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Review: New Apple TV+ show is truly heartwarming and genuine

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Courtesy of Apple TV+
Therapist Jimmy (Jason Segel) gets advice from mentor figure Paul (Harrison Ford) in the new show “Shrinking.”

Apple TV+’s newest comedy “Shrinking” focuses on therapist Jimmy Laird (Jason Segel) as he grapples with the loss of his wife and attempts to rebuild his relationship with his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell). Jimmy tries new, unorthodox methods of therapy with his clients, including a new client, Sean (Luke Tennie), who Jimmy invites to live with him when he gets arrested.

“Shrinking” creators Bill Lawrence, Brett Goldstein and Jason Segel come together to create a show that embodies their careers prior to the show — charming and personal. They build a visually and tonally bright world, wrapping the viewer in warm California sunshine in every scene. Yet there is still room for darkness and depth. Alice and Jimmy are still in mourning and Sean experiences PTSD from his time in the military. Jimmy’s colleague Paul (Harrison Ford) struggles to tell his family that he has Parkinson’s disease and friend/colleague Gaby (Jessica Williams) learns how to be on her own again after divorcing her husband. Everyone in the show is dealing with something of their own and each of their stories is told with so much empathy. It is difficult not to care about these characters and what happens to them. 

While the show can be quite funny at times, its humor occasionally falters. This means the show is at its best in its sincerest moments. The fantastic performances by the supporting cast highlight this. Maxwell plays Alice with an intense humanity, emphasizing the underlying hurt in Alice in each line of teenage snark. The audience is able to feel what Alice feels in a way that makes them understand when she lashes out or closes herself off. Williams is also a huge standout, bursting with light in every scene she is in. One cannot help but fall in love with her. Ford gives one of his best performances as Paul, grounding the show and emphasizing what it is that the show is truly about: love. While Ford initially plays Paul as rather gruff, toward the end of the season he is able to reach a point of sweetness that ties the whole story together beautifully.

Unfortunately, Gaby’s relationship with Jimmy is one of the weakest aspects of the show. The two become friends with benefits and it is implied in the finale that Gaby has romantic feelings for Jimmy. Their dynamic as friends in the first few episodes is quite endearing, but that changes when their relationship does. In addition, for Gaby’s storyline to be about her learning to be single and love herself, the writers do not give her much time to experience that fully before sticking her with Jimmy.

For such a heartwarming show, the jarring final scene of this first season is tragically out of place. One of Jimmy’s clients commits a crime in a moment that, while intended to be cathartic and an act of defiance for the character, comes off as strange. The scene leaves a bitter aftertaste in the viewer’s mouth despite an otherwise overwhelmingly lovely finale. 

“Shrinking” manages to depict humanity in all its beauty and pain while maintaining a distinct lightness throughout. There are some unnecessary storylines and off-putting scenes that bring the show down a bit, but this is still an outstanding first season that leaves viewers excited for what is to come in season two.

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