'The Shrink Next Door' review: Supposed comedy leans toward sadistic

Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd star in cruel comedy for Apple TV+.

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

“The Shrink Next Door” is more cruel than comic. 

Which is odd since the show revolves around two famously comic actors, Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd. But the show’s few funny moments involve Kathryn Hahn in a supporting role.

Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell in "The Shrink Next Door."

Instead this is a story about predation, insecurity, opportunism and how sick relationships evolve. Good times.

Ferrell plays Marty Markowitz, a timid, gullible soul who has inherited a fabric company in New York City but who starts to fall apart at the drop of a pin. His acerbic but loving sister (Hahn) urges him to go see a psychiatrist her rabbi has recommended.

That would be Dr. Isaac Herschkopff (Rudd). At first Dr. Ike seems like a kind and wise fellow who helps Marty emerge a bit from his shell. But then it becomes clear Dr. Ike is a jovial master manipulator who likes to control the lives of patients.

And once Dr. Ike realizes Marty is wealthy, he’s found the perfect mark. He and Marty set up a charitable foundation (which Marty funds), he takes a job with Marty’s company as an “industrial psychologist” and, when he realizes Marty owns a beautiful home in the Hamptons, Dr. Ike moves in, bringing along his wife (Casey Wilson) and kids.

Marty moves into the tiny guest house. And stays there for decades.

All of this is based on a true story, which was turned into a podcast. And you can see how a weekly installment of what outrage Dr. Ike is going to perpetrate on Marty might be addictive over ephemeral audio.

But put on film what might have seemed oddball just becomes sad and ugly. This is a show the Marquis De Sade would have enjoyed. And it doesn’t help that any dramatic tension is undercut by the first episode, which essentially gives away the entire plot.

“The Shrink Next Door” is the dramatic equivalent of watching someone pull the wings off a fly. Again, good times.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News.

'The Shrink Next Door'

GRADE: D+

Apple TV+