First Impressions: Jim Carrey shines in Kidding (USA, 2018), but the show hides in darkness

Showtime’s new comedy-drama Kidding sees Jim Carrey return to our screens in a show that makes it very clear that life isn’t all glitter and rainbows.

Carrey is one of those actors whose presence alone can fill up the whole screen, either as the most energetic leading man (The Mask) or the average, everyday man (The Truman Show). Here, he’s gripping as Jeff Pickles, a children’s television icon. As the face of “Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time” for over thirty years, he has entertained and touched the lives of generations of children (many of whom are now adults). With his easy smile and endless optimism, it’s believable that Mr Pickles has been a lovable screen presence for decades.

Jeff, the man off-camera, is a gentle soul whose strength is his kindness, but who has also yet to process a traumatic, devastating event in his life. Rather than organically processing his emotions, Jeff incorporates his pain and healing into the show. It’s clear that Jeff has been living in a safe “Mr. Pickles” shaped bubble for years, and it’s going to pop at any second. When it does, he will have to face the cold, hard reality.

For Jeff, “Mr. Pickles” is more than just a kids show. He thinks of his loyal viewers as his friends and he carries the lessons that he teaches them into his own life. However, his father (played by Frank Langella) who oversees the Mr. Pickles enterprise, believes that Mr. Pickles – the multimillion-dollar brand and public image – and his son Jeff Pickles should be separate entities. This intriguing dynamic is a highlight of the series.

However, even Carrey’s heartfelt performance can’t alleviate the show’s darkness. The first three episodes (“Green Means Go”, “Pusillanimous” and “Every Pain Needs a Name”) all follow a similar narrative pattern, each exploring a particular theme (such as death, change and pain) per episode. While this structure is intriguing, the heavy issues that Kidding explores means the show is a gloomy watch at times, to the point that it needs an extra boost of brightness to balance it out. With a little more happiness, Kidding could really shine.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Kidding Episode 1 is available to stream now on Stan. New episodes begin streaming weekly from September 9.

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