“Fuck you, Phoebe Bridgers!”
That was the line that hooked me. Because if Shrinking was going to lure me into its arguably pat if well-meaning comedy, it might as well do it with current queen of sad, Phoebe Bridgers.
And, of course, Shrinking’s decision to anchor its third episode on Ms. Bridgers’ music (which I can confirm is perfect for a ready-made midday cry, not that, uh, I have any firsthand experience to back it up, no sir, not me) is kind of perfect. Her lyrics—and her heart-rending delivery—have found their way into the lives of those of us who like to engage in what my best friend would call “emotional cutting”—and which Jimmy and Paul (Jason Segel and Harrison Ford) would describe as an intense kind of cathartic release. I mean, it is Paul who recommends, both to himself and to Jimmy’s daughter, that 15 minutes of “intense grief” a day might be helpful to fend off the all-encompassing and encroaching sadness the three of them experience day to day.
Oh, right. Because, as we’d suspected while watching the two-episode premiere, Shrinking has now fully embraced its thematic core: grief. But not just grief for those we’ve lost (like Jimmy’s wife) but for the lives we may no longer have (Paul’s Parkinsons will soon “blow,” as we’re told) and the relationships we’re begrudgingly happy we’ve left behind (see: Jessica Williams’ Gaby and her divorce). Around these various nodes of grief, the team behind Shrinking has begun crafting a situational comedy that nevertheless finds time to craft killer one-liners (“Eat a dick, Pam!”) that feel like they belong on an entirely different show.
Ring Video Doorbell (Wired)
Two-way talk function
No need to leave the couch to answer the door anymore. Just pull out your phone and check the Ring app to see who’s there via the 1080p camera.
More so than its first two episode, “Fifteen Minutes” feels a bit more cohesive. Or rather, more internally consistent. I worried we’d be getting a “patient of the week” kind of structure. And while we did get Jimmy butting into his douche-bro patient during one of his disastrous dates (“I’d like to say I’m also COO in the bedroom” should never be a line uttered by any man in any situation let alone during dinner!), it seems Shrinking wants to explore the more longterm consequences of his unethical approach to “shrink-ing.” (Get it? Honestly, I may never get over this title.) This is why we get to see Grace (Heidi Garner) as she continues her journey of “self care” in Vancouver—that is, until, she isn’t in a bombshell cliffhanger of an ending of the episode.
Because, just as Jimmy’s approach to helping Sean (Luke Tennie) by having him rein in his anger issues only ends up in them boiling over in an altercation with Grace’s own husband (back here again to give us a crotch-grab for the ages), here his nudging Grace into fleeing her marital arrangement seems to have…backfired? I guess we’ll learn more in future episodes (hopefully) since I’m so intrigued by the kind of people-pleasing patient Grace is. I mean, who among us hasn’t inflated our progress in front of and for the benefit of our therapist? No? Just me. Okay. Moving on, then.
Elsewhere, of course, Shrinking continued flesh out its characters. Yes, even the one who has “resting dead wife face” (a great, if dark, line, I’ll admit). And what we found is that they’re all (still) struggling—especially because they may not be ready to take on the healing necessary to move on. As a message to be putting out there on a mainstream TV show (a comedy at that!), this is laudable. We likely need all the therapist-driven shows and movies we can find, especially if we are to destigmatize seeking mental health not just for moments of crisis but as ongoing work akin to hitting the gym or eating healthy. But as a premise for a sitcom, I’m still unsure whether Shrinking has the sophistication necessary to pull off what it’s trying to accomplish.
Bringing in Phoebe Bridgers is a good sign, though. As is beginning to better thread its many storylines together. This is a capable ensemble and watching them riff off one another (especially Williams and Ford, truly the perfect comedic odd couple we all didn’t know we needed) is a joy, even if I continue to be skeptical that a broad slapstick comedy that will milk a “cyclist gets hit by a car door” can skillfully navigate thorny divorces, recovering veterans, and grieving daughters without flattening those experiences into pat platitudes. (This episode did start with “Just be you” as groundbreaking therapist advice so…you can see why I’d be worried.) But I remain ever the optimist, if only because I do enjoy having Michael Urie back on my Apple TV (“CORNHOLE”!).
- The world needs more Wendie Malick. I’m glad Shrinking understands that.
- Speaking of, is it me or is Heidi Gardner stealthily growing into her “Wendie Malick” era? The SNL cast member has always showed plenty of potential at that late night sketch show. But between her work here (“Go fuck yourself. I’m kidding. I’m not people pleasing, byeee!”) and her recent hilarious SNL sketches (did everyone see her Update bit as “Every boxer’s girlfriend from every movie about boxing ever”? Amazing) she may finally be coming into her own. Especially if Grace’s subplot continues as the season moves on.
- “Eat a dick, Pam.” Can we turn this into the go-to Shrinking catchphrase? I mean, Ted McGinley deserves as much, no?
- Shadowfax is a great name for a car but I also now hate that I’m the kind of person who really wishes it wasn’t a Tesla the entire joke hinged on. Was this sponcon? I can’t tell any more. But either way, may this be the last we see of “Deb.” Because fender bender storylines really have no legs.
- Last week we dealt with “compassion fatigue,” and this time around we were also treated to another tidbit of the therapist/patient dynamic that we should all keep in mind. Namely, the way all of us can be unreliable narrators of our lives—which can make narrativizing our own experience hard in and of itself. To ourselves, let alone to anyone else who’s eager to help us with our problems. So yes, maybe don’t misrepresent your dates to your therapist and also, of course, don’t lie to them about how you’ve gone back to husband. (But also, I thought there were clear ethical guidelines around seeing patients outside of sessions…but since Sean has clearly moved into the pool house for the duration of the season it’s clear Shrinking has little interest in actually depicting how therapy—actual therapy—works.)
- PSA: Stream Phoebe Bridgers’ “I Know The End.”