Everyone should have their fifteen minutes of quiet sadness is one of Dr. Paul Rhodes, self-tested, against depression and the pain of memories. “I put on one of my favorite sad songs and let myself be sad for fifteen minutes straight – and when the alarm goes off, I shake it all off and friggin’ get on with my life.”
dr Rhodes is played by Harrison Ford, now in his eighties making his big break in television on the series Shrinking, created by Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein, who also oversaw the hit series Scrubs and Ted Lasso. Harrison Ford is actually revered for his spontaneous activist problem-solving, of which there will be some again at the end of June when the next “Indiana Jones” film opens in cinemas: “Indiana Jones and the Call of Destiny”. Paul, on the other hand, is a psychiatrist in fancy Pasadena, California – shrink means to shrink, but in America it is also a casual term for this complex profession. He shares a practice with Jimmy Laird, played by Jason Segel, and young African American Gabby, played by Jessica Williams. Paul is very careful to uphold the ethical standards of his profession and cannot accept Jimmy’s repeated violations – for example when he has a young patient staying with him. This is not therapy, these are just chat, Paul declares categorically when he meets Jimmy’s daughter Alice on park benches and talks to her about her problems. Your mother, Jimmy’s wife, died a year ago. Paul is getting old now, so he lets Gabby take him to the office in the morning, roused by wild singing: “Every morning there’s a halo hangin’ from the corner of my girlfriend’s four-post bed…”
There is no distinction between ordinary and unusual behavior
“Shrinks” is outrageously funny and sophisticated, in the classic tradition of American comedy that shares with psychoanalysis the art of quick associations and a cheeky, thoroughly educated malice. Gabby likes to walk around with a water bottle because people need a lot of liquid, which Paul finds a bit exaggerated: “You know, Virginia Woolf also tried to drown herself…”
In the lively habitat of Pasadena, it is not easy to distinguish between ordinary and unusual behavior. A neighbor is annoying every now and then because she acts as a substitute mother for Alice, while her husband sometimes feels the need to urinate on the balcony. Jimmy does grief work in his backyard at night, with loud music and two women in the pool. He wants his patients to work on their own recovery, sometimes using drastic methods: “We rob them of any chance to heal themselves… and we become psychological vigilantes.” And he’s willing to get his hands a little dirtier than the profession allows. With Grace, played by the high-spirited Heidi Gardner, he bursts: “Your husband is an emotional abuser. You must f…ing leave himleave him, dammit, or I’ve been your psychiatrist for the longest time.”
The series is a small masterpiece of inventiveness and panache. Bill Lawrence, who says he’s actually pretty good at taking rejection, was almost shocked when he showed Harrison Ford the script for the first episode – and who called him: “Hey, the script is really good, but I’m in the first episode not represented very often. Will I be in the next one more often?”
Shrinking, on Apple+.
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