Kidding Season Two (Showtime)
Written by Dave Holstein, Michael Vukadinovich, Roberto Benabib, Hilary Weisman Graham, Joey Mazzarino, Jas Waters, and Dylan Tanous
Directed by Jake Schrier, Kimberly Peirce, Michel Gondry, and Bert & Bertie
Kidding’s second season most definitely exceeded my expectations, but it’s a challenging thing to explain. The series has a deceptively simple hook, what if Mr. Rogers had a mental breakdown? But it’s so much more than that, and the first season was a very messy delivery of a complex and complicated story. Season two feels more focused and headed towards a definite ending. By the time you reach the tenth episode, this feeling like the end of Kidding, I honestly can’t imagine that there are more stories to tell.
Jeff Pickles has allowed his famous children’s show to spiral out of control as well as his fragmented family. The death of his son Phil still hangs over his life like a black cloud. The first episode opens with Jeff forced to deal with the major mistake season one ended with, him running over his estranged wife’s new boyfriend. The anger that fueled him in those final moments dissipates almost immediately, and he’s overcome with guilt. As Kidding so often does, this doesn’t have the expected aftermath reinforcing the world of magical realism the story is told within.
Instead of focusing on plot, Kidding is more comfortable exploring relationships and emotions. Jeff’s guilt leads him to donate organ tissue to help the injured boyfriend, and the two become even closer friends. There is a beautiful moment while both men are under anesthetic in surgery where their consciousnesses meet, and a musical number in the style of Mr. Pickles’s show ensues. The season even delivers an entire episode from Mr. Pickles’s show where he has to deal with half his puppets being handed over in his sister’s divorce settlement. The series never once pretends it exists within our world, this is a place where the Land of Make Believe blurs the lines of the real world.
Throughout the season, we get crucial flashbacks to moments that helped shape Jeff. The Challenger shuttle explosion happened when Jeff was in high school, and seeing the way it hurt children, he was inspired to create Mr. Pickles’s show. We also see the moment when Jeff’s mother left his family and how his sister created puppets as a way to help Jeff express his emotions. This also showcases how his father came to dominate Jeff’s life and work to hide reality from his son. Later, when his father experiences a medical emergency, we see the tables turned, and Jeff helps his dad live in a dreamlike world to protect him.
The most moving flashback makes up the majority of the final episode where we get to see how Jeff and his now ex-wife Jill met. The journey of their relationship doesn’t go the way we expect and involves Jeff seeing past the persona he created to be a human. We know from seeing his present state that Jeff eventually falls back into this monk-like state of being, and that was a crucial part of the dissolution of his marriage. The last scene pulls together all the emotional beats from the entire series, and we get a silent moment where one critical sound dominates. It is one of the most beautifully moving scenes of the whole series.
Kidding isn’t a show for every person. If you enjoy the work of Michel Gondry (one of the executive producers) and his aesthetic then you will love this show. Jim Carrey is playing the role with oozing pathos, reminiscent of his performances in films like The Truman Show or Man in the Moon. I personally found these ten episodes to be some of the most human, emotional television put on the air in a long time. There’s a sense of magic and hope shining out of this series without ever going saccharine or feeling dishonest.