This Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd Apple TV+ Series Is Based on a True Story


The Big Picture

  • The Shrink Next Door
    , based on a true story, highlights the dangers of manipulation and vulnerability.
  • The A-list cast researched the real story with Marty Markowitz, adding authenticity to their portrayals.
  • The creator of the true story podcast sued over lack of profits, adding a layer of scandal to the series.

True crimes and scandals have made for provocative entertainment for millennia, but the sheer amount of content these days means that even the best true story risks getting lost to obscurity unless it manages to dominate all platforms. Journalist, Marina Hyde, spoke on her podcast, The Rest is Entertainment, about the recent propensity for any story to become “a crime story, two warring documentaries, then a book, and then a kind of Netflix drama,” referring specifically to the Elizabeth Holmes story that became The Dropout (and so on). Despite that, The Shrink Next Door is a true story on Apple TV+ that doesn’t deserve to get lost in the crowd.

The Shrink Next Door is an eight-part miniseries that follows a psychiatrist, Dr. Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf (portrayed by Paul Rudd), who turned around the life of Marty Markowitz (Will Ferrell), and then took it over. The show, like the true story, begins in 1981 and sees Marty, a wealthy pushover, mourning his parents from whom he inherited vast wealth and a fabric company. Marty visits Dr. Ike to get better at establishing boundaries, not realizing that this makes him the perfect target for Dr. Ike, who manages to worm his way into Marty’s lavish lifestyle. 30 years pass before Marty finally calls attention to the horrors of Dr. Ike, specifically with his control over Marty’s finances and home in the Hamptons. But how much does the series resemble the true story that inspired it?

The Shrink Next Door

The story of Marty and the therapist who turned his life around – then took it over. When he meets Dr. Ike, Marty just wants to get better at boundaries. Over 30 years, he’ll learn all about them – and what happens when they get crossed.

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Georgia Pritchett

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The Title, ‘The Shrink Next Door,’ Is From the Perspective of Joe Nocera

The series is based on the 2019 podcast of the same name, and in fact, the “shrink next door” of the title isn’t from the perspective of Marty at all, but rather from the perspective of journalist, Joe Nocera, whose discovery about his neighbors triggered the investigation that led to his first-person podcast. Nocera assumed Dr. Ike to be the owner of the Hamptons home, and that Marty Markowitz was merely the property manager. But one day, he said, “I would see the maintenance man out on the property, doing his usual work in the backyard, but Ike Herschkopf was gone. […] It’s a wild story.” It was only after Marty managed to get rid of Dr. Ike that his neighbors realized that the house belonged to Marty all along.

One detail from Nocera’s own accounts that the series included was Dr. Ike’s collection of photographs of himself with celebrities (including Richard Kind and O. J. Simpson), which hung on the wall in the Hamptons home. Nocera described Dr. Ike as “bombastic and status-obsessed,” as Marty told Forward that Dr. Ike, “sucked me into this cult of Ike […] I would go on a date, and he’d call her a gold digger. He would say, ‘Everyone is out to get you, I’m going to protect you.’ And I was stupid enough to buy it.” Only Marty and the people involved can say for certain how accurate Rudd’s depiction of Dr. Ike is, but it’s certainly “in accordance” with Nocera’s first-hand descriptions, according to Time Magazine.

Will Ferrell and Paul Rudd Visited Marty Markowitz as Research for ‘The Shrink Next Door’

“We’ve all felt vulnerable at times. We’ve all felt like we needed someone to talk to,” Will Ferrell told Collider. “And once that person gains your trust, it’s easy to be manipulated.” This empathy from Ferrell and the creative team behind The Shrink Next Door led to first-hand research in the pursuit of authenticity, as Rudd, Ferrell and director, Michael Showalter, visited the real-life Marty Markowitz for a day. “It was just them asking me question after question,” said Markowitz; but how did he feel about the series itself? He told Forward that, “after filming, Will Ferrell sent me an email saying, ‘I don’t know if you’ll like the series, but hopefully you’ll like the arc.'”

Marty Markowitz received $100,000 for his life rights, meaning that he can no longer write a book or a play about his story, but given Showalter’s commitment to authenticity, hopefully Markowitz doesn’t feel that he has to. It’s clear that the charismatic Paul Rudd made for the perfect Dr. Ike, leading audiences to empathize with Marty’s misplaced trust in the charming therapist. The always-brilliant Kathryn Hahn also shines in the series as Marty’s sister Phyllis, the ignored voice of reason and a proxy for us as the audience. The unlikely casting of Will Ferrell in a childlike role that’s intended to be taken seriously (rather than in Elf or Step Brothers) probably struggled to find the audience it deserved.

‘The Shrink Next Door’ Creator, Joe Nocera, Sued Over the Series

The below-the-radar nature of the story’s scandal is precisely the reason that The Shrink Next Door was an important story to tell. Through his podcast (shepherded by Bloomberg News), New York Times columnist, Joe Nocera, managed to shine a light on a story of monstrous manipulation both literally and figuratively too close to home. Unfortunately, however, that didn’t stop Nocera from feeling manipulated in his own life soon after. Feeling unfairly treated by Bloomberg, who denied him profits from the TV series, Nocera sued the media company for breach of contract following the adaptation.

As The Washington Post wrote, “The story of how Nocera’s story made it onto the screen is almost as tortured and contentious as the relationship between Markowitz and Herschkopf that it portrays.” Nocera was asking for half of whatever Bloomberg was making from the miniseries, but due to the secretive nature of streaming figures, it’s hard to judge how much that might be.


This Paul Rudd & Amy Poehler Rom-Com Was the Last Great Movie Parody

The last time audiences were treated to a hilarious feature parody was nearly a decade ago.

Despite its A-list cast and home on Apple TV+, it’s amazing to consider that The Shrink Next Door has found relative obscurity so soon after its release in 2021, and perhaps that’s a testament to the sheer catalog of streaming in the golden age of television. It also fell victim to timing, with Rudd and Ferrell’s Anchorman co-star, Steve Carell, also starring in a shrink-patient horror-story that same year. However, Hulu’s The Patient focused much more on the drama than the comedy, like The Shrink Next Door, with the patient-psychiatrist roles somewhat reversed. Ultimately, though, all of these reasons make The Shrink Next Door one of the most slept-on series of its time, as it deserves an audience worthy of Marty’s cautionary tale.

The Shrink Next Door is available to watch on Apple TV+.

Watch on Apple TV+


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