The Shrink Next Door takes an ugly turn toward cringe comedy [Apple TV+ review]

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The Shrink Next Door review: Ike (played by Paul Rudd, left) can't stop taking advantage of his patient, Marty (Will Ferrell).
Ike (played by Paul Rudd, left) can't stop taking advantage of his patient, Marty (Will Ferrell).

Apple TV+ comedy The Shrink Next Door takes a step toward chaos and a step away from reconciliation this week. Marty and his psychiatrist, Ike, start a business together, which means they’re financially tied to each other. Marty has finally stopped giving in to everyone’s demands, but Ike is there to step in and replace every demanding person in Marty’s life.

This is not going to end well.

The Shrink Next Door review: ‘The Foundation’

Martin Markowitz (played by Will Ferrell) has finally and definitively cut Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) out of his life. She was laboring under the delusion that they’d patch up their differences (especially with her birthday coming up) but she gets a rather sadistic gesture for her trouble. Martin sends her a card filled with heads. Specifically her head, cut out of all the pictures he had of her in his house. Martin’s still feeling uneasy about it but she did rob him. And besides, Ike says it’s good for him.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ike Herschkopf (Paul Rudd) has family troubles of his own. His wife, Bonnie (Casey Wilson), had twins (two girls, to Ike’s chagrin), and he’s running on no sleep. Bonnie wants him to help more and he can’t/won’t. It’s causing a bigger rift than usual, and Ike’s also worried about his finances.

Of course, he has a plan for that. He lets it slip, in classic manipulator fashion, that maybe what Marty needs to do with himself is distract himself from his Phyllis situation. Maybe by starting a foundation. Of course, Ike says, he’s always wanted to start one. Maybe the two of them could go in on one together?

As it happens, even without the foundation, Marty’s got a brand-new distraction in the form of Hannah (Christina Vidal Mitchell), the new girl at the frame shop he frequents. The two of them hit it off right away and Marty asks her out — a huge deal for the usually shy guy. He wants to take her for a walk but Ike hits upon a brilliant idea: Why don’t they go the annual Pen Gala. Ike ran the idea by Marty before as a way to debut their foundation. While Marty originally scoffed, but now he sees it as a way to impress Hannah and finally relents — despite the $6,000 price tag for entry.

He’s the brains of the operation

Here’s where the wheels start to come off the wagon for Marty and Ike. Everyone at Marty’s shop hates Ike and his new rules and ideas. The date with Hannah is not the rousing success Ike promised (despite music by Local Natives in a cameo as the house band), not least because Hannah sees Ike take credit for all the money Marty put down for the night.

Furthermore, Ike convinces Marty to bid on a signed Mickey Mantle baseball as a way to make a name for their Yaron Foundation, but of course it’s just because Ike wants the ball. He winds up bidding against bigwigs like Ed Koch (Tony Abatemarco), Andy Warhol (Kevin Michael Brown) and Reggie Jackson (Keith Chandler) — and spends $20,000 on the ball. Marty has a heart attack when he realizes how much he’s about to lose.

Ike gets him into an ambulance and saves him, but also he was the reason he almost died (a fact Marty overlooks). Ike sees that Hannah knows what a toxic person he is in Marty’s life, and so goes behind his back to try and break them up, framing it as a health issue.

A turning point?

This is where The Shrink Next Door is going to have work very hard to come back from the sadism Ike is doling out on Marty’s behalf. Until now, there’s been reasonable enough doubt about Ike’s intentions. But in this episode, titled “The Foundation,” the writers finally tip their hand.

Ike steals money from Marty, openly and in secret. He’s alienating all of Marty’s friends, family and employees. Plus, he’s just kind of a prick about all of it on top of everything else, especially with Bonnie. This episode does show the effects of Ike’s behavior (he almost kills Marty), and has no illusions about what a bad guy he is. But Rudd’s performance of him, resentment hiding in plain sight beneath his psychiatric do-goodery, and the writers allowing him to just continuously get away with his underhandedness, make this one difficult show to watch.

There are four episodes left in this limited series “inspired by” true events, and that seems like an awfully long time to spend with Dr. Ike, considering we know that this ends with Marty having nothing and Ike having everything, no matter the retribution incoming.

The show’s little pleasures right now don’t quite make me excited enough about seeing what happens next when I know it’s going to be excruciating social dynamics and cringe-comedy theatrics. I don’t know that I have it in me to watch Marty continue to get railroaded. I mean, I will, but I’m not very excited about it.

Watch The Shrink Next Door on Apple TV+

New episodes of The Shrink Next Door arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On The Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.