Shrinking: Harrison Ford Is Still The Best

Harrison Ford sits on a bench with Alice on the Apple TV series "Shrinking"

Harrison Ford has Parkinson’s.

Not really, but that’s what the voice in my head whispered when I saw Ford’s hand tremor; he was speaking with colleagues in-character as Dr. Paul Rhoades, a senior therapist at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Center. Dr. Paul Rhoades has Parkinson’s disease.

In the scene, Paul has just walked into the break room. He reaches to open a cabinet for a coffee mug, and we see his hand shake as he lifts his arm. 

That’s it. Paul doesn’t react, and his colleagues don’t react. This character has Parkinson’s. Going back and rewatching episode one of Apple TV’s “Shrinking,” I realize a colleague, Gaby, casually mentions she is going to leave a water bottle on Paul’s desk, because something like “people with PD may be prone to dehydration.” But it didn’t register at all for me as a viewer the first time I watched this.

Gaby said what she said so casually and so much in the flow of everything else that was plot-building that it was nothing to me. It was as if she’d said she was going to leave a coupon on his desk because Paul loved pizza.

I literally missed the disclosure of Paul’s condition, because it was normalized.

He told his colleagues. They know.

But because this is a drama (a true dramedy, in fact), in hindsight one realizes Paul has not disclosed his diagnosis to just anyone.

In a spin on the familiar fears of professional disclosure, Paul Rhoades feels safe about his Parkinson’s at work. He is less secure outside of his work bubble, an idea that will drive future episodes.

Paul is a 73-year-old with a past (because all 73-year-old people have a past). We learn Paul has an adult daughter, a son-in-law, and a grandson; those three people constitute Paul’s family in the traditional sense. But Paul has not told those three people he has Parkinson’s disease.

It took me a minute to process that Paul feels closer to and trusts his work partners more than he does his daughter and her family. This character has been forthright about his diagnosis with his friends and colleagues, but not with his own family members. That he is able to carry on this charade speaks volumes about trust, and distance, and fear, and connection.

I think of this as a Part One post about Dr. Paul Rhoades, because things are already rolling and Paul is facing some bigger issues than his PD. One gem in the crown of this series is no shortage of humor around therapists trying to help their patients whilst unable to use their professional skills to solve their own issues. But that’s the charm. And that’s part of what eventually makes clear why Paul is so close with his work family. They keep each other honest about their respective self-deceptions, and gently push each other to confront their fears.

Not surprisingly, “Shrinking” has been renewed for a second season.

I’ll be there.

Content warning so far in Season 1: Spousal death, substance abuse, PTSD/veterans, divorce and its aftermath. Lots of language. The laughter helps through the tears. What I’m saying is this is a lot like life. Which on any given day I am or am not up for. You decide.

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