The dark reality of true crime in ‘The Shrink Next Door’

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A therapist’s office is supposed to be a sacred and trusted space. What happens when that trust is broken? On Nov. 12, Apple TV+ released a new series full of manipulation and darkness. “The Shrink Next Door” stars everyone’s favorite comedy icons, Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd, and allows the pair to take their acting careers in a new direction. Known for their work in films such as “Anchorman” and “Ant-Man,” this new show is a 180 from their usual roles.  

The series follows Marty Markowitz (Ferrell), an anxious and neurotic man, and the deceitful Dr. Ike Herschkopf (Rudd). The show also features Kathryn Hahn of “Wandavision” as Marty’s sister, Phyllis. Originally coaxed into therapy by his sister, Marty is miserably failing at all of life’s obstacles. The character is fresh off a breakup and the death of his father, all while trying to juggle the family business. Enter Herschkopf, Marty’s new therapist — and certified con artist. Throughout the premiere, the character routinely crosses many ethical boundaries and milks Marty out of every cent he can. As the series progresses, the lines between therapist and friend become blurrier and blurrier, and the viewer is left in shock as the exploitation continues.  

Interestingly enough, the show is based on a true story. The real life Marty eventually told his story about his strange therapist after 2010, when their relationship had finally ended and Marty managed to free himself. The real Dr. Herschkopf eventually became in complete control of Markowitz’ finances, took residency in his patient’s home in the Hamptons and separated Markowitz from his remaining family. Since the story broke, Herschkopf’s practice license was revoked by the state of New York, although Herschkopf still plans to appeal this action. 

This real-life tale left many confused and shocked. It is yet another reminder that many practitioners in the healthcare industry do not operate with the best of morals. Boundaries in therapy are there for a reason, and this show allows us to see just how bad it can be when those boundaries are crossed.  

A central topic to the series is the rich Jewish culture. The show features multiple Jewish characters and cultural traditions. At one point in the show, Markowitz even celebrates his new “manhood” and psychological progress with his therapist, and they attend his second bar mitzvah together. For many, this is an inside look into a culture they may not be familiar with, offering a learning opportunity. While Paul Rudd is Jewish, Ferrell is not. In modern Hollywood, there is a certain sensitivity when ethnic or cultural groups are featured. Many viewers would prefer an actor of the same group to portray a character in a diverse role. 

“If that was ever a point of concern with our team, I would have happily said I won’t [do it],” Ferrell said in an interview with the New York Times. “But that was never a point of discussion. I understand the discussion and how these things are now being analyzed for various reasons. I also stand confidently in the sense that this was handled in a faithful way that was accurate, and we’re not winking at any of it. I took it very seriously.”  

While the main topic of the show is dark and dramatic, Ferrell and Rudd do not stray completely away from their comedy roots. Their jovial personalities allow the show to be enjoyable and even funny at times, while still staying true to the original subject matter. It was a pleasure to watch the two take on more serious scenes while still sprinkling in the laughs. This series is everything you want in a television show. Gritty, funny and dramatic. It paints an incredible picture of a true crime story, and is a great watch for any viewer.  

Rating: 4.5/5  

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