Shrinking serves up happiness, secrets and potatoes [Apple TV+ recap] ★½

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Shrinking, the hit Apple TV+ show about a therapist unraveling, sees James starting to suffer the consequences of his crazy new practices this week.

Paul is still mad at him for his radical ideas and the way they’re putting James’ daughter Alice in danger. But Paul’s own daughter Meg is in town, so he’s got bigger fish to fry. Meanwhile, Liz finds herself in the crosshairs of James’ ire — and only Gabrielle’s intervention saves them from hurting each other.

It’s another episode of a surprisingly popular show, in which no one’s problems are ever as big a deal as they seem.

Shrinking recap: ‘Potatoes’

Season 1, episode 4: In this week’s episode, entitled “Potatoes,” James Laird (played by How I Met Your Mother star Jason Segel) is having a crisis or two — what else is new? He thought his new therapy ideas and wellness regimens were not just radical but effective. However, it turns out he’s not making the progress he thought he was.

His patient Grace (Heidi Gardner), the flighty trophy wife who went back to her abusive marriage, and his nosy neighbor Liz (Christa Miller), both narced to James’ boss, Paul (Harrison Ford). They revealed that James’ violent patient, Sean (Luke Tennie), moved into his the house where James and his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) live.

Alice is still sensitive and wounded because she’s grieving her dead mother, Tia (Lilan Bowden). And none of this can be good for the practice, for Alice’s recovery, or for James.

Later, Liz buys James bagels as an apology, and he half-heartedly forgives her. But he knows he’s in for quite a drubbing when he goes into the office.

Still, Sean’s tenure in James’ house is one of the few things that’s been going well for all involved. The trouble is that Sean now thinks of James as a friend and not a therapist, so he won’t open up to him now about the trauma he’s still carrying around with him. Paul would help him, but he’s mad he still hasn’t figured out to create a healthier environment for everyone in his life yet.

Everyone’s got problems

Paul’s also got his own problems. His daughter, Meg, is coming by for a long-overdue visit, and he has to sort out some legal stuff. Plus, Paul has Parkinson’s disease, and he hasn’t told most of the people in his life. James’ friend Brian (Michael Urie) is also Paul’s lawyer. So they’re going to sort through some power-of-attorney stuff, so Meg can help Paul if anything debilitating starts to happen.

He has a nice time with Meg when she arrives, but doesn’t tell her about the disease. Brian tries desperately to get him to tell her because they don’t know how long he has. And he doesn’t want Paul’s death to come as a surprise to his daughter.

James’ latest patient also proves to him that his methods are more madness than method. His patient Wally (Kimberly Condict) tries to kiss him after he tries giving her complimentary reinforcements. And then, when he talks her down, she tries it again. So much for that.

He tries one more time to get Sean to open up, and the big guy tells James to go to hell. Then he sees Conor and is so mad at him that he behaves like a psychopath.

Gabrielle (Jessica Williams) comes over to hang with Alice, to Liz’s chagrin, and learns something that not even James knows. She isn’t a virgin anymore. She slept with one of Liz’s three sons, Connor. Gaby tries to suggest that she tell James (to relieve herself of the burden of doing it herself), but he doesn’t handle it very well.

Segel’s funniest moment of the show so far is his pained reaction to this news. He runs up to the back deck and yells at Liz about it, giving her a stern talking-to about meddling in his life. Gaby overhears this and feels bad about how poorly she has been treating Liz the last few weeks. She comes over and apologizes and offers to get drunk with her so they can talk about things.

Every morning

The way Shrinking writes people being earnest with each other is so annoying it hurts my skin. Gabrielle and Liz talking about horniness is so obviously the product of a writers’ room and not the real way two women in Southern California speak to each other. Everybody is psyched that Conor and Alice had sex. I don’t … what? Why?

I’m also starting to chafe at the attempts to write Harrison Ford’s character as self-consciously cute. He’s the best thing about the show, no two ways about it — maybe the only good thing about the show. But even this seems too hard for the writers to keep up. They try to make it seem like Paul’s favorite song is “Every Morning” by Sugar Ray, a song no one has thought about in a decade and a half.

Now, I don’t think they think it’s believable. I think they wanted to go for the cheap laugh of Harrison Ford singing the worst song ever written. The trouble is, if that’s the joke, why does the song continue for the next few minutes of montage of the show opening? If you know the song’s annoying, don’t play it. If you don’t … why in the world did anyone give you people money to make a TV show? You have worse taste than the American public, who happily showed Sugar Ray the door 20 years ago.

To add insult to injury, this week’s episode ends with a coffee shop cover of “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince. Offensive.


Watch Shrinking on Apple TV+

New episodes of Shrinking arrive every Friday on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at

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