Saturday, April 8, 2023

Do You Ever Defy Expectations Like Harrison Ford?

Scott D. Parker

Let’s be honest: if you watched Apple TV’s “Shrinking” series, a good number of us did so because we had one overriding thought: Harrison Ford doing a comedy?

Granted, it’s not a typical comedy sitcom with a laugh track on a stage with a studio audience. But it’s still a comedy. A trio of folks—Jason Segel, Bill Lawrence, and Brett Goldstein—created the show, and they know comedy.

The great thing about this 10-episode series: it is a comedy, but it is also something else: it’s an honest look a grief, how people get through it, and the pitfalls and victories along the way.

And it has Harrison Ford doing comedy. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical. Ford just doesn’t do comedies. Even now, without looking up his IMDB page, can you name any comedy he’s done? There are funny moments in various movies, but no comedies come to mind.

Why did he do it?

Maybe to see if he could.

It’s a Comedy and a Drama (i.e., Real Life)

The show centers on Segel’s Jimmy, a widower with a teenaged daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell). Both are trying to deal with the death of his wife/her mother and they are growing farther and farther apart. Jimmy is a therapist. Ford plays Paul, the senior therapist and one who serves as Jimmy’s mentor. The third therapist is Gaby (Jessica Williams) and they have a charming and fun relationship. The three actors are so good together that you might wonder if they’d worked together before.

Rounding out the cast is Liz (Christa Miller) as Jimmy’s next-door neighbor who basically took over helping to raise Alice after Jimmy checked out for a year and Brian (Michael Urie), a lawyer and good friend of Jimmy.

The events and relationships come across as genuine, albeit in a TV version. My wife doesn’t always laugh out loud at TV shows, but there was more than one time when we both were laughing so hard we had to pause and rewind the show because we missed next lines of dialogue. Two scenes later, our eyes welled up with tears and we’d give each other quick glances to confirm that yes, we were both crying.

That’s the kind of show this is. I don’t binge TV, and we watched the first episode way back on 4 March. We picked episode 2 up on 29 March and were done by month’s end. Even I couldn’t get enough of this show. My wife and I both expressed interest in going back and rewatching some Jason Segel movies.

Doing the Unexpected

Oh, and Brett Goldstein? You know him as the gruff Roy on “Ted Lasso.” He wrote two of the episodes, one of which just ripped out the emotions and the tears out of our bodies. He also wrote one of the recent episodes of “Ted Lasso,” one of the more emotional ones. For a guy that I came to know as an actor first, he can really write well.

Back to Ford. After a career of not doing TV, he’s now doing two shows (“1923” is the other one). “1923” is a western so that’s at least in Ford’s wheelhouse, but “Shrinking?” That’s something new. He’s said in interviews that the script was one of the best he’d ever read…and that’s saying quite a bit.

Being the professional actor that he is, I get the sense that “Shrinking” came to him at the right time. He liked what he read and said yes. At first, I suspect he might have been a little hesitant to agree to do a project that was so unlike what he was used to and is known for.

Then, I thought about it differently. What if he took this role exactly because no one expected it of him? How daring is that? Or, rather, how exciting.

When was the last time you thought about creating something—a book, a song, a work of art—that no one expected of you? Did it make you scared? Did that fear make you pause and not move forward?

Or did you accept the fear, defy expectations, and go for it?

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