'The Shrink Next Door' review: Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell shine but series misses the mark

The new Apple TV+ series based on a true story but falls short

On the face of it, The Shrink Next Door looks like it would be more of a comedy than a drama. That’s mostly because it stars Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell, two of the funniest comedians of the past two decades, who previously appeared together in the beloved 2004 comedy Anchorman, as well as its sequel.

But the series is much more serious than it is funny. Developed and written by Succession and Veep’s Georgia Pritchett, The Shrink Next Door is an adaptation of the hugely successful podcast of the same name by Joe Nocera.

The TV series does have some laugh-out-loud moments dotted throughout its eight-episode first season, although even they are few and far between. At the same time, the dramatic moments are nowhere near as compelling as they should be. Yet, there’s still something oddly fascinating about this true story.

Ferrell stars as Marty Markowitz, the millionaire owner of a successful Manhattan fabrics company, who in the early 1980s begins to be overwhelmed by anxiety and panic attacks. At the behest of his sister Phyllis, played by the incredible Kathryn Hahn, Marty decides to go and see psychiatrist Dr Ike Herschkopf (Rudd).

After immediately being impressed by his confidence and intellect, Marty grows closer to Ike and his wife, Bonnie (Casey Wilson). Soon, though, Marty is only listening to Ike. So much so that, after Phyllis grows concerned by their relationship, Ike convinces Marty to cut her out of his life entirely. Over the next 27 years Marty pays Ike more than $3 million in psychiatry fees, makes him his one and only consultant at work, and even gives him free rein on his second house on Long Island.

While you can see why Apple TV+ wanted to adapt such a rich and fascinating story, which delves into themes of family, greed and toxic-masculinity, the transition from podcast to screen doesn’t quite work.

Pritchett and directors Michael Showalter and Jesse Peretz don’t manage to get into the psychological complexities that made the podcast so dark and tragic. In fact, it actually pulls too many punches when it comes to exploring what made Ike so evil, and why Marty was such an easy target.

It doesn’t help that Rudd is unable to really bring out the cruel and manipulative nature of Herschkopf. That’s the only blemish on what is a really impressive performance from Rudd, though. Over the first few episodes he’s so charming and constructive as Herschkopf that you can’t help but find him likeable. Then, Rudd slowly starts to subtly tease out a darker side to the character.

It’s unfortunate that The Shrink Next Door doesn’t dive into Herschkopf’s more unscrupulous and Machiavellian side in more detail, especially since it is obviously trying to replicate the atmosphere of other recent crime series such as Big Little Lies, Mare of Easttown and Top of the Lake, with Joshua Moshier’s music and Michelle Lawler’s cinematography in The Shrink Next Door particularly excelling at upping the tension. It’s just a shame there isn't more of it.

It’s not only Rudd who shines. Ferrell is equally as splendid, especially in the final episodes. Rather than making The Shrink Next Door unmissable television, Rudd and Ferrell’s chemistry, as well as Hahn’s electricity whenever she’s on screen, only paper over the cracks.

The Shrink Next Door should have been more intense and disturbing, as well as funnier. The fact that it isn’t means you should probably listen to the podcast, instead.

The Shrink Next Door is on Apple TV+ from Friday, November 12

2/5

Updated: November 11th 2021, 6:40 AM