BILL GOODYKOONTZ

'Shrinking' on Apple TV+ isn't 'Ted Lasso,' but it does have Harrison Ford

Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
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Apple TV+ and the “Ted Lasso” crew seem to be pioneering a new brand of television series: therapy TV.

In the case of “Ted Lasso,” it’s TV as therapy, an aw-shucks feel-good celebration of being yourself, even when that isn’t easy to do.

In the case of “Shrinking,” it’s therapy as TV.

And not for nothing, it’s got Harrison Ford.

Bill Lawrence, the co-creator of “Ted Lasso,” and Brett Goldstein, who plays grumpy ex-star Roy Kent, created the new show along with Segel, who stars as Jimmy Laird, a psychiatrist who is not dealing well with the sudden death of his wife.

As in drugs and booze with sex workers in the pool all night — that kind of not dealing well. All this while his teenage daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) tries to sleep upstairs.

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'Shrinking' can be funny, but it doesn't have the confidence of tone 'Ted Lasso' has

The notion of doctors being unable to heal themselves is not exactly novel. But neither is the fish-out-of-water premise of “Ted Lasso.”

“Shrinking” isn’t as good, partly because it’s not as certain in its tone. You may love “Ted Lasso” or you may hate it, but you can’t argue that it isn’t sure of itself. Less so with “Shrinking,” though it has a kind of comfortable, lived-in pace and execution that makes it easy to watch.

Jimmy has a breakthrough of sorts when he decides to just wing it with his patients, telling them what he really thinks they should do. For instance, he tells a woman (Heidi Gardner from “Saturday Night Live”) that she should leave her creepy husband immediately. So, she does. It seems to work out, and he is emboldened to try this method with other patients. Sean (Luke Tennie), a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, even moves into his pool house.

Jimmy’s boss, Paul (Ford), thinks it’s all a terrible idea, taking away any agency patients might have had to make decisions for themselves. Then again, Paul, who is for all practical purposes a professional cynic, thinks everything is a terrible idea. Gabby (Jessica Williams), Jimmy’s colleague and his late wife’s best friend, just watches in bemusement.

Liz (Christa Miller) lives next door and has spent the last year taking care of Alice, especially because her three sons have left for college. She is obviously filling an emotional hole in her life, and Alice needs the attention and guidance.

Jimmy’s breakthrough begins to change that. His relationships with everyone begin to change, which sets various plot machinations in motion. Many of them are daffy, such as when Liz and Gabby begin competing for Alice’s attention. Too much of it is entirely predictable.

Except when it’s not. That’s when the show is at its best.

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Harrison Ford gets some of the best scenes in 'Shrinking'

For instance, great as Ford is, Paul is mostly a one-note character, complaining about how stupid the whole world is. But he also has Parkinson’s disease, and he struggles with how to tell this to his distant, formerly estranged daughter.

There are some scenes of Ford trying to work this out for himself that are strikingly emotional and genuine, as well as they might be with Ford playing them. But, it takes a long time to get there, and then the next scenes inevitably involve some domestic disaster or other.

Other aspects feel incomplete. Brian (Michael Urie, who is excellent) is a lawyer and Jimmy’s best friend, but Jimmy has been avoiding him for a year. We learn why fairly quickly, and then it just reverts to Jimmy hosting Brian’s surprise engagement party, as if nothing had happened.

Segel forever gets a free pass for his work in “Freaks and Geeks.” He’s innately likable, the sort of hangdog character you always root for. That’s true here, as well. If his character seems lost, well, that is by design — the purpose of the series, after all, is for him to find himself.

“Shrinking” seems to be on a similar journey. Let’s hope it finds its way.

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‘Shrinking’

Streaming on Apple TV+ with two episodes on Jan. 27, with new episodes every Friday.

Reach Goodykoontz at [email protected]. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk.

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