I like this. It’s a little uneven, but at the moment I’m feeling good about it. It’s like when you go out to dinner and the waiter screws some stuff up here and there, but at the end of the night, you have a good buzz, the candlelight is just right and the waiter redeems himself with a recommendation of the best dessert you’ve ever had. I can’t say every episode of Shrinks is going to be great, but two out of three so far ain’t bad.
Writer, director, creator and star, Gregg Brown has set himself with a daunting task. As the tagline says, ‘One patient. So Many Doctors.’, Shrinks is about a slightly anxious and awkward Roman Lorber (Brown) and his visit to a new shrink every episode. It would be nice to know why he sees a new one each time, but it’s not imperative…yet. It might become imperative if Brown’s central production issue becomes too daunting, which I fear it might. The suspense killing you yet?
You see, the very concept rests entirely on Brown’s ability to cast a funny man to his straight man. While beautifully, even compellingly played by Brown, Lorber is only one half of the equation. The other half and arguably the more important role in each episode is played by a new actor each episode. So, in essence, though Brown, for me at least, is eminently watchable, the show completely rests on the shoulders of the shrink cast opposite him.
So far he’s two for three. Episode one, “Dr. Jameson,” stumbles a little bit with an extra long opening, but then soars when actress Alanna Ubach hits the screen as the titular shrink. Her no-nonsense, tough-love approach to behavioral therapy is brilliantly played, hitting all the marks with amazing line deliveries that had me both laughing and in awe. Just listen carefully to when she criticizes Lorber’s walk at the end of the session, “Literally, how you walk. Kay?” That ‘kay’ is barely a whisper, barely a word even, more of a behavioral therapist onomatopoeia. I had to play it twice just to make sure I heard it. Beautiful.
Episode two, “Dr. Eikenberry,” is where we see the chink in the Shrinks’ armor. It’s partly in the writing, or maybe it’s all in the writing, but the episode is just not funny. And Dr. Eikenberry as played by Richard Fiske doesn’t help. It’s not that Fiske is a bad actor, he’s actually solid and believable, it’s just that he’s kind of straight and almost menacing and between that and neurotic Lorber, there’s no humor happening. I found myself wishing that Dr. Jameson would come back, and therein lies the rub: she’s not coming back, at least as far as I can tell from the premise.
But episode three, “Dr. Gelfano,” redeems the show with a consistently hilarious Steven Randazzo playing the good doc. This guy is amazing. That is not hyperbole. When you see and hear his pained wail-squeak (yes I just made up a word for this) before he yelps, ‘colored girl’ for the second time, you will wail-squeak with laughter. And, no, he’s not a racist, he’s just unloading to Lorber, his patient, about how his father tried to tear he and his love Darion apart so many years ago. He’s the shrink in need of a shrink, and Lorber is the willing patient.
Production value of the show is good, like most of the Strike.TV shows, with very little to comment on since the show is basically two people sitting across from each other. Hence, again, leaving it all up to the casting and the writing. To be honest, I haven’t mentioned much about the writing, but it’s very breezy and funny. Episode two could have used a little work, but one and three make up for it in spades.
And finally and maybe most importantly I gotta say, Gregg Brown is one talented man. The performances he gets out of his actors, the writing, his own acting. He’s carrying the Woody Allen mantle a bit in a few different ways, not the least of which is the New York flavor as it permeates the voices of his characters through accent and comportment. There’s clearly a vision here and a good one, I just hope there are enough good actors out there to keep Lorber in a different appointment each week.