The Pitch: Marty Markowitz (Will Ferrell) is a middle-aged man who lives in a perpetual state of people-pleasing. In fact, he’s deferential to the point of passivity, which makes his new job as the head of his late father’s Manhattan fabrics business (and all its attendant pressures) particularly stressful. In fact, it’s the stuff that panic attacks are made of, which makes his headstrong sister Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) suggest he see a psychiatrist.
Enter Dr. Isaac Herschkopf (Paul Rudd), the charming, self-effacing shrink who enters Marty’s life and immediately sets upon getting him out of his shell. But along the way, he gets wise to the bottomless nature of Marty’s emotional passivity and doormat-itude, and smells opportunity.
Before long, we’re witness to the slow unraveling of Marty’s life right out from under his nose, thanks to Dr. Ike’s ceaseless, expert manipulation of his obliging nature over the next three decades. He cuts Marty off from his friends, family, and any potential romantic partners; he moves them all into the man’s spacious vacation home in the Hamptons. Ike even convinces Marty to bring him into the business as a full-time “industrial psychiatrist,” eventually controlling Marty’s entire financial and social life.
He’s a remora pretending to be the shark, with the great white nary the wiser. Who knows what else Ike will take from him before Marty sees his new best friend for what he truly is?
Doctor-Patient Confidence Man: The Shrink Next Door is but the latest in the podcast-to-TV pipeline, after Amazon’s Homecoming, Netflix’s Dirty John, and Peacock’s Dr. Death. It’s clear that studios are more than happy to mine true crime and scripted audio fiction for inspiration.
But while Shrink is more Dirty John than Homecoming in that it’s based on a harrowing true story, the series (developed by Succession writer Georgia Pritchett) never lingers on the grisly details, nor does it use its central cast of A-list comedians to turn Marty Markowitz’s misfortunes into a cheap gag. Astonishingly enough over its eight episodes, Pritchett and her team of writers deftly weave the tragedy and absurdity of the story into something much more darkly funny than you would expect.