REVIEW: ‘Shrinking’ – Are We Coping or Are We Numbing?

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Shrinking - But Why Tho

Shrinking is the latest addition to the Apple TV+ family, an anticipated new comedy series from two of the creators behind Ted Lasso, Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein. Fans of the acclaimed series will find themselves taking a different journey with Shrinking. While Ted Lasso gave us optimism and hope at a time when the world sank in doom-state and uncertainty, Shrinking places itself in television as advocacy for mental health rises. This series invites the audience to take a seat on the couch and narrow in on how to heal the unmet parts of ourselves.

Jimmy Laird (Jason Segel) is a therapist, grieving the loss of his wife Tia (Lilan Bowden) to a fatal car accident alongside his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell). In the episode “Coin Flip” we begin to form an idea of what the past year has been like since Tia’s passing. By day, Jimmy tends to his patients while trying to hold himself together. But by night, Jimmy has been moonlighting his grief into the late hours. He’s occupied with substances and the companionship of other women, to name a few new vices, and Alice has been there to clean up every morning after.

As we move through each episode and its characters, we see the different forms that loss can take. It can take shape as a loss of purpose. Loss of autonomy. Loss of identity. Each form evokes a feeling of being stuck. So how do we get unstuck? Shrinking cleverly weaves the different faces loss takes through Jimmy’s reentry into the world post-Tia’s death. In “Fortress of Solitude,” Jimmy’s best friend, Brian (Michael Urie), shares a heart-to-heart conversation with him, expressing the hurt he’s felt from their distancing friendship. He lost Jimmy along with Tia too. Through Brian, Jimmy confronts the reality of their lost connection. The underlying connection this show makes centered around the concept of loss through Jimmy’s grief is something I highly appreciate. 

From beneath a mountain of dread, Jimmy hits a ceiling with his patients and decides to be completely transparent and honest. He tells his patients exactly what he thinks they need to do to get unstuck. Breaching ethical practices and boundaries, Jimmy essentially becomes a “psychological vigilante,” placing his colleagues Paul (Harrison Ford) and Gaby (Jessica Williams) in an uncomfortable position. As a mentor and father figure to Jimmy, Paul is conflicted between his professional and personal opinion.

Paul is worried Jimmy’s form of involvement with his patients’ lives will not only ruin his career but spill over into his personal life with Alice. He thinks it will further tarnish the already shaky relationship they have as father and daughter. Meanwhile, Gaby also doesn’t agree with Jimmy’s choice but sees how taking this high-risk approach has brought Jimmy back to life. As I moved through each episode, I began to reflect on my experiences with my therapist. Recalling times when I wondered about their true thoughts and sometimes wanted to hear the actual solution rather than working through it. Shrinking offers its viewers a safe space to explore what that could look like, making it an interesting story to see unfold.

Ford and Williams do an excellent job in their support roles. Both foster a decorum of likability and ease. Where Ford is a private, grumpy mentor to Jimmy, Gaby is the upbeat, supportive friend. Jimmy often confides in both for advice and support and the three round each other well in their characters’ personalities. Their delivery and presence onscreen carry the series when it falls flat from awkward, clunky scenes and dialogue.

Some moments felt improvised and gave me an immediate laugh, like when the three touched on the pronunciation of memoir. Honestly, it’s one of the main reasons I kept going back for more, the seemingly natural riffing exchanges. Some scenes with Liz (Christa Miller) made me cringe or I felt like I should be laughing when I wasn’t. Liz is Jimmy’s neighbor and close friend of Tia and filled the role of parent for Alice when Jimmy failed to be present. A scene where Liz expresses her dislike for a butting racist neighbor was supported by other cast members’ rapport. While humorous in context, the comedic delivery felt forced and stiff by Miller.

Whether it’s the occasionally failed comedic delivery of lines by some casts, those awkward moments are redeemed by earnest conversations characters have with one another that tackle the complexities that come with loss. When one of Jimmy’s patients, Sean (Luke Tennie), encourages Jimmy to show up for Alice’s soccer game, Jimmy and Sean make a gallant effort to make it on time by running almost 2 miles. A challenge for the out-of-shape Jimmy. This montage beautifully captures the slow start-up Jimmy is having to reconnect with his daughter and his life again while showing how positive growth can be gained with help of others. He’s finally running toward something, instead of running away as he has been. Their relationship is a continual back and forth of strain and slow mend. Alice spent most of her time after her mother died without her father to help cope with the loss. As they both try to communicate but don’t know how to effectively do so, they stumble but gain proper grounding over time.  

Despite sharing creators, Ted Lasso and Shrinking are different in their delivery. Each show carries its own torch. Each series houses different actors, directions, and character motivations. Both hold the same idea, however, about how we relate to one another. By practicing empathy and compassion we can better understand and grow in our human experiences. The show takes the audience to feelings of being stuck through a show about loss and learning how to exist in the spaces we once knew how to move through. Shrinking asks: are we coping or are we numbing? And the answer might be a tough pill to swallow.

Shrinking is now streaming on Apple TV+ with new episodes airing on Fridays.

  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10


Shrinking takes the audience to feelings of being stuck through a show about loss and learning how to exist in the spaces we once knew how to move through. The show asks: are we coping or are we numbing? And the answer might be a tough pill to swallow.

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