A star rating of 4 out of 5.

For those aware that new Apple TV+ series Shrinking comes from creators Bill Lawrence and Brett 'Roy Kent' Goldstein, it's important to get your expectations in check now - this is no Ted Lasso 2.0.


On one level, that's a good thing. No one wants to see creatives as gifted as Lawrence and Goldstein playing the hits and repeating themselves - but on another, it's wholly unsurprising that some may be disappointed.

Ted Lasso has been such an unexpected bolt of joy; a hopeful, heartfelt series in a cynical world. And with only one season left on the cards, of course people want to see a natural successor emerge.

Shrinking, so far, isn't it. That isn't to say it's a bad series. Far from it in fact, based on the episodes made available for review, it is ripe with potential. It's just a very different beast, and not quite the runaway, warmhearted success that Lasso was.

So, now that we've established what the show is not, what exactly is it?

Shrinking is a comedy drama about Jimmy (Jason Segel), a therapist suffering from intense grief following the death of his wife. He's estranged from his daughter (an excellent Lukita Maxwell), struggling to communicate with his friends, and is on a path of self-destruction.

Then, one day, it gets the better of him and he snaps at one of his patients, ordering them to make a life-changing move. In doing so, he happens upon a new style of therapy with huge ramifications - one which breaches all ethical lines, in which he simply tells people what to do rather than helping them to work it out themselves.

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Perhaps the show it can be most easily compared to is Ricky Gervais's After Life. That series too saw the central character responding to grief by changing his outlook on the world, letting go of social norms and impacting the lives of those around him.

It also shares some of After Life's pitfalls. Both that series and Shrinking are character-based comedies first and foremost, but they wrap themselves in the dressing of a more story-led piece.

That's not necessarily a problem - you could easily say Ted Lasso does exactly the same thing. The difference is that grief is a lengthy, messy process.

Anyone who has experienced it will tell you it never truly goes away, it just gets more manageable over time, meaning unlike the easy, briskly-paced story structure of a football season, this is naturally a much bumpier ride and a slower burn.

Harrison Ford in Shrinking.
Harrison Ford as Paul in Shrinking. Apple TV+

Of course, the big difference from After Life is the therapy angle. Mix that in with Jimmy's situation and a whole lot of discussions around mortality, and it's fair to say this is a highly existential series.

It's pre-occupied with questions around life and death, existing vs living, self actualisation and everything in between. How successfully that gels with some quite goofy comedy will likely vary from viewer to viewer, but for the most part it worked for me.

Of course, we should get to the elephant in the room: Harrison Ford is in this show. Not only that, he's playing a supporting role in an ensemble cast, as Jimmy's colleague and mentor Paul. And you know what? He's great at it.

Ford proves himself to have exceptional comic timing and delivery, and best of all to be a team player. There's no hogging of the spotlight here. Instead, he really does sink into his character and into the fabric of the show, bringing the funny when required and the pathos when needed, never becoming a distraction. His relationship with Jimmy is particularly entertaining, and he and Segel bounce off each other brilliantly.

Segel is ultimately the one carrying the show - Ford, Maxwell, Jessica Williams and the rest of the central players all put in strong, engaging performances, but this thing rests on Segel's shoulders, and he doesn't disappoint.

Segel has long felt like an under-appreciated actor. He was the unquestionable stand-out from How I Met Your Mother, his performance in The Muppets was utterly delightful, and he was robbed of an Oscar nomination for his turn as David Foster Wallace in The End of the Tour.

Here, he brings a combination of warm, relatable comedy with a raw, emotional sensitivity that makes his Jimmy a welcome presence you want to root for, even when he's behaving selfishly and destructively.

Christa Miller and Jessica Williams in Shrinking.
Christa Miller as Liz and Jessica Williams as Gabby in Shrinking. Apple TV+

One issue with the series is an early lack of momentum behind each of the characters' storylines. When it comes to Jimmy, there's a surprisingly limited use of the central idea of a rogue therapist impacting his patients' lives.

Instead, most of the focus is on his initial steps towards reconnecting and making amends with the people he loves. Jimmy's relationship with his daughter Alice is an emotionally-resonant highlight, but starts off feeling more like a long-running, building arc rather than a central, fore-fronted story.

Ford's character may have the clearest story arc as things move forward and he grapples with a Parkinson's diagnosis, but even that feels as though it may struggle to sustain things narratively on its own.

It's in later episodes that this lack of propulsion starts to be addressed, with a stronger group dynamic and more complex relationships emerging. As we get to know the characters, their charm grows and the whole show starts to feel more assured because of it.

The truth is, Shrinking is an easy show to root for. It's got Segel, Ford, Goldstein, Lawrence, and even the magnificent James Ponsoldt (Smashed) behind the camera. What's not to love?

Having seen the first nine episodes, I'm still rooting for it, and the further on it goes the more I feel justified in doing so. It hasn't quite landed that knock-out blow for me yet, but it is starting to show signs of long-term sustainability.

The best thing it has going for it is the engaging characters, who quickly become a pleasure to return to. If it just continues to give them more to do, and starts to fully utilise its central therapy-based premise more, then this could have the makings of another long-running hit in Apple's catalogue.

Shrinking will stream on Apple TV+ from Friday 27th January 2023 – you can sign up to Apple TV+ here.

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