'The Shrink Next Door' is mostly a flex for Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd The new Apple TV+ series feels far removed from the comedies Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd have become known for.



'The Shrink Next Door' amounts to less than the sum of its parts

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What happens when People Magazine's new sexiest man alive teams up with the funniest man who's ever played a cowbell? Less magic than you might think. Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell are starring in a new dark comedy on Apple TV+ called "The Shrink Next Door." Here's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans with a review.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: In "The Shrink Next Door," Will Ferrell plays Marty Markowitz, a confidence-challenged nerd so averse to conflict, his sister badgers him into seeing a therapist. But that therapist, Paul Rudd's Dr. Isaac Herschkopf, gives off more than a few red flags, including his response when Marty tells him he's having trouble getting customers to his business to pay up.


PAUL RUDD: (As Dr. Isaac Herschkopf) Look; you can't be a therapist one minute and then debt collector the next. So now when I have to be bad cop, I just send a letter from my lawyer, Marshall Feldhammer. Do you know he got his law degree when he was in prison for manslaughter?

WILL FERRELL: (As Marty Markowitz) Wow. Good - good for you for giving someone like that an opportunity.

RUDD: (As Dr. Isaac Herschkopf) Well, he's not real.

FERRELL: (As Marty Markowitz) He's not?

RUDD: (As Dr. Isaac Herschkopf) He's a fictional creation. But you can bet your babka they pay up when Marshall writes them.

DEGGANS: Probably no surprise that a therapist who reveals how he's conned other patients would eventually turn on Marty. Herschkopf, known as Dr. Ike, insinuates himself into Marty's life, overbilling him and talking him into essentially turning over his summer home in the Hamptons for parties.


RUDD: (As Dr. Isaac Herschkopf) Your home is a reflection of your personality.

FERRELL: (As Marty Markowitz) My apartment?

RUDD: (As Dr. Isaac Herschkopf) No, you know, actually I was thinking more the house in the Hamptons - you know, make it a place you want to be, a place that other people want to be - a place that's open, inviting.

FERRELL: (As Marty Markowitz) I don't know.

RUDD: (As Dr. Isaac Herschkopf) ...The kind of place that people can arrive at from the city and just go, wow.

DEGGANS: Sounds more like Dr. Ike's dream than Marty's. Based on a podcast about a real story, "The Shrink Next Door" works best when it's focused on the chemistry of Rudd and Ferrell, big stars playing dark characters in a series significantly different than the silly comedies they often make together. Kathryn Hahn also shines as Marty's sister Phyllis, so protective she stands up to a crazy ex-girlfriend for him.


KATHRYN HAHN: (As Phyllis Shapiro) Marty is a nice guy. But I don't suffer from that particular affliction, and I will not let you exploit him.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) What are you, his guard dog?

HAHN: (As Phyllis Shapiro) Worse - I'm his sister.

DEGGANS: Still, the series spends a lot of time telling us the same things about these characters over and over again. Much of what happens here is predictable, and it happens slowly. And though Jewishness stands at the center of this story - all the major characters are Jewish, for instance - the show doesn't always do a great job of delving into the nuances of how their shared culture may have affected Marty and Dr. Ike's bond. This disconnect highlights the oddity of casting Ferrell, who isn't Jewish and doesn't physically resemble the real Marty Markowitz. Ultimately, "The Shrink Next Door" too often feels like a glitzy acting exercise, an excuse for two comedy giants to flex their dramatic chops in service of a story that falls a bit short.

I'm Eric Deggans.

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