Comedian Harrison Ford? In new tv series 'Shrinking' Ford and Jason Segel bring the laughs
Care to watch Indiana Jones get high?
That throwaway teaser – though entirely accurate – is but one reason to tune into Apple TV+'s “Shrinking,” a new dramedy series from a few of the delightfully askew minds who worked on “Ted Lasso."
But don't look for many direct parallels between the two shows, one an Emmy-winning series about a hapless American football coach wrangling a British soccer team and a new comedy about a filter-free therapist (Jason Segel) in the grips of debilitating grief.
“If there’s any similarity between the two shows, it’s that both are about people you hopefully want to spend more time with,” says “Shrinking” co-creator Brett Goldstein, who was a writer on “Lasso” and won an Emmy last year for his role as cantankerous but lovable footballer Roy Kent.
Segel adds that "there's mainly a consistency of vibe and an acknowledgement that things are rough, but we'll figure it out. We may go darker than 'Ted Lasso,' but what underlies them both is a hopefulness."
When is 'Shrinking' release date?
The new series premieres Jan. 27 on Apple TV+, and will be released weekly.
“Shrinking” may well find the “Lasso” veterans scoring again. It’s the story of Segel's grieving shrink, Jimmy Laird, whose crisis leads him to give his patients his unvarnished take on their problems as he works to reassemble the pieces of his life with the help of friends and co-workers.
That support network includes his neighbor Liz (Christa Miller), a mother with empty-nester blues, and feisty co-worker Gaby (former "Daily Show" correspondent Jessica Williams).
The dream of getting Ford was like 'throwing an idea down a well'
The gang’s cognitive therapy office boss, Dr. Paul Rhodes, is brought to grouchy life by none other than Ford, 80, who is enjoying his first small-screen heyday thanks to his star turn in “Yellowstone” prequel “1923,” alongside Helen Mirren.
Rhodes has a secret that at one point in the series finds him in a decidedly altered state, all to such dry comic effect as to make one wonder whether the man who played hard-boiled operative Jack Ryan might find a late-stage career on the stand-up circuit.
Goldstein and fellow “Shrinking” co-creators Segel and Bill Lawrence (who created “Ted Lasso” along with its star, Jason Sudeikis, writer and actor Brendan Hunt, and Joe Kelly) explained how Ford came on board, why therapy seems the right profession to parse for laughs and how our pandemic times influence what we seek out in entertainment.
“It just shouldn’t have been this easy,” Goldstein says from London, where he recently completed filming on the third and final season of “Lasso” He says the idea of getting Ford was almost a joke in itself.
“We figured, 'Let’s waste a day asking him, and then we’ll find someone else.' It was likely throwing an idea down a well,” he says.
But Lawrence, who developed “Shrinking” with Goldstein mostly on Zoom calls, had a bit of an in. Ford lives up the street from him in Los Angeles. “So I figured if I sent the script, at least he might know who I was,” says Lawrence, whose comedy bona fides include “Spin City” and “Scrubs.”
Ford called almost immediately – to complain. “Harrison said, ‘My character isn’t huge in the pilot; does that change?’ And I said, ‘Well, if the character is played by you, yes, it does!’ His reaction was not one I was prepared for, let’s just say.”
During rehearsals, the show’s creators noticed the same thing: Ford was there to work, not preen. Says Goldstein: “Even at the first table read, I could see the glee in his eyes getting laughs, and I thought, 'Right, he hasn’t done proper comedy, so this might be really exciting for him.'”
Lawrence says Ford is blunt about comedic direction. “He’ll just say to us, ‘How do I make this funny? I want to know.’ He’s a student.”
One with great timing, says Segel, who would know. “He has genuine comedy moves; he wasn’t just there to say lines ironically,” he says, referencing the aforementioned altered-state scene, which he says reminds him of a British screen legend. “You’re going to see Harrison Ford going full Peter Sellers.”
Therapists on TV: A great device worthy of further exploration
“What a great tool to reveal things about your main character,” Lawrence says of using therapy as a plot anchor. “Just think about ‘The Sopranos.’ With Tony seeing a therapist, we got to see his true nature. But here I thought, 'Wouldn’t it be good if the therapist is actually the character we care about?'”
Both Lawrence and Goldstein share they have benefited from therapy in their own lives, which informed their writing. Though a number of recent shows have leveraged therapists in their plots – from Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd’s dark comedy “The Shrink Next Door,” also on Apple TV+, to “Lasso” – the duo felt their premise had fresh possibilities.
“My version of this show was darker than Bill’s; he lightened it up a bit,” Goldstein says with a laugh. “But I loved exploring what is essentially a very strange relationship. The therapist knows everything, but there are boundaries.”
Segel was intrigued by the notion of a therapist “suddenly coloring outside the lines” after enduring a life-altering tragedy. “I’m both gifted and cursed with having neither pride or shame, and seeing someone very raw can be fun,” he says.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Shrinking': Harrison Ford, Jason Segel star in new show for Apple TV+