Kidding Episode 1 – Which airs at 10pm on September 9th, 2018 on Showtime.
A treatise about surviving death, perhaps the most disappointing thing about Jim Carrey’s new series is how conventional it is. There’s still plenty of time for this to change, for the trailer suggested a series which was going to be far more unpredictable, but this first episode is a traditionally structured and shot comedy drama about one man’s reaction to the death of his son.
Carrey’s impressive as the Mr Rogers-esque Jeff Pickles, it’s a calm, gentle and controlled take on the role and thankfully Carrey doesn’t bring along his collection of tricks and tics to the part, it’s a paired down performance, and all the better for it. In this first episode he wishes to create an episode of his children’s tv show which introduces death to the audience, if only in an attempt to persuade his wife (the ever wonderful Judy Greer) that he’s coming to terms with his loss. Inevitably events don’t go to plan, leading to him to making decisions that right now look like they could end disastrously. There’s a rich supporting cast who work with him, including Frank Langella as his father Seb, who’s also the producer of the show, and Catherine Keener as his sister Deirdre, who works as a designer and puppeteer on the series as well. Both are flawed characters, with Langella a relic from a different era who believes men should never cry in front of women, whilst Keener attempts to be a good parent to her daughter despite a clearly messy relationship with her husband. It’s clearly a show about damaged adults, but also damaged children who struggle to react to their parents inability to cope with tragedy.
The difficulties of parenting looks like it will also be a big part of the series. Not only is Carrey portrayed as a father figure to the nation’s children, but we also have Carrey and Greer’s remaining son coming to terms with the death of his twin brother and his parents collapsing marriage, along with Keener’s daughter testing the boundaries of her relationship with her parents, made all the more complicated by Keener’s husband’s infidelity which the child has witnessed. Other than that “Kids are easily fucked up, and frustrating and irritating bastards” the series has little to say so far, but given it’s only the first episode and much of the time is devoted to setting up the premise it’s unfair to judge it quite yet on such a front. Though it’s a conclusion I don’t necessarily disagree with either.
Michel Gondry is one of my favourite directors, not only due to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but also Mood Indigo and Microbe & Gasoline, but his work here echoes the latter film with it’s steady and unfussy direction, concentrating on the characters rather than unusual effects. It’s a shame though as I prefer the more experimental side of the director, and the material certainly suggests it could handle a more unusual take, as it’s not as if it hasn’t been covered before.
Despite the above criticisms it’s certainly an interesting opening episode, with a smart line in strange juxtapositions – for instance in once scene Carrey philosophises that “When kids don’t talk about their dark feelings they get quiet. It’s the quiet ones that make the news,” before giving his assistant a signed dvd which reads “To Derrell, Be nice to sluts, Danny Trejo”. There are other respites from the bleakness too, including Rich Fulcher as one part of Snagglehorse, a blue sort of pantomime horse, who indulges in angry sex whilst wearing the costume, which is something we can all relate to I’m sure.
After only one episode it’s difficult to see quite what direction Kidding will take, whether it will languish in grief, be an exploration of a man losing his sanity, or perhaps consider a more optimistic take on recovering from tragedy, but there’s enough here to suggest it could be something rather special as long as it strays from the obvious.