Over 20 years before “Shrinking” premiered, the first season of “Scrubs” hit the small screen, and Bill Lawrence proved that the line between tragedy and comedy was very thin, and remarkably easy for him to walk. The first episode featured JD (Zach Braff) dealing with the death of a patient, and things only got heavier from there. Basically every main character eventually had to deal with the death of a close friend, family member, or of a particularly-beloved patient, and all the relationship drama went way harder than the usual sitcom. When Turk (Donald Faison) and Carla (Judy Reyes) went through early marital struggles, at times it felt genuinely uncertain whether their marriage would survive.
And yet, it was also one of the funniest shows on TV, and sometimes the funniest episodes and the saddest episodes were one and the same. Season 6’s “My Long Goodbye,” which follows Carla as she struggles to cope with her good friend Laverne’s untimely death, features some of the funniest jokes in the whole series, without ever undermining the tone. The fantasy sequences have always been used as a fun escape from reality, so they’re especially welcome in the episodes where the reality of the situation is too much to bear.
Since “Scrubs” ended after eight (and only eight) seasons, the popularity of TV shows that thread the line between comedy and drama has only grown. The premise of “Shrinking” still feels like a risk, but with the popularity of shows like “Bojack Horseman,” “The Bear,” and “Barry” — all of which go to some bleak places despite being technically comedies — the so-far success of “Shrinking” makes perfect sense.
“Shrinking” is streaming on Apple TV+.