The general consensus among critics is that the narrative is far too stretched out, and I agree. The Shrink Next Door could have been a movie.
Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd in The Shrink Next Door | Twitter
Psychotherapy has often been a favoured motif to explore a character in pop culture –Whether it’s the explosive interactions between Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and Dr Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) in The Sopranos, or the more whimsical sort between Dr Jehangir (Shah Rukh Khan) and Kaira (Alia Bhatt) in Dear Zindagi.
But writers-filmmakers often digress from what therapy really stands for, taking creative liberties while compromising on the integrity of this tool and it’s practitioners. One new example of this is the ghastly Netflix thriller Hypnotic (You can read the review here). Therapy can and has made for good entertainment but at what cost?
Apple TV+ miniseries The Shrink Next Door, based on a true-crime podcast of the same name, also encapsulates therapist-client relationship gone south.
Will Ferrell plays a Marty Markowitz, who has to shoulder responsibility of a fabrics company passed down to him by his father. Unfortunately for him, he’s a terrible leader and boss, has a hard time setting boundaries, and can never endure a confrontation without his bowels liquifying. His sister Phyllis (Katherine Hahn) suggests he meet a therapist Dr Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf (Paul Rudd) who gives his personality a 180 makeover. Ike’s methods are unconventional, he steadfastly violates professional boundaries, and quietly embeds himself into Marty’s life.
The show chronicles how their parasitic relationship (with the good doctor being the parasite, of course) lasted for more than three decades, ultimately doing no good to poor Marty.
It seems like it's second nature for Ferrell to play a man-child, a character he's mastered over his long career. While Rudd just isn't convincing enough to be the wicked doctor. Maybe it's his clean, nice guy image on screen and off that makes it hard to believe he's capable of any evil or manipulation. However, the two actors make a charming, complementary pair on screen.
Meant to be a dark comedy, there are only a few laughs that the show provides. No cackles were induced. Nothing too hysterically amusing was slipped nonchalantly into a dialogue. There were brief moment when Ferrell was being Ferrell; that’s really about it. It’s not impossible to extract comedic value from the most sinister of subjects, but there’s not much to offer or enjoy in this domain in The Shrink Next Door. You have Ferrell and Rudd on your hands! Use them better!
Though only three episodes are available so far, I can in all honesty say that I’m not too keen on watching the rest. The story is so long-drawn-out, and if that’s the verdict from the very first episode, it’s unlikely to retain interest in the show. The premise is compelling enough, but the same cannot be said for the execution. The general consensus among critics is that the narrative is far too stretched out, and I agree. The Shrink Next Door could have been a movie.