Why you should be watching The Shrink Next Door on Apple TV+
Ivan Radford | On 19, Nov 2021
This review is based on the opening four episodes. New episodes arrive weekly on Fridays.
True crime is a booming industry, thanks to the success of Netflix’s sensationalist documentaries and ITV’s more restrained approach to dramatisations of real events. But a true crime comedy is a less common affair, which makes Apple TV+ series The Shrink Next Door a curious beast – and it rewards that curiosity with deliciously painful humour that matches its unbelievable story.
The series is based on the 2019 Wondery podcast of the same name, and tells the story of how a middle-aged man is manipulated and exploited by his therapist. Will Ferrell stars as Martin “Marty” Markowitz, who has inherited the family business of producing theatrical fabrics. But when he suffers from anxiety, his sister recommends him to see the psychiatrist-to-the-stars Dr Ike Herschkopf (Paul Rudd). What begins as supportive comments that boost his self-esteem soon turns into something much more complicated, as Ike slowly inserts himself into Marty’s life – they move from patient and client to best friends, and ultimately business partners, with every line crossed only blurring the boundaries of power and trust to dizzyingly unpleasant effect.
The fun comes in the horror of that shifting dynamic, and Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell are impeccable at playing off each other in increasingly dark ways. Ferrell is an expert at playing the clueless innocent, and here he blends that with a vulnerability that’s heartbreakingly sincere – his nervous attempts to flirt with a woman who works at a picture frame shop is as endearing as it is amusing, and his excitement at having a new friend who actually seems to like him is tragically adorable. He’s contrasted superbly by the always-excellent Kathryn Hahn as his sister, Phyllis, who goes toe to toe with Ike and sees straight through him, even as she finds his charm almost bringing down her defences.
Between them all is Paul Rudd, whose easygoing pleasantness is lethally deployed to make Ike a winning, warm figure. There are layers to his narcissism, though, with his wife (Casey Wilson) calling him out on his inability to know when to stop, while he seems to genuinely believe that he’s paying for every slap-up meal, even as he uses Marty’s own credit card to do it. How much is that deceiving himself or simply keeping up his deceit of everyone else makes for a fascinating spectacle, even as you shudder at the way he systematically isolates Marty from his loved ones.
The result is funny but gradually turns the screws with a cringe-inducing patience – even with episodes as short as 30 minutes, there’s a decidedly careful pace to this slow-burn snapshot of abuse. That only replicates the chilling way that Ike sinks his claws into his unsuspecting prey. By the time you get to episode 4, you’ll be drawn in hook, line and sinker.
The Shrink Next Door is available on Apple TV+, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, with a seven-day free trial. For more information on Apple TV+ and how to get it, click here.