Who would have thought the combination of Jason Segel and Harrison Ford could produce such high-quality comedy. Shrinking follows the life of a grieving therapist who begins to tell his clients exactly what he thinks – having a profound impact on their lives as much as his own.
Initially, I wasn’t all too interested in checking out this series because Jason Segel’s comedic style hasn’t entirely worked for me in the past. Something about the over-the-top silly vibe he carries doesn’t draw me in to his films or shows. After the first episode, my early fears about the comedy became a reality. The style is way too silly and overbearing – many of the jokes fall flat and Jason Segel flailing around like he’s back in his How I Met Your Mother days ripped me right out of any emotional attachment to the characters. In terms of the narrative and the relationships, there are hints of something great, but whatever it is is being overshadowed by the comedy. Going through the second episode to the third, it slowly finds its footing and establishes a balance that got me hooked. The silly comedy disappears almost entirely – there’s still a hint of it but it’s not overbearing anymore – and the character relationships become the focus.
The comedy-to-drama balance from here on out is great, and the series gets incrementally better with each passing episode. There’s an ever-increasing focus on furthering relationships and developing character arcs that garnered my complete attention. This is one of those rare instances in a TV series where by the end, I loved every character, and that’s not an exaggeration. I have my favourites, Harrison Ford’s Paul and Jessica Williams‘ Gaby, but I really loved following each and every character and seeing how their stories developed. The way the series really spreads the love around and ensures everyone receives an arc worth investing time in, is a sign of impeccable writing. One element I adored is that characters who I never thought would even meet each other end up interacting throughout the season. There are so many surprises in the narrative and interesting turns that it was consistently fulfilling.
Every episode is jam-packed with heartwarming moments and deeply emotional conversations, and then offset with the occasional quippy line of dialogue that balances out the tone. The way it bookends an emotionally-heavy moment with one-liners that will have you laughing is top tier. Plus it’s not just Jason Segel dishing out the comedy – everyone gets in on the fun, including Harrison Ford.
The biggest surprise of the series is undoubtedly Harrison Ford’s incredible comedic pivot. I never thought he could be this funny, effectively outshining all the other naturally-comedic actors in here. Dare I say this is one of his best performances ever. I don’t only see this man getting an Emmy nomination, I see him winning. He nails the comedy, shines in the emotional moments and exhibits stellar chemistry with every other actor. Following Harrison is the wonderfully charming, loveable and hilarious presence of Jessica Williams as Gaby. Her wit is unmatched and she elevates the mood every time she steps into frame. Then there’s the rest of the ensemble who are all equally brilliant. Lukita Maxwell (Alice), Michael Urie (Brian), Christa Miller (Liz) and Luke Tennie (Sean) are all fun to watch and each have multiple memorable scenes throughout the season. Last but certainly not least is Jason Segel himself. Despite not being my favourite character or performance, he shows his range really well – delving deep into the dramatic elements while reining in his sillier comedic style.
In the end, Shrinking is the definition of a feel-good series – you can’t help but walk away with a smile on your face after every episode. It had a rocky start, not really grabbing me until the third episode, but I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. From that point onwards, it finds the right balance of drama to comedy, and only gets better from there. Every character is well fleshed out, and everyone gets a chance to flex their comedic chops – especially Harrison Ford, who makes the series as great as it is. If you’re looking for a series that’s short, sweet and an absolute blast to watch, Shrinking should be at the top of your list.