JTA – “The Shrink Next Door,” a podcast reported in 2019 about a Jewish psychiatrist from the Upper West Side of Manhattan taking over the life of one of his Jewish patients, is being turned into a limited television series.
And it stars 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 he is taking back to life. It will air on Apple + from November.
The podcast, reported by Bloomberg columnist Joe Nocera, is dark and tragic. He recounts how, over the course of nearly three decades of therapy, Herschkopf came to dominate Markowitz’s life and finances, commandeer his home, treat him like an employee, and cut him off from family and friends. .
According to the podcast and a subsequent essay at the New York State Department of Health, other Herschkopf patients also accused him of manipulating them financially and causing them to sever relationships with their families – including one woman who, on Herschkopf’s advice, stopped talking to her mother and did not attend her funeral or her shiva. After an investigation into these allegations, the Ministry of Health ordered Herschkopf surrender his license in April.
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The podcast is full of Jewish references. Markowitz was referred to Herschkopf by Shlomo Riskin, the prominent modern Orthodox rabbi who, at the time, ran the Markowitz synagogue. Herschkopf hosted parties in what was, in fact, the house of Markowitz and invited an array of prominent Orthodox leaders. Markowitz worked in the famous Jewish clothing industry. And Herschkopf also ran a charity created by Markowitz that had a Hebrew name (and to which he asked Markowitz to leave his millions of riches). 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, although there is no shortage of actors (including several of Rudd’s frequent collaborators, like Seth Rogen or Jason Segel) who often exploit their Jewish origin and culture in their acting.
The show’s trailer, released on Thursday, hints at some life-changing turning points in history. Ferrell and Rudd, of course, aren’t known for their work in psychological drama. They are best known for starring in hit comedies such as “Anchorman” and “I Love You, Man”.
But the two actors did a dramatic job. In 2018, Paul Rudd starred in “The receiver was a spy” a movie about Moe Berg, a Jewish baseball player who becomes (you guessed it) a spy during WWII, based on a true story. And Ferrell has had his fair share of more serious roles, including in “Stranger than Fiction,” a 2006 comedy-drama in which he plays an introverted and narrow-minded tax officer. His character in this trailer appears to share similar qualities.
We’ll see in November whether Ferrell and Rudd can capture the feel of the twisted story – and its Jewishness.