TV Review – Kidding (2018)

Do you ever think the people you cheer you up on TV might be the saddest of all?

BQB here with a review of “Kidding.”

I’m not sure what to make of this show.  It seems like I should be laughing but instead, I feel like crying.  I’m an adult, so I rarely, if ever, cry, but you know what I mean.

Jim Carrey returns to TV in this series about an icon of children’s television whose life has run off the rails.

To his fans, he’s Mr. Pickles, a Mr. Rogers-esque storyteller who lives in a world of make-believe, surrounded by puppet friends.  He’s a multi-millionaire dollar industry who has inspired books, toys, and merchandise and keeps PBS afloat.

Outside of TV, he’s Jeff Piccirillo and here’s the rub of the show.  His family thinks he should be a normal guy who sins and swears in his personal life but Mr. Pickles isn’t an act.  Jeff is Mr. Pickles 24/7 and he displays the highest levels of courtesy and kindness to everyone, even his family who constantly dumps on him.

A year has passed since one of his two twin sons has died in a car accident.  His wife, Jill (Judy Greer) is so saddened by the loss that she can’t stomach Jeff’s nice guy persona anymore.  His surviving son, Will (Cole Allen) can’t take it either.

And thus, a great contrast is struck.  Millions of fans cheer for Mr. Pickles, sending constant thank you letters detailing how he has changed their lives for the better with his inspiring words of wisdom.

But the kindness that makes him universally loved by the world makes him despised at home.  When he tries to talk to Will about the grieving process, the boy calls his old man a pussy.  When he learns his wife is sleeping with another man, he, to her disappointment, doesn’t get mad but instead bakes her a pie and asks to discuss it in a polite, civilized manner.

Back at the studio, Mr. Pickles is a family business. His sister, Deirdre (Catherine Keener) is the show’s head puppeteer with problems of her own.  Her arc sort of mirrors Jeff’s.  While she doesn’t have that happy persona, she loves her job but isn’t happy with her home life.

Meanwhile, veteran dramatic actor Frank Langella steals the show as Jeff’s father, Sebastian.  “Seb” is cold, calculating, and cares only about the bottom line.

Jeff wants to test some limits on the show.  He wants to process his grief in the only way he knows how, by bringing his feelings onto the show.  He wants to do a show that teaches kids about how to deal with the death of a loved one, but Seb won’t agree, arguing that parents will just change the channel and Mr. Pickles’ bottom line will go bust.

When you watch the trailer, you might think that this show is just a parody of Mr. Rogers.  It is but then again, it isn’t.  Perhaps Mr. Rogers benefitted from the fact that he lived during a time when morals and values were upheld.  They weren’t followed by everyone but they weren’t openly mocked and scorned by public figures either.  People at least paid lip service to the idea of being a good doobie.

On the other hand, Mr. Pickles lives in a time when being kind is confused with weakness and being nice gets you called a pussy.

As a viewer, you end up wondering who is right.  Jeff processes his grief by being there for his family, even though they hate his guts.  He takes their abuse and comes back for more, being more concerned about his well-being than his dignity.  Most men insulted by their wives and kids too many times would just walk away but Jeff hangs in there.

Is Jill right for looking for solace in a new fling?  Is young Will right for smoking pot with a new group of dopey kids?  These bad behaviors are typical of people whose lives were destroyed and yet, these behaviors also get them nowhere.

Jeff is unusually, bizarrely kind and you begin to wonder if he is abnormal in his graciousness, or perhaps he’s the only sane one in a world full of cynical, miserable crazies.  Everyone is drinking and swearing and debasing themselves, descending into meaningless misery, despair and hedonism, lashing out at everyone.

Thus, maybe Jeff is the only one who is smart enough to walk a higher path.  He most likely is doing the right thing, though in his personal life, it gets him nowhere.

The crux of the show seems to be making us wait to see if Jeff will have a full on breakdown.  Will he grab his wife and give her a vigorous banging?  Will he tell his kid to shut the eff up and get off drugs?  Will he tell his father that on the show, it’s his way or the highway?

Or maybe he’ll flip out in some other unexpected way.  Will Mr. Pickles fly off the handle and do something awful that blows up the pickles world altogether?

If it’s a comedy, it’s a dark one.  You laugh at things you feel you shouldn’t and me, personally, I do root for Mr. Pickles.  There’s a part of me that wants to tell him to just start giving shit back to the people who are shitting on him but then there’s another part of me that thinks Jeff will score a victory by being nice to the bitter end.  His family will ultimately destroy him if he does, but at least he will have been right.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

 

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