Harrison Ford humiliates himself in a laughless comedy

You can feel the urge to laugh shrink and die with every passing minute shrinkagea new half-hour Apple TV+ series from Jason Segel, Bill Lawrence and Teddy Lassois Brett Goldstein.

The series, which premieres January 27, is about a grieving therapist who turns his life and practice upside down by letting patients know exactly how he’s feeling and then becoming intensely involved with their issues. With stark twists and turns from its over-the-top cast, scripts that are like nails on a blackboard, and Harrison Ford’s involvement in a role and project inferior to him, it’s the low point of “high-concept” comedy.

When we first meet Jimmy (Segel) he’s partying in his pool at 3am with drugs, alcohol and a few hookers. This wakes up his neighbor Liz (Christa Miller), who is not only Jimmy’s nosy friend but also a surrogate mother to his teenage daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell), who has become estranged from her father following her birth mother’s recent car accident.

Jimmy and Alice are both a mess, and one day Jimmy’s misery, anger and frustration at work boils over. Unable to listen to his clients moan and whine about dilemmas he believes could be solved if only they heed his advice, the therapist decides to tell the abused wife Grace (Heidi Gardner) how it is, crossing an invisible professional and ethical line that is championed as sacred by Jimmy’s mentor Paul (Ford).

Jimmy does exactly what he shouldn’t, but is encouraged to keep doing it when Grace listens to him and leaves her abusive husband for a supposedly happier life. When his close colleague Gabby (Jessica Williams) gives him a new patient named Sean (Luke Tennie), an Afghanistan war veteran with severe anger management issues, Jimmy responds by letting the guy work out his anger at an MMA gym. Then – in one of countless unbelievable twists designed to add to the weirdness of the proceedings – Jimmy invites Sean to move into his house.

Alice agrees because she can hardly take care of her father and because she finds Sean attractive. Sean, on the other hand, joins in because, as embodied by Tennie and written by Goldstein, Lawrence and Segel, he’s a personality-free storytelling device embellished with clichéd trappings.

Jimmy and Alice are the tear-jerking main focus of shrinkage, but they’re not the only ones struggling with loss and loneliness. Wracked with empty nest dissatisfaction, Liz copes by clinging to Alice and putting up with her happily docile husband Derek (Ted McGinley). Gabby is going through a divorce and struggles with an oddly subdued libido. Paul learns to cope with his Parkinson’s disease and reconnects with his adult daughter Meg (Lily Rabe), whom he barely raised and whose son he hardly knows. And Jimmy’s best friend Brian (Michael Urie), a probate attorney, is unable to propose to his longtime partner out of deep-seated fears of risk-taking and commitment, despite his constant proclamation, “Everything’s my way!”

There’s no stable or happy person in the group, nor an original one: Brian is the flamboyant gay BFF, Gabby is the sassy girlfriend who makes a lot of racial jibes and is destined to become Jimmy’s love interest, and Paul is the grumpy older man Statesman who bitches about Jimmy’s behavior but deep down can’t stop worrying about him and Alice.

Paul also gets high on gummy candy in a mid-season episode, which is about as imaginative as shrinkage while heading towards a seemingly inevitable conclusion in which everyone has epiphanies about the benefits and pitfalls of escaping self-imposed exile and dealing with loved ones. The show’s writing is so blunt and obvious that its life lessons are apparent even before they’re spent.

At the center of this cheerless maelstrom is Jimmy, a desperate and sad disaster that transforms Segel into television’s most insufferable protagonist. Despite pretending to be interested in others, Jimmy’s every action revolves around himself and the fact that he is doing it shrinkage will no doubt make him apparent at the end of the season, which only makes him more irritating.


Segel never stops maniacally joking as his protagonist spirals further and further out of control, his performance as tense as the series’ hilarious jibes. Whether it’s throwing Liz into tantrums, speaking inappropriately to Alice about her sex life, or giving Sean bad advice and then lying to Paul about it, he’s an idiot, an idiot, and a lousy doctor all at once, and the show’s attempt at making it cute and okay – because, as you can see, it’s a by-product of the inner pain he can’t take – is his biggest, if far from the only, failure.

shrinkage‘s players are all cut from the same bad stuff, so scathing and sarcastic, yet also hurt and seriously sensitive that it’s impossible to take them or their stock woes seriously. A dramedy of the most garish sort, weaves from one insane incident to the next, most of which stem from Jimmy’s ruthless desire to help others by meddling in their affairs – a ruse that will no doubt end in his patients heal him.

Heck, everyone will heal each other with love, understanding, and a few good-natured ribs when this affair comes to an end. Consequently, it’s a high price to pay for predictable feel-good revelations and resolutions to endure Jimmy and co as they clash and make up, berate and comfort each other.

Segel, Williams and Miller, who provide every line and scene with a figurative punctuation mark, always elicit groans. Ford, on the other hand, just saddens you — not because he’s particularly moving (he does his best with a broad, two-dimensional character), but because it’s depressing to see him stuck with subpar material that requires him to literally snarl with displeasure and enthusiastically singing along to Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning”.

Even when brought down by stale or clunky scenarios (or both!), the legendary actor refuses to excessively mug up, proving to be the only actor to escape relatively unscathed. Still, Ford is better than shrinkageand so are most other comedies currently airing.

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