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Shrinking Series Review: Episodes 1 & 2

Apple TV+’s Shrinking takes a clever premise and turns it into a series that’s both hilarious and insightful, with irresistible characters you’ll immediately get attached to.

Even if you’ve never been to therapy, you probably have an idea of what a typical session is supposed to be like. The therapist patiently listens to you and asks you questions, with no judgement. They don’t provide the solution, but they help you figure out on your own what it is that you need to do in order to be happier. But what if it’s the therapist who isn’t doing too well, and ends up telling his patients exactly what he thinks about them? That’s what happens to Jimmy (Jason Segel, of How I Met Your Mother, also the show’s co-writer and executive producer), the protagonist of Apple TV’s new series Shrinking.

When we first meet him, Jimmy is grieving. In fact, he has been grieving for quite some time, having lost his wife years prior. Since then, the therapist has been spending his days listening to his patients at work and the evenings drinking, hanging out with strangers, and letting his neighbour Liz (Christa Miller, of Scrubs) appoint herself as a surrogate mother for his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell, of Generation), with whom he hasn’t been able to connect since his wife’s passing.

But one day, it all becomes too much. As he listens to his patient Grace (Heidi Gardner, of Hustle) go on and on about her husband – whose abusive nature has been painfully clear to Jimmy for quite some time but has yet to be grasped by his patient – he involuntarily spells it out for her. Not only that, but when the confused woman tries to go back to the session, he even goes so far as to suggest that, if she doesn’t leave him, he won’t have her as a patient anymore. When she finally agrees to do so, Jimmy has an epiphany of sorts, and decides to change his approach from – in his own words – a “come on, you f*cked up person, you can change” non-judgemental attitude to simply “making them do” the right thing, since he knows the answer.

loud and clear reviews shrinking apple tv+ series episodes 1 2 show 2023
Jason Segel and Luke Tennie in Episodes 1 & 2 of “Shrinking,” premiering January 27, 2023 on Apple TV+ (Apple TV+)

Jimmy views this newfound approach as a way to make his patients’ lives better, reaching actual change instead of circling around the same issue for months, but his colleagues disagree. “Would you trust you?,” his more experienced and disillusioned colleague Paul (Harrison Ford, of Indiana Jones) asks him sarcastically, pointing out that his approach would rob patients of their autonomy, preventing them from helping themselves. To fellow therapist Gaby’s (Jessica Williams, of Booksmart) hilarity, Paul calls this new version of Jimmy a “psychological vigilante,” and the three leave it at that.

But it’s in this exchange, at the beginning of Episode 1, that Shrinking sets the tone of what the entire series is (presumably) going to be like. Behind the new Apple TV+ show are Emmy Award winners Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Ted Lasso) and Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso) and an all-star cast that knows how to do both comedy and drama, and Shrinking has plenty of both. With the right blend of absurd scenarios that will make you laugh when you least expect it, subtle references to other films and shows you love (Paul’s “Hey kid” directed at Jimmy is bound to give you Star Wars vibes), and emotional moments that come just as unexpectedly but reach you to your very core, the team behind Shrinking gives us a series that could have been predictable or clichéd, or perhaps even offensive towards therapy as a whole, but it isn’t.

On the contrary, the clever approach to its genius premise is what lets Shrinking delve into the themes it wants to explore with the right tact and a lighthearted yet insightful tone. Just like Ted Lasso, Apple TV+’s new series puts its characters first, and at the centre of Shrinking – at least, judging by episodes 1 and 2 – is a man who is way more complex than he would appear to be when we first meet him.

Jimmy is not only grieving, but he has been in denial for so long that he absolutely hates himself and is unable to function properly, as a human being, as a father, and even as a therapist. Even if he doesn’t realise it yet, Jimmy’s new approach towards his patients is simply a quick fix of instant gratification: he is rewarded by the illusion of having helped someone else, and he can concentrate on this project to avoiding facing the real issues that have been gnawing at him for quite some time.

It’s too soon to tell where exactly Shrinking is going to take its premise, but episodes 1 and 2 give us three charismatic leads, played with the right dose of wit, sarcasm and heart by Siegel, Williams, and Ford, who’s undoubtedly the standout here. There are promising side characters, from neighbour/self-appointed carer Liz to Jimmy’s lawyer best friend Brian (Michael Urie, of Swan Song) and his many patients. We’re probably going to see more of Sean (Luke Tennie, of Players), the young soldier with rage issues, and Jimmy’s meddling with his patient’s life might turn out to be beneficial for his own relationship with his daughter too.

Jimmy isn’t the only one who’s not keeping his personal and professional life separate, as both the “pro-boundaries” Paul and the very positive Gaby have been meddling with Jimmy’s life in their own way, and this is bound to have consequences on our protagonist’s life too. A very big revelation about one of our protagonist is also casually dropped in the middle of a conversation in Episode 1, in a scene that will absolutely take you off guard and that will certainly lead to more discoveries about that character in future episodes too.

In two episodes alone, Shrinking manages to give us three extremely compelling protagonists, each with complex dynamics of their own, and an array of multilayered side characters who all play a very important role. It feels like this is only the beginning of our characters’ journey, and that some growth might be in order for each and every single one of our “psychological vigilantes”. Judging by episodes 1 and 2, this may even become the next Ted Lasso: just like the beloved Apple TV+ show, Shrinking absolutely nails the balance between humour, heart and wit, giving us characters to root for, lessons to learn, and hilarious absurdity to keep us hooked.

Watch on Apple TV

Episodes 1 & 2 of Shrinking will be available to watch on Apple TV+ on January 27, 2023.

Shrinking (Apple TV+): Episode 3 Review – Loud And Clear Reviews
Review: In Shrinking ‘s Episode 3, the Apple TV+ series delivers another witty, fun, heartwrenching episode, with more meddling and growth for our protagonists.
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