Can the two comedy stars capture the feel of the twisted story — and its Jewishness?
(JTA) — “The Shrink Next Door,” a 2019 reported podcast about a Jewish psychiatrist on the Upper West Side of Manhattan who takes control of the life of one of his Jewish patients, is being made into a limited TV series.
And it’s starring two comedy stars who last collaborated on “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”
The 8-episode adaptation will star Paul Rudd as Dr. Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf, the psychiatrist, and Will Ferrell as Marty Markowitz, the patient whose life he takes over. It will stream on Apple+ beginning in November.
The podcast, reported by Bloomberg columnist Joe Nocera, is dark and tragic. It narrates how, over the course of nearly three decades of therapy, Herschkopf came to dominate Markowitz’s life and finances, commandeer his house, treat him like hired help and cut him off from his family and friends.
According to the podcast and a subsequent trial at the New York State Department of Health, other patients of Herschkopf also accused him of manipulating them financially and getting them to sever relationships with their families — including a woman who, on Herschkopf’s advice, stopped speaking to her mother and didn’t attend her funeral or shiva. After an investigation of those allegations, the Department of Health ordered Herschkopf to surrender his license in April.
The podcast is chock-full of Jewish references. Markowitz was referred to Herschkopf by Shlomo Riskin, the prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi who, at the time, led Markowitz’s synagogue. Herschkopf hosted parties at what was, in fact, Markowitz’s house and invited an array of prominent Orthodox leaders. Markowitz worked in the famously Jewish garment industry. And Herschkopf also ran a charity created by Markowitz that had a Hebrew name (and to which he instructed Markowitz to leave his millions in wealth). The list goes on.
While Rudd (born Paul Rudnitzky) is Jewish, Ferrell is not. He’s certainly not the first non-Jewish actor to take center stage in a very Jewish show, though there is no shortage of actors (including several of Rudd’s frequent collaborators, like Seth Rogen or Jason Segel) who often mine their Jewish background and culture in their acting.
The trailer for the show, released Thursday, hints at the story’s upsetting turns. Ferrell and Rudd, of course, are not known for their work in psychological drama. They’re best known for starring in blockbuster comedies such as “Anchorman” and “I Love You, Man.”
But both actors have done dramatic work. In 2018, Paul Rudd starred in “The Catcher was a Spy,” a film about Moe Berg, a Jewish baseball player who becomes (you guessed it) a spy in World War II, based on a true story. And Ferrell has had his share of more serious roles, including in “Stranger than Fiction,” a 2006 dramedy in which he plays an introverted, straitlaced IRS agent. His character in this trailer seems to share similar qualities.
We’ll see in November whether Ferrell and Rudd can capture the feel of the twisted story — and its Jewishness.
By Ben Sales