What ‘Shrinking,’ ‘Ted Lasso’ & ‘Scrubs’ All Share, According to Brett Goldstein & Bill Lawrence
Do you ever wish your therapist would tell you what they’re really thinking? Shrinking does just that, but also questions whether that’s really the best move for Jimmy (Jason Segel) and his clients. The answer is a little bit of both. Throwing therapeutic practices to the wind gives the widowed Jimmy freedom to unload his pent-up grief, but his messiness gets his clients and himself into some hot water.
Like Ted Lasso and Scrubs, Shrinking is here to show the human, messy side of people in jobs that affect us all. Bill Lawrence made all three of these shows (and many more). He tells TV Insider his latest Apple TV+ comedy (premiering January 27 with two episodes) continues his pattern of pulling back the curtain on well known jobs.
“I always loved, back in the Scrubs days or even the Sin City days, demystifying certain jobs,” he says. “These people are messed up and flawed and just as screwed up as the rest of us. So long as you do it authentically and respectfully, those are my favorite type of stories to tell.”
The comedy stars Segel, Harrison Ford, and Jessica Williams as a trio of therapists that viewers are sure to love. Jimmy, Paul, and Gaby are close outside of work, each of them lending a supportive hand to Jimmy and his teen daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell), as they grieve the loss of Jimmy’s wife/Alice’s mother. But just like with therapy/client relationships, Jimmy has to remember that Paul and Gaby have struggles of their own.
Ted Lasso Emmy-winner Brett Goldstein co-created the series with Lawrence in addition to writing and executive producing. He agrees that Shrinking and the beloved soccer comedy both humanize people we tend to assume have their sh*t together. Despite the heavy nature of their jobs, Goldstein thinks therapists are ripe for comedy.
“I’ve always been interested in therapy and therapists,” he says. “I’m a big believer in it, and I think it inherently has dramatic, interesting stakes, because the relationship between a patient and a therapist is so unique and so intimate. This person can know more about you than anyone on the planet, but they’re not your family, they’re not your loved one. You’re paying them. It’s this strange relationship that’s so rich, and we get to play with the boundaries of that in this show.”
Ted Lasso Season 2 did the same thing with Sarah Niles‘ Dr. Sharon. Goldstein’s a writer on Ted Lasso in addition to playing the endearingly foul-mouthed Roy Kent. He stayed behind the scenes on Shrinking, but still weaved pieces of his life into this new story. Ford’s character is based on his own father, who has Parkinson’s. Ford’s Paul is in the early stages of the illness. Lawrence says that he, Goldstein, and Segel meshed so well while writing Shrinking because they “have a shared voice” and similar approaches to dealing with hard times.
“We kind of laugh our way through painful things,” he explains. To that end, coping with humor is the crux of Shrinking.
“I’m not telling you anything to say that the world is a bit of a dumpster fire over the last few years,” Lawrence accurately notes of the show’s inspiration. “Everybody we know, the three of us have been going through some grief and some trauma.” He adds, “We wanted to write a show about dealing with grief by trying to help each other, but doing it as a comedy. We’re all Hollywood dudes, so we’re shrink-ed up, even if it happened late in life.”
Writing doesn’t help them feel better, mind you. “If you talk to any writer that says they enjoy writing, they’re a sociopath,” Lawrence says with a laugh. “They enjoy having written something, but the actual writing is awful.”
Ford loved what they wrote. Lawrence offered the role to the film legend expecting a no (at that point, he’d never done TV), but the script got him to sign on for his first-ever comedy.
“I’ve reached the age finally that I’m not as afraid and embarrassed of people saying no to me as I was as a kid,” so he called up the star (his neighbor) to talk about getting him on TV. Lawrence explains how the call went down.
Ford: “Hey, this is a really good script. Will I be in the second one more?” Lawrence, his voice cracking: “You can be in it as much as you want.” Ford: “Who else is in it?” Lawrence: “I’ll have Jason Segel call you.” Ford: “Who’s Jason Segel?” Lawrence: “Uh, I’ll send you some movies first.”
Once the ball got rolling, Goldstein says Ford took to comedy like a fish to water. That’s unsurprising — the 1923 star’s humor has long been documented in interviews. Fans will be delighted to see him bust out his comedy chops for narrative purposes.
“He really relates to the character and he wanted to do it,” Goldstein shares. “Seeing him do comedy, you could see when we had our first read-through, the glee in his eyes getting these huge laughs. He’s f***ing funny. I think it’s a buzz for him to be doing a proper comedy, which he hasn’t really done. And he’s very good at it.”
Rounding out the cast are Christa Miller, Luke Tennie, Michael Urie, and some exciting cameos. Executive producer Neil Goldman (of Scrubs and Community) says he was excited they got to cuss in this script — a first for him, but far from a first for Goldstein (who cracks up at this comment in their joint interview). And as he teases, “This cast brings it.”
“They all really took ownership of their characters really quickly, which just helps the writers plug in,” Goldman says. “They had fun with it. I think it shows up on screen.”
Shrinking, Two-Episode Series Premiere, Friday, January 27, Apple TV+