fri 03/02/2023

Kidding, Sky Atlantic review - tears of a clown | reviews, news & interviews

Kidding, Sky Atlantic review - tears of a clown

Kidding, Sky Atlantic review - tears of a clown

Jim Carrey-led series provides a surprisingly deep lesson in loss

Putting on a brave face: Mr Pickles guests on 'Conan'

There’s no one right way to grieve. It cuts through everyone differently, whether reverting to childhood traits or out-of-character impulses. The person you lose might mean one thing to you, and something completely different to someone else; it can hit you both differently, and equally hard.

In Sky Atlantic’s new import Kidding, Jim Carrey blurs the line between reality and fiction as his character Mr. Pickles deals with bereavement the only way he knows how: through television.

Mr. Jeff Pickles is a TV national treasure, a cross between Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. For 30 years, he and his puppets have spread the message of hope and positivity from their multicoloured studio. Childlike and innocent, he floats through the world with a smile and a sound piece of advice.

But this veneer is slipping. A year ago, one of his sons, Phil, was killed in a car accident. Once a shining example of happy families in American suburbia, he now lives in a grotty studio apartment, separated from his wife and surviving son Will. He’s not processing the loss, and any attempt to confront it through his show is shot down by his father-cum-producer Seb (portrayed by Frank Langella, pictured below).Frank Langella in Kidding

Kidding sees Carrey reunite with director Michel Gondry, whose previous pairing in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was the most sincere and enrapturing of either’s career. The opening episode was an uncharacteristically restrained showing from both, tenderly portraying a bereaved father clinging to a happy-go-lucky front. Carrey and Gondry tend to lean on the eccentric (and sometimes all-out pantomime), but there’s a pathos in this new series.

Although called by some a pitch-black comedy, it’s fairer to call Kidding a drama with some hilarious moments. Chief mirth-provider is Langella, whose brain apparently has two settings: business and sex. There is a genuine desire to help his son Jeff recover (for both business and his own wellbeing), but his suggestions always lean towards the carnal. Throughout the opening two episodes, he was a fountain of glorious one-liners: in one sequence where Jeff wants to re-assign a puppet’s gender, he spouts both “That is an expensive vagina you are adding,” and “What’s next? Bi Little Pony?”Jim Carrey in Kidding

Across the opening two episodes, Jeff started to admit his new reality, but not accept it. There are cracks showing, and he’s tired of pretending that Mr. Pickles on TV is different from real life. He’s desperate to start including real issues in his show, but there are concerns that this is for his benefit more than the viewers. It’s easy to see why: his father is the producer and his sister Deirdre (Catherine Keener) is the lead puppeteer. His family is literally this show, and it’s all he knows when it comes to grieving the loss of his son.

By the second episode, Carrey’s manic acting and Gondry’s quirky direction were creeping in, although not enough to ruin the series’ overall tone. There were occasional shock moments - a superfluous nude toe-sucking scene for instance - that feel out of place, and Deirdre’s home life currently leans toward daytime soap, but overall Kidding offers a rich, layered story with just the right amount of heart.


Carrey and Gondry tend to lean on the eccentric, but there’s a pathos in this new series


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters