A show filled with Chicago-based improvisors from the iO and Second City, “Shrink” is an eight-episode series on the NBC/Amazon comedy streaming network, Seeso, and it’s the best show I’ve watched since “Atlanta.”

You probably recognize more than a few of the actors in it too. Yes, that is the guy from the Sonic commercials, and that is Lutz from “30 Rock,” and the bozo older guy from “Mad Men” who was, I think, friends with Peggy.

The show is centered around Dr. David Tracy (Tim Baltz, writer/co-creator), a recent medical school graduate can’t get into a residency program. That would be a problem for any med school grad, but it’s potentially life-destroying for Tracy and his family, since his mom cosigned his now $586,000 student loan debt. “Shrink” shows him attempting to become a therapist, both to maintain his medical license and to defer those loans.

To do this, he has to complete 1,920 hours of supervised free sessions, which he conducts in his parent’s garage and advertises on Craigslist. Semi-improvised hilarity ensues.

A lot of the humor comes from his highly unprofessional behavior but clear desire to help. One of his patients can’t have sexual thoughts after seeing his dead uncle’s wooden dildo and Tracy’s response is to take him to a sex shop. He also makes out with one of his patients at the end of their first session.

This is not to say that “Shrink” is a sitcom, or even specifically a melan-comedy (melancholic comedy, i.e. “Louie,” “Casual”); it is inspired by both, but isn’t really either. The show has a definite structure in terms of how it makes you laugh in the actual sessions, but outside of the garage (and for one episode his mid-2000’s Camry), “Shrink” fully embraces its melan-comedic side.

This primarily manifests itself in how Tracy is forced to deal with his insane student loans, but also struggles with his step-brother and a possible relationship emerging with the patient he kissed.

To make money while he’s doing the free therapy, David ends up working the night shift at a “Happy Foods” (a supermarket that makes me appreciate Wegmans so much more than I already did) with his best friend and former, one time patient, Doug. (David is still Doug’s sister’s therapist, she looked it up online and it said, “Grey-area.”)

This seems like a lot of environments and characters for one show, especially one that’s only eight half-hour episodes, but it works. It works well. It’s funny, different, and has very likeable characters that feel full even if they don’t get a whole lot of screen time.

I’ve watched “Shrink” twice and would suggest it to people that like “Louie,” “Parks and Recreation,” and Netflix’s “Love.”

 



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