Shrinking is an insult to comedy, therapy and Harrison Ford

Shrinking is an insult to comedy, therapy and Harrison Ford

IIn the annals of folk psychology, few concepts are as widely understood and accepted as that of limits. We establish them to leave codependent relationships behind, or to stop working 80 hours a week, or to cut the umbilical cord, metaphorically speaking, once we have left our parents’ house. This all seems pretty obviously healthy. What is Apple TV+’s deeply irritating new drama Contraction proposes is, well, maybe it’s not. Perhaps we should all constantly meddle in the affairs of our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Hell, maybe therapists should get out of the office and get their hands dirty with the muck of their patients’ lives.

Premiere on January 27 Contraction casts Jason Segel (who co-created the show with ted lasso breakup Brett Goldstein and Bill Lawrence, a creator of Ribbon Y scrubs) as Jimmy Laird, a middle-aged Pasadena therapist who has spent months agitating after the death of his wife in a car accident. The series opens with Jimmy’s next-door neighbor Liz (Christa Miller) waking up in the wee hours of the morning to the blaring of loud music, playful yelling and splashing. Our drunken hero entertains a pair of sex workers poolside, surrounded by bottles of liquor and crushed Adderall, while his 17-year-old daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) sleeps inside. This isn’t the first time Liz has caught him in the middle of debauchery. “I’m sorry,” he tells her, with all sincerity and self-deprecation, after reluctantly ending her dreary late-night party. “I know,” he sighs.

This introductory scene turns out to be solid proof of how you’ll feel about the show as a whole. If it works for you then you might enjoy Contraction. For me, she raised one red flag after another. A professional psychiatrist and single father who wakes up at 3 a.m. in his upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood on a fast-paced bender with two paid escorts isn’t just a protagonist in crisis; he is a character that tests credibility. He adds Alice, and he’s also some kind of monster. Could Jimmy harbor some deep insight into human psychology, which is, after all, the focus of the show? And can we trust the creators who dreamed up such a generic snapshot of a man in pain-induced free fall to convey them imaginatively and entertainingly?

Christa Miller, izquierda, y Jessica Williams en <i data-recalc-dims=Shrinking (Apple TV+)” class=”fix-layout-shift”/>

Christa Miller, left, and Jessica Williams in Contraction


Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is a resounding no. Instead of shaming him into giving up her credentials and sending her daughter to live with literally any relative she doesn’t routinely recreate. Scarface In his backyard, his encounter with Liz inspires him to redeem himself as a therapist and as a father. The parental makeover, after months of dissipation and neglect, lands badly at first. Learning that he washed his football jersey and bought him blueberries, a remarkably mature Alice explains to Jimmy that these gestures are too small, too late. While it’s hard to believe that these two have cohabited alone for so long without catastrophe occurring, their tense interactions more or less make sense.

Which is more than you can say for Jimmy’s professional life. For him, recommitting to his vocation means radically changing the focus of his therapy. Instead of gradually accessing the patients’ psychology through session after session of listening and reflection designed to guide them toward their hard-won self-knowledge, he begins to tell them what he really thinks. “Grace, your husband is emotionally abusive,” he tells a patient played by snlby Heidi Gardner. “Stop it or I’ll stop being your therapist.” It doesn’t take much training to realize that this is a terrible ultimatum for a psychiatrist to give a woman who believes her husband is abusing her.

It’s not like the show is trying to portray Jimmy as some brilliant maverick therapist. Some of his unconventional recipes turn out pretty bad. But he does want us to take seriously what seems like an obviously ridiculous border-breaking experiment. After a patient named Sean (Luke Tennie) is inadvertently kicked out of his parents’ house, Jimmy moves the young veteran with aggression issues into the pool house. This intertwining of lives that professional boundaries would normally keep apart sets the tone for the season. Jimmy’s closest colleague, Gaby (Jessica Williams), and boss, Paul (Harrison Ford), whose pro-limits stance is framed as causing enormous problems in his own personal relationships, become swept up in his chaotic existence. . Liz bonds with Gaby. Alice confides in Paul and falls in love with Sean. Jimmy’s estranged best friend Brian (Michael Urie) reappears.

Harrison Ford en <i data-recalc-dims=shrinking (Apple TV+)” class=”fix-layout-shift”/>

harrison ford in Contraction


After several episodes of watching characters fight, overshare, and shoot each other in the feet, a kind of guiding ethos emerges: People are beautiful in their brokenness, so let’s lean on each other and tolerate each other’s shortcomings and share. our wonderful and messy healing journeys. with everyone we know. While it’s certainly easy to scoff at, this radical form of acceptance is not without its merits. But it’s also a bit of a narrative, not to mention a self-help cliché, and one that doesn’t seem to apply best to the deeply destructive behavior of an anti-hero who should, by virtue of his profession, possess a modicum of self-sufficiency. -control. Segel, Goldstein and Lawrence try to frame Jimmy as flawed. Instead, he appears as a casual perpetrator of gross therapeutic malpractice whose neglect as the sole remaining parent of a girl suffering acutely from her own grief constitutes a continuing emergency.

The result is a show that works mightily to affect and inspire, but ultimately only irritates. And its construction is even flimsier than its content. Plot holes are common; more than once, such as when Jimmy shows up uninvited to a patient’s dinner, a character shows up at an event whose time and place they could not reasonably have known. Uniformly long-suffering women and black characters that are never not talking about black or white people suggests the blind spots of white male creators who try too hard to be sensitive. Inexplicably stylized, navel-gazing scripts run counter to humanist themes. “I would have come sooner,” Jimmy stammers to Alice, overcome with emotion, when he finally thinks it’s time to attend one of her soccer games. Then, in a non sequitur: “It’s just…you look so much like your mom.” Virtually every conversation is about feelings, which would get exhausting after an episode or two, even if the writing was better.

So much tonal dissonance hurts the talented cast, whose vastly different acting styles create the impression that each is performing in a different kind of show. For Segel, Contraction is a painfully self-referential comedy about midlife crisis. Williams warms each scene in which she encounters the goofy charm of the rom-com heroine she so adorably embodied in the second season of Love life. Ford, who currently stars in the yellow stone cleave 1923 but previously mostly attached to the big screen, he plays a character so compromised that he’s forced back into his tough, dry, taciturn default self. An alumnus of HBO Max’s short-lived teen drama GenerationMaxwell is sidetracked by tropey story lines in a wide-eyed YA context of her own.

Contraction is not the only recent program investigating the inner lives of troubled psychotherapists. fx The patientthe pandemic era of HBO Max Restart in treatmentand Apple’s own The psychiatrist next door they have all struggled, in different ways, to put viewers inside the heads of psychopaths taken to the extreme. At a time when mental health is all the rage and more people than ever are seeking help, it makes sense that the creators would not only want to break the sphinx exteriors of these practitioners, but also fantasize what might happen if psychiatrists were inspired. to dissolve. the broad limits on which his profession is built. In truth, we will never know as much about our therapists as anyone who sees Contraction You will learn about Jimmy. And as the show, in all its selfish awkwardness, accidentally implies, that’s probably for the best.

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