Podcast platform Wondery has cornered the market on long-form, true crime documentary podcasts that then become splashy TV series. First it was Dirty John, next it’s Dr. Death, and in November comes perhaps the splashiest of them all based purely on star power: The Shrink Next Door. Anchorman chums Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd are reuniting for a series based on Joe Nocera’s pod of the same name. Ferrell will star as Martin Markowitz, a successful but beleaguered Manhattanite who is victimized by a predatory psychiatrist, Isaac Herschkopf, played by Rudd. The series comes from director Michael Showalter (who worked with Rudd on Wet Hot American Summer and They Came Together) and writer Georgia Pritchett, a veteran of The Thick Of It, Veep, and Succession. The series co-stars Casey Wilson as Bonnie Herschkopf and everyone’s fave Kathryn Hahn as Martin’s suspicious sister, Phyllis Shapiro. This is a LOT of talent coming together for a series that will air on Apple TV+, a streaming platform that no one is watching. Guys, I think it’s time to bite the bullet and get Apple TV+. The film side is so-so, but the TV side just keeps getting better.
When this project was first announced, I wondered who would play whom. I could see Ferrell playing the predatory shrink, or the sad-sack victim, but I could also see Rudd playing either character. I sort of thought Ferrell would end up playing the doctor, though, because while neither Ferrell nor Rudd is identifiable with bad guy roles, Ferrell is slightly less of an Everyman than Rudd, and he has a few more assholes on his CV. But it has broken the other way, and Ferrell will play Markowitz while Rudd plays Herschkopf. I am pretty sure this is Paul Rudd’s first real bad guy role. He’s played some unpleasant characters, like Miles in Living With Yourself or Cactus Bill in Mute, but Herschkopf (who reportedly treated no less than Gwyneth Paltrow) is, like, criminally bad. He just had his license revoked by New York state and has been found guilty of over a dozen charges of professional misconduct. People have to be able to trust their psychiatrists, who are not only privy to patients’ deepest, most vulnerable thoughts, but also have the power to have people committed, and this guy was preying on his patients and defrauding them. It’s not just an ethical breach, it’s a massive moral violation of his patients’ trust. It’s a real heel turn for Paul Rudd.
I do wish we could swap Shrink’s November 12 drop date with Dr. Death, which is due on July 15, though. It feels like we should build up to Dr. Death. Start with the story about the fraudulent psychiatrist, and THEN do the story about the neurosurgeon who killed two patients and seriously maimed over 30 others. I’m sure The Shrink Next Door will have its dark moments, but it has the look and feel of a crime caper, complete with a villain we love to hate. Dr. Death, though, even as just a podcast, gave me literal nightmares. I am seriously doubting my ability to even watch the show at all. It’s a complete horror story from start to finish, with literal life-and-death stakes. I kind of want to work my way up to it, you know?