The Shrink Next Door Review: Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell's strong performances keep you invested in this show
The Shrink Next Door
The Shrink Next Door Cast: Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell, Kathryn Hahn
The Shrink Next Door Creator: Georgia Pritchett
Streaming Platform: AppleTV+
The Shrink Next Door Stars: 3/5
Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell seem the perfect casting for The Shrink Next Door mainly on one account and that is, their offscreen friendship translates perfectly well into their twisted relationship onscreen as Marty Markowitz (Ferrell) and Ike Herschkopf (Rudd). The connection between friendship and manipulation is a thin line that finds itself hanging by the thread of trust and in the case of Markowitz, it's his overly trusting, pushover nature that gets him in trouble. For the AppleTV+ series The Shrink Next Door, Georgia Pritchett of Succession fame adapts one of Wondery podcast's most famous incidents of a man being exploited by his therapist over a time period that seems mind-bogglingly long, three decades.
In The Shrink Next Door directed by Michael Showalter and Jesse Peretz, Marty (Will Ferrell) is a 40-something, Jewish fabric business owner who finds himself becoming the patriarch of a family business after his parents' passing but unfortunately for Marty, he isn't like any of the Roy kids from Succession who would gobble up this opportunity, in fact, Markowitz gets panic attacks at the thought of dealing with his ex-girlfriend demanding him to pay for a vacation despite their breakup and an age-old customer at his fabric store who shows little to no confidence in Marty's ability to run the show. It's Marty's sister Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn)on the other hand who doesn't mind stepping in and taking the reins to help out her brother. When things seem to go out of hand though, Phyllis (Hahn) suggests her brother seek therapy and see Dr. Isaac Herschkopf ( Paul Rudd). As per Phyllis, Herschkopf is a recommendation from their Rabbi and hence doesn't ring any alarm bells at the beginning. Considering his sister's advice, Marty does find himself sitting in Herschkopf's clinic's chair unaware of how this new patient-doctor relationship will soon set his life into a tailspin.
For anyone who has originally heard the Wondery podcast, you may realise that one of the very first reactions you have had on hearing Herschkopf's extreme manipulation of Markowitz for over three decades, simply unbelievable and it's exactly this shock value that Pritchett plays on in the series. The missing attempt at providing any commentary on therapy techniques or the connection between Judaism and therapy seems like a glaring error for this story's adaptation. While The Shrink Next Door keeps spelling it out for viewers every now and then about its Jewish characters with a whole sequence about a man trying to regain his manhood by having a Bar Mitzvah in his 40s, it, unfortunately, doesn't scrape off the surface and take a deeper look at the idea of Jewish masculinity and its connection to Marty's insecurities. The series continues to find itself being a medium of simply being the watcher, a witness to Marty's descendence into Herschkopf's manservant role but rarely does it take a moment to question why by taking a look at his early years or the experiences that shaped him to be the easy target he is.
As for Herschkopf's character, it's jaw-dropping, the level of manipulation he accomplishes but the moments of self-reflection and awareness of how much damage his greedy aspirations are doing are fleeting and should have had a bigger role to play. The same goes for Phyllis, Marty's sister who is a single mother going through a divorce and shares a codependent relationship with her brother that Herschkopf stealthily plants in his Marty's head to be unhealthy at best. Phyllis seems far too unexplored despite being crucial to the story, considering she's the only point of contact that knows Marty right to the core, especially at a time when he's rapidly turning into someone he will eventually barely recognise.
With the show set across three decades that spanned Markowtiz's manipulation by his doctor, there's a heavy-duty task for the costume and production design department. It's clear from the beginning of the show that captures the 80s vibe with oversized glasses and other quirks of the time well and makes sure to make a grand effort in getting the production design right as well. One of my favourite little moments remains, the first time we see Dr. Hershkopf's office. It looks like a small waiting area, without a receptionist or anyone to greet visitors, I'd call it an icy start to begin with. Further on, we see Ferrell's Marty, a hefty man trying to get himself onto a chair in the waiting area with much effort as he tries to keep the leaves of a decorative plant that is stationed beside his chair off of his face. Eventually, giving up on trying to keep the leaves out of his face, Marty just sits there with a hunched back and it's a clear indication of the uncomfortable road that lies ahead for him.
What the show lacks in terms of its content, it does redeem with its performances. All three, Ferrell, Rudd and Hahn seem a good fit for their roles. Ferrell sinks into Marty's awkward persona far too well and it's particularly amazing to see him change his body language, especially in scenes where he tries to assert leadership despite having the feelings of being a scared, young boy on the inside. As for Paul Rudd, there's an obvious effort taken by the makeup department to make the actor who is well-known for his anti-aging to age onscreen. Rudd's Herschkopf act is a joy ride as the glimmer in his eyes changes from being solicitous to malicious within seconds. Kathryn Hahn makes her strong presence felt in every scene she is in.
The Shrink Next Door finds itself stretched over eight episodes and I believe it could have been shorter given the elements it covers in its script. For those who arent' familiar with the original incident that was covered on the Wondery podcast, the series could certainly ignite your interest further into learning about Dr. Hershkopf's history. All in all, even as the series isn't packed with moments of brilliance, it makes for an interesting watch with Ferrell and Rudd's rapport.