Before you start watching Kidding, billed as a comedy-drama starring Jim Carrey, you need to manage your expectations.
Probably best known for his silly slapstick, rubber-faced roles, Carrey nevertheless has serious acting chops when it comes to the weighty stuff; Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, for example – the previous collaboration between him and director and executive producer Michel Gondry (who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for that movie).
This time around, Gondry directs most of the Season 1 episodes of the show created by Dave Holstein (staff writer on Weeds back in the day, and once for I’m Dying Up Here, the short-lived series that Carrey co-executive produced).
Enough of the trivia. The sad clown trope is a familiar one, and with more awareness now than ever before about mental illnesses and conditions, we’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that depression doesn’t look like we think it does.
In Kidding, Carrey plays Jeff Piccirillo/Mr Pickles, much-loved host of the popular children’s PBS television show, Puppet Time, and multi-million-dollar merchandise business – something of a family business (Frank Langella plays his dad, and Catherine Keener is Jeff’s sister and head puppet maker).
On-screen, Mr Pickles has “raised” generations of young viewers with his positive sunny outlook and cute educational songs, but behind the scenes Jeff is dealing with the worst personal tragedy imaginable: the death of one of his sons. The breakdown of his marriage is the bitter icing on top of this poisonous cake, and all we can do is helplessly watch him unravel as his sanity goes down the toilet. It doesn’t sound like fun at all, when put that way, but hopefully we can learn some empathy.
Nominated for two Golden Globes – Best Television Series Musical or Comedy, and Best Actor Television Series Musical or Comedy – Kidding features some interesting guest stars – look out for Ariana Grande in a “tiny” part, as well as Mae Whitman (Arrested Development, Parenthood, Good Girls on Netflix) and Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight).
All episodes of Kidding are now on Showmax.
IMDB rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 76%