THE SHRINK NEXT DOOR -- A Messy but Intriguing Stranger-than-Fiction Dark Comedy
Review by Sean Boelman
One of the main charms of narrative podcasts is that the medium leaves the potential for storytelling wide open; however, when adapting these ideas into a more standard format, these restrictions are reintroduced. The Shrink Next Door definitely has a fascinating stranger-than-fiction true story at its core, but uneven execution keeps it from being especially memorable.
The show tells the story of a wealthy and troubled man who becomes the patient of a silver-tongued psychiatrist with unorthodox methods, forming a bizarre doctor-patient relationship. Based on an enormously popular true-crime podcast, there’s definitely an interesting project somewhere in here, but the series can’t decide whether it wants to be a serious drama or a dark comedy.
The first three episodes (which, perhaps ironically, are being released at once) present a very different show from the remaining five. It is only in episode four when viewers will begin to get the sense that something is awry and this isn’t just an average quirky comedy, but whether or not viewers will stick with the series is more of a question.
There are some interesting ideas in the series about trust and loyalty, but it is so overstuffed, even with eight episodes, that the series feels rushed. The story spans a timeline of about three decades, and the episodes just jump around time freely. And as a result, it is difficult for one to find their footing within this world.
The dynamic between the two lead characters in the show is definitely interesting, as this is what the entire arc of the show hinges on. That said, the show’s fundamental misconception is that it seems to think the audience will like both of them, even though the cunning and manipulative nature of the psychiatrist becomes obnoxious pretty quickly. And all of the supporting characters feel underutilized.
Still, the thing that is likely to draw most viewers to this show is the cast, headlined by Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell, both of whom are great in their roles. Rudd, in particular, is exceptional, giving a career-best performance as a homme fatale of sorts. And Ferrell is more vulnerable here than we have seen him in quite a while.
There are a lot of shortcomings with the series’s execution. The production design easily could have helped with the periodization, but with the exception of some prop changes (such characters holding iPhones all of a sudden), the style is consistent despite the show spanning such a wide period. The result is that the show feels monotonously quirky.
No one can accuse The Shrink Next Door of being uninteresting, but the messy nature of the writing makes it hard to get fully invested into it. There’s enough great stuff going on here to recommend it, but in a busy month for streaming content, it’s not the most urgent watch.
The Shrink Next Door streams on Apple TV+ beginning November 12, with new episodes releasing subsequent Fridays. All eight episodes reviewed.
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