Pasadena is one of Los Angeles’ most idyllic enclaves, chock full of handsome residences, bucolic parks and an utterly charming Old Town retail/business district. As such, the area has become a bastion of filming, its Anywhere, U.S.A. aesthetic tasked with playing such varied spots as Ossining, N.Y. on “Mad Men,” Chicago, Ill. in “The Sting,” Pawnee, Ind. on “Parks and Recreation,” Beverly Hills, Calif. on “Beverly Hills, 90210” and the fictional Hill Valley (A nice place to live!) in “Back to the Future.” But it is a fairly rare occasion that the city is tapped to play itself. Enter “Shrinking,” the new Apple TV+ series created by the same team that gave us “Ted Lasso.” Both set and filmed in the Pasadena area, the dramedy fabulously showcases the burg and its environs in all of their glory.
With new episodes airing each Thursday, “Shrinking” follows recently-widowed therapist and self-described “psychological vigilante” Jimmy Laird (Jason Segel) as he grapples with profound loss while struggling to raise his teenage daughter, Alice (Lukita Maxwell), as well as attempting to treat his patients with their own issues via some truly unconventional methods. Decidedly dark and hilarious at the same time (it’s being billed as a “grief comedy,” after all), the irreverent series was born out of the current state of the globe. As co-creator/executive producer/writer Bill Lawrence (who, along with “Ted Lasso,” also helmed such hits as “Scrubs” and “Cougar Town”) explained to the Television Critics Association, “We wanted to write a show about grief because right now the world’s a little bit of a dumpster fire and you can’t meet anybody that isn’t at least two or three degrees separated from some sad shit going on in their life. My family approaches that with humor and comedy. We needed to get actors, actresses and writers that could make that stuff authentic so that people can veer from moments of big emotional drama into hopefully moments that are silly and fun.” The cast and crew have certainly delivered. “Shrinking” is heartrending, witty and poignant, offering copious laughs and tears throughout each episode.
The scenery is stellar, as well, with Pasadena figuring at the front and center of the storyline. It is in the leafy confines of Central Park, against the backdrop of the landmark Castle Green complex, that Alice often meets for impromptu therapy sessions with her father’s mentor, curmudgeonly psychiatrist Dr. Paul T. Rhoades (Harrison Ford). In episode two, “Fortress of Solitude,” Jimmy brings a patient to Copa Vida coffee shop for some forced social interaction with a barista. And Laird’s patient Sean (Luke Tennie), whom the mental health specialist has taken under his wing in a major way, has a significant breakthrough at Pete’s Blue Chip Burgers in neighboring Eagle Rock.
Jimmy’s charming Craftsman house, where he resides with both Alice and Sean, is also a Crown City-area locale. As first identified by 90210 Locations, the two-story abode can be found on a picturesque tree-lined street at 1849 N. Michigan Ave. in the unincorporated city of Altadena, just two blocks north of Pasadena. Part of the Historic Highlands district, a neighborhood abundant with architecturally unique homes (including the bungalow belonging to Diane Lane in the 2005 rom-com “Must Love Dogs”), the pad has curb appeal in spades. Bonus – as purported onscreen, the dwelling where the Lairds’ neighbors, Liz (Christa Miller) and Derek (Ted McGinley), live on the show is situated right next door at 1859 N. Michigan. (Please remember these are private homes. Do not trespass or bother the residents or the properties in any way.)
With its distinctive Arts and Crafts architecture and leafy lot, the abode bears an unmistakable Pasadena look, making it a natural fit for the series, with the typically dark nature of the Craftsman style providing additional appeal for the showrunners. As production designer Cabot McMullen, who also fashioned the scenery for “Cougar Town,” “The Unicorn” and “Smash,” told Showbiz CheatSheet, “The idea emerged that we should first find Jimmy grieving at home, shutting out the world with the drapes closed and not taking good care of himself or Alice. We would treat it like a five-hour movie about a man who slowly emerges from that darkness into the light over 10 episodes. For that and many other reasons, we all agreed a Craftsman-style house would be ideal for Jimmy’s home. So that became the stylistic target for the exteriors.”
The aesthetic wound up serving as a backbone for the show’s overall visual feel, with McMullen telling Variety, “We started looking at Jimmy first. We felt if we found his house, then we had the hub of our wheel and we could start to plan out how the company moved based on that because Jimmy is at the center of the show.” And thus, “Shrinking’s” Pasadena-centric tone took shape.
The Craftsman, which appears regularly in both on-locations scenes and establishing shots on the series, was originally built in 1913 for prominent area dentist John Dorland, who notably acted as an American Friends Service Committee relief worker in France during World War I, and his wife, Elsie, a nurse.
Comprising five bedrooms and four baths in 3,456 square feet, the residence last hit the market in July 2016 with a $1.499 million price tag. Exclusively offered by Dhari Thein, director of Deasy Penner Podley’s Heritage Homes Division, it sold the following month for $100,000 over asking and is worth just north of $2.3 million today, according to Redfin’s estimate.
Flush with original features like stained glass windows, hardwood flooring, decorative plaster ceilings and crown moldings, the abode’s interior (pictured here) is classically traditional. Attractive living areas include a family room, a formal dining room, a living room and an updated eat-in kitchen. Two of the home’s bedrooms are situated downstairs, with the remaining three on the second level, including the primary suite, which hosts a spacious walk-in closet, French doors leading out to a private patio (where Jimmy can often be seen hanging out and conversing with Liz and Derek across the way on “Shrinking”) and a remodeled “spa-like bath,” per the 2016 listing, complete with dual sinks and a soaking tub.
Four fireplaces (one fronted in river rock) are dotted throughout the residence.
Nestled on a verdant 0.29-acre lot, the property’s “park-like” front and rear yard are awash with mature trees and grassy expanses. A detached workshop/studio space, pool and hot tub, all of which are often featured on “Shrinking,” can also be found on the grounds.
The back porch, which has also appeared several times on the show, however, is not the Craftsman’s actual rear deck but a set recreation built by McMullen at Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank. Though closely modeled after the real thing, the soundstage version was crafted with a few minor modifications, such as the relocation of a window and a door.
The inside of the Lairds’ residence is also a set constructed by McMullen and his team at Warner Bros. Unlike the porch, it is markedly different in style than its real-life counterpart. While the onscreen design features fashionable beamed ceilings, taupe walls, muted blue accents and a mostly white kitchen, the Craftsman’s interior is a bit more dated and the kitchen significantly less bright than Jimmy’s thanks to a plethora of cherry-stained cabinets and burnt-orange marble counters. The coloring is ironic considering McMullen told Variety that the set was outfitted with “somewhat darker tones” to reflect the moody imagery the production team wished to convey.
Regardless, both the real house and set fabrication are exquisite examples of the Pasadena style.