The following contains spoilers for Shrinking Season 1, Episode 1, “Coin Flip” and Episode 2, “Fortress of Solitude,” now streaming on Apple TV+.
Suffice it to say Ted Lasso has been one of television’s biggest hits in recent years. Apple TV+ knew what it was doing, working with Bill Lawrence, Jason Sudeikis, Brendan Hunt and Joe Kelly in turning the character from an NBC parody into a feel-good story. Luckily, Lawrence and the streamer are once again making magic in terms of emotional comedy-drama, working with At Ted Lasso’s Brett Goldstein and Jason Segel on Contraction.
The series follows Jimmy Laird de Segel, a therapist working on the death of his wife, Tia. Also, he struggles to reconnect after alienating his teenage daughter Alice, which complicates Jimmy’s life and work. Interestingly, after the first two episodes, Contraction actually looks like a copy of Lawrence’s most famous project, Scrubsbut a nice evolution from the previous series.
Shrinkage Bends Over Jimmy as Broken JD
Scrubs focused on Zach Braff’s Dr. John Michael “JD” Dorian. at Sacred Heart Hospital, where he and his eccentric peers balanced their personal lives while keeping the public healthy. The NBC and then ABC series ran for nine seasons, detailing how the crazed, dreamy JD matured, managing that everlasting romance with Elliot. He eventually married her and became a father, which fans have waited forever after so many relationships that just didn’t work out. It effectively created an engaging romantic plot.
Contraction remixes Jimmy in that JD light as a serious, aloof good guy trying to help everyone. He likes to do the right thing, even if it means breaking the rules and seeing patients after hours. What really stands out is how much Jimmy feels like a preview of JD if he had lost Elliot. From Jimmy’s bad jokes to how he annoys everyone (and how he can’t cope), he feels like a big kid at heart. One who admittedly needs help with his grief – an easy picture to imagine as JD went through similar ordeals when he also lost friends and family.
Shrinking has a Scrubs Kooky type cast
The tone of Contraction further strengthens the comparison, since it is a more autonomous tool Scrubs but with clumsy and overly divided therapists rather than doctors. Harrison Ford (the MCU’s next Thunderbolt Ross) plays Paul, who has that tough love and dismissive energy that Scrubs’ Kelso and Dr. Cox both had bosses. Paul watches over Jimmy by mentoring Alice, while doing what Kelso and Cox did: keep everyone away from his family. Yet even though Paul is a jerk, he’s a more compassionate leader, caring for his staff but letting them know he’s still a mean boss.
Plus Jimmy’s nerdy Alone at home-loving colleague, Gabby, has this excessive controlling energy from Carla for support. He also has his geeky best friend in Brian, reminiscent of Donald Faison’s Turk. Together they try to bring it out of its funk, creating a more nuanced energy of how everyone has intertwined in JD’s world. This does not mean Scrubs didn’t have deep moments of gravity, but everything felt campy and lucky, detracting from the gravity of many big situations that took away from its character portrayals. That much, Contractionwhile still fun, has a more relevant and socially relevant edge suited to modern audiences, who are more sensitive and attuned to the effects of mental health and depression, especially in the age of COVID.
Finally, Christa Miller (Lawrence’s real wife) plays Liz, Jimmy’s neighbor who takes care of Alice like a mother. It’s this hip, cool mom catching up with her sons heading off to college. However, she has no problem being sarcastic with Jimmy, giving a heavy nod to Jordan from Miller on Scrubs and how she berated everyone, thinking it would make them stronger. Ultimately, she’s more of a focal point in Contractioninspiring Jimmy like JD was, but instead of seeking promotions as a doctor, Jimmy aims to rebuild his life and that fire he lost, especially for his child.
Shrinking launches new episodes Friday on Apple TV+.