

Shrinking‘s first two episodes are now streaming on AppleTV+. New episodes debut on Fridays.

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