November 12, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Kidding”


Hardly anyone has been watching KIDDING, which makes Showtime’s decision to renew the show for a second season a sign of their commitment either to indie movie sensibility or to being in business with Jim Carrey.  In either case, the renewal gives the series a year to decide whether to work past its seemingly implacable mix of whimsy and misery.

The Season 1 finale, written by series creator Dave Holstein and directed (as were most of the episodes) by Michel Gondry, pushed the show’s themes to a new extreme without resolving any of them.  In the opening episode, it was immediately clear that Jeff Pickles (Carrey), Kidding‘s stand-in for Mr. Rogers, was a gentle soul ripped apart, after the tragic death of his young son in a random car accident, between his default setting of openhearted innocence and a new, mounting sense of rage.  His inability to deal with his feelings disrupted his relationships with his wife Jill (Judy Greer), his remaining son Will (Cole Allen), his compassionately exploitative father Seb (Frank Langella), who also produces his show, and his sister Deirdre (Catherine Keener), a puppeteer on the Mr. Pickles show.

Although things happened in the ensuing nine half-hours (Jeff had a brief relationship with a cancer patient who dumped him when she went into remission, Seb set the stage for Jeff’s exit via various potential substitutes, Deirdre coped with her closeted husband, Will hung out with the wrong kids at school, Tara Lipinski showed up for Mr. Pickles On Ice), nothing really developed.  The finale gave Jeff a sort of meltdown on national television, as he delivered a speech from the heart when he was supposed to be lighting the White House Christmas tree, and that was enough to get his show canceled, although the things he said were more inappropriate than outrageous.  (Among other things, he condemned pollution and parents who neglected their children.)  That seemed to calm him down, and he was able to connect with his young fans on a one-on-one basis and even will Jill, but then in the season’s climax, he lost control after Jill’s new boyfriend Peter (Justin Kirk) offered him a joint, something Jeff associated with Will’s problems, and he smashed into Peter with his car.  The final scene suggested that Jeff had reached bottom, and didn’t know how to get back up.

The problem with Kidding is that all of this could have happened in episode 2 without feeling much different.  For all Carrey’s heartfelt dedication to his Laugh Clown Laugh role, and Gondry’s filigree of endless visual imagination around the Mr. Pickles show and its puppets, the series often felt inert, retracing the same few stunted emotional steps over and over.  Greer, sad to say, has had less emotional development here than she does in the remake of Halloween, and while Langella’s rueful pragmatism was an interesting take on a character who could have been a pure villain, Seb remained vague as a character.  Much time was devoted to Deirdre, who apart from her marriage problems was stealing from Jeff’s charities, but Keener was also unable to rescue the character from fuzziness.

Kidding is still a show with enormous potential, loaded with talent behind and in front of the camera, and with an original setting and tone.  In Season 2, however, it needs to show more life than its puppets, and to suggest that it has some dramatic destination in mind.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."