December 17, 2021 | LIFE | By Lucy DeLuca | Illustration by Iris Guo

Most people believe that seeking help from a therapist can be beneficial to those who need it. Therapists are trained to help individuals find solutions to the problems in their lives and overcome the issues that are holding them back or otherwise affecting them.

But what if instead of helping you solve your problems and overcome your fears, your therapist exploited them? “The Shrink Next Door” explores this question when therapist Dr. Isaac Herschkopf (played by Paul Rudd) manipulates his patient Marty Shapiro (played by Will Ferrell) and begins to take over his life.

Based on the Wondery podcast of the same name, “The Shrink Next Door” beings with Marty, a kind natured, middle-aged man who has recently inherited his father’s fabric company and a sizable trust fund.

While Marty means well, he is often a pushover who doesn’t understand how to cope with adversity. Marty’s sister Phyllis (played by Kathryn Hahn) recommends that he sees Dr. Isaac Herschkopf (Dr. Ike for short) to work out his issues.

It doesn’t take long for Dr. Ike to begin using a myriad of unethical methods to manipulate Marty. It soon becomes evident that Dr. Ike is using Marty and his money to create the life he always wanted but couldn’t afford.

As the trauma in Marty’s life becomes clear, so do elements of Dr. Ike’s past. The audience often experiences similar events from two different perspectives: Marty’s and Dr. Ike’s. What Marty, who grew up in a wealthy family, sees as traumatic or upsetting often feels like a wondrous dream to Dr. Ike, who grew up with nothing.

This juxtaposition of perspectives offers an interesting examination of class and “first world problems.” The show powerfully demonstrates that familial problems are sometimes subjective and what seems upsetting or unfair to one person may be greatly admired or appreciated by another.

It is interesting to see comedic powerhouses like Rudd, Ferrell, and Hahn in dramatic and emotional roles. Ferrell particularly shines as the lovable but troubled Marty. However, while the show has an interesting premise and a wonderfully talented cast, it lacks originality.

Each episode resembles the last and becomes incredibly predictable. What begins as an intriguing story quickly becomes a mildly entertaining premise carried by the actor’s excellent performances rather than the show’s actual plot.

The plot of the show covers more than thirty years, meaning that there is an extremely long time jump between every episode. As a result, the audience is continually trying to catch up on what has happened in years past or even struggling to figure out what year it actually is. It’s like being twenty minutes late to the party every time you press play.

However, even with such a fast-paced timeline the show takes too long to build up any sort of confrontation between Marty and Ike. The extended timeline of the show means that each dramatic turn is a slow burn rather than a surprising spark. 

Ferrell’s wonderful performance makes it hard not to root for Marty, but the audience can only watch him make horrible decisions at Dr. Ike’s direction for so long. Fans of the show’s stars may enjoy watching it for the actor’s performances.

However, for a better paced and more interesting version of the same story, viewers may prefer to simply listen to the podcast on which the show as based. 

New episodes of “The Shrink Next Door” premiere Fridays on AppleTV+.

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