When Kidding started back in 2018 it came in for a bit of a kicking for appearing to essentially be “Mister Rogers Goes Mental”, but that was unfair from the get go. The show wasn’t without it’s issues but the first episode was a lot more nuanced than that description suggests, and the series got better and better as it went on with Jim Carrey turning in a career best as the kind and caring tv presenter who was struggling with the death of one of his sons and the collapse of his marriage.
The first season ended with him running over his wife’s new boyfriend Peter (Justin Kirk) on Christmas Eve after he offered Carrey’s Jeff Pickles a joint, and though he wasn’t going that fast the beginning of the second sees him approach the body lying in the road, with the gorgeous irony of a phone call serenading him from members of the “Pickles Patrol” and celebrating the man. Mr Pickles of course then does the right thing and tells his ex-wife Jill (Judy Greer) that he hit Peter, albeit claiming it was an accident, and so they head off to the hospital as fast as humanely possible.
While this is going on Jeff’s sister Deirdre (Catherine Keener) is with her soon to be divorced husband and their child (who seems to be coping well, though she does whisper “I love you axe” after being given one as a present which oh so slightly hints at potential problems) but then Jeff admits what he did over the phone to her so she rushes to the hospital to stop Jeff confessing to Jill. Whether or not he’ll have any choice is open to question though as his son Will (Cole Allen) witnessed the whole thing, but when Will sees the two of them hugging he at least temporarily chooses not to.
The first episode of a new season normally has a lot to do, not only introducing potential new audience members to the characters but also resolving the previous season’s ending, and also setting up the direction the forthcoming episodes will take, and unfortunately this didn’t quite do enough to get me excited for what’s to come. That’s largely because it was a mostly dramatic start to the season, and I prefer the show when it’s darkly humourous, but the way it only involved one main storyline and no real subplot (bar footage from Jeff and Jill’s past which didn’t have the effect that director was clearly hoping for) was also a minor problem.
Not that there weren’t some funny moments, mostly involving the kids, and it still has a nicely sardonic sense of humour in places (with Deirdre oh so casually texting “Is he dead yet?” being the funniest example), while the very sweet and daft presents Jeff got for his family amused a lot, but overall the more serious elements of the plot took centre stage, and given that in Peter they revolved around a character I have little time for it made the show less appealing, with Jeff coming along to eventually save the day clearly always going to take place.
As fond as I am when the show examines Jeff’s relationship with his family it’s the bigger picture I find myself more interested in too, so I hope that future episodes see a return to such a thing and that it’s also about the future of the tv show, Deirdre’s messed up relationship, how Will deals with his parent’s issues, and how Jill copes with the increasingly fucked up Jeff Pickles. Fortunately I’m already a big fan of the series so have faith it will do these things and be another strong run, but this particular episode is something which I wish had been a little bit better so that any new viewers might have felt the same way.