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TV Review: Kidding

TV Review, Kidding, Kidding TV Review, Showtime, Comedy, Drama, Jim Carrey, Frank Langella, Judy Greer, Catherine Keener

SYNOPSIS:  Kidding follows Jeff, aka Mr. Pickles, an icon of children’s television, a beacon of kindness and wisdom to America’s impressionable young minds and the parents who grew up with him – who also anchors a multimillion-dollar branding empire. But when this beloved personality’s family – wife, two sons, sister and father – begins to implode, Jeff finds no fairy tale or fable or puppet will guide him through the crisis, which advances faster than his means to cope. The result: a kind man in a cruel world faces a slow leak of sanity as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

TV Review, Kidding, Kidding TV Review, Showtime, Comedy, Drama, Jim Carrey, Frank Langella, Judy Greer, Catherine Keener

REVIEW: There was a time when Jim Carrey was the very top of Hollywood's A-list. The rubber-faced comedian was a box office success story who, like many pigeon-holed in comedy, branched into more dramatic fare. From THE TRUMAN SHOW to ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, Carrey showed he was capable of more than laughter and could break your heart, too. The partnership with ETERNAL SUNSHINE director Michel Gondry is one I have long wanted to see resurrected for a new project, I just didn't expect it to be on the small screen. The new Showtime series Kidding brings the star and director back together for a dark comedy-drama that could spark a resurgence for Carrey as an actor. Also starring Judy Greer, Catherine Keener, and Frank Langella, Kidding is a series I like very much even if it fails to capture the same spark as ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND.

Looking every bit his 56 years, Jim Carrey plays Jeff Piccirillo as a man torn apart by tragedy and loss while hiding under the eternally sunny disposition of his iconic screen persona. Through the episodes made available for review, I constantly waited for the film to venture into the more fantastic elements that Michel Gondry is known for, but it instead keeps things fairly realistic and strikes a tone between the surreal and the tragic. The show is profane and very dark but never goes over the edge like the similarly themed film DEATH TO SMOOCHY. Instead, we are trying to root for Jeff to save himself and his family while we watch his entire life unravel one bit at a time. The spectre of Jeff's deceased son lingers over the entire series which somehow finds the funny in one of the most awful things any parent could imagine. It is also difficult to imagine any other actor in this role besides Jim Carrey.

The pacing is deliberate and makes use of every second of each half hour episode, managing to squeeze in a lot of humor out of what would typically not be a very funny premise. In the first episode alone, there is a great scene between Jeff Pickles with Danny Trejo and Conan O'Brien (as themselves) regarding what the P in "P-hound" stands for. Then you have a scene with a bee hive and a graveyard as well as two men inside a giant horse suit. If all of this sounds surreal, it is played very realistically and never ventures into the crazy worlds we know Michel Gondry is capable of creating. Still, there is a dream-like quality to the entire series that keeps it from feeling too real even as the subject matter hits very close to home. As a parent, I feel Carrey and Judy Greer exuding what it would feel like to lose a child, but that is quickly matched by a follow-up scene that is utterly ridiculous. The mismatch of tones is a bit off-putting, but it is too early to tell if the series will continue that way or even itself out.

While the show is firmly focused on Carrey in the lead, the supporting cast are all top notch talent with subplots worthy of their own series. Catherine Keener plays Jeff's sister, a pupeteer who works on the Mr. Pickles show. She is dealing with family issues as well in the form of an oppositional daughter and a husband who may be having an affair. Their father, Seb (Frank Langella), is the producer of the Mr. Pickles show and dealing with grief in his own right. Greer plays Jeff's wife who is struggling with the traumatic events of the last year and Cole Allen has the challenging part of both Will and Phil, Jeff's identical twin sons. Allen has the toughest role to play in the entire show, in my opinion, as the surviving child who feels guilty for the death of his brother. For such a young actor, Allen does a great job in a challenging series.

TV Review, Kidding, Kidding TV Review, Showtime, Comedy, Drama, Jim Carrey, Frank Langella, Judy Greer, Catherine Keener

Kidding, at it's heart, is a show about duplicity. Everything in the world of Mr. Pickles is light, happy, and positive whereas everything in the life of Jeff Piccirillo is under the spectre of death. Dealing with mortality is a difficult subject and when it involves children it becomes even harder. Balancing these two opposites is a massive challenge for those involved with production of Kidding but much like the characters, there is disagreement over how to handle it. There are multiple moments in this series that will make you as a viewer feel very uneasy about what the characters are experiencing. It definitely made me question how I would broach it with my children and how I would feel in their shoes. To go from feelings like that to laughing at something ridiculous is a jarring experience and one that this show does not fully pull off.

It is nice to see Michel Gondry and Jim Carrey working together again and Kidding sometimes feels like a worthy successor to ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, albeit in a non-traditional manner. I am not fully convinced that the tone is quite right for this series but the potential is definitely there. The actors are all too incredibly talented not to give this series a chance and premium cable is the perfect home to allow this series to tackle difficult stories without worrying about censoring language, nudity, or violence. Kidding is a difficult show to watch but at the same time a very rewarding one. I hope Showtime gives it the chance to grow and explore where these characters could go.

Kidding premieres Sunday, September 9th on Showtime. The first episode is now available via YouTube and you can find it in the embed below.

Source: JoBlo.com

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