This Kidding review contains spoilers.
Kidding Episode 2
Just because Jeff Pickles’ vices don’t include smoking, adultery, or skullduggery doesn’t mean he’s some saint. He’s guilty of more than sneaking pulls of chocolate syrup; his entire attitude toward his ex-wife is entirely inappropriate. He’s unable to see that his aggressive attempts at keeping his family together is only alienating the people that he loves even further. Buying the house next door to Jill seems like a cheeky idea that will bring the family closer in Jeff’s mind. He doesn’t consider for a second that surprising them with that information could actually qualify as creepy and intrusive.
Kidding makes it clear that Jeff’s not a bad person; he’s clearly going through a difficult time and has put out enough good karma into the universe that even the most hardened criminal would feel guilty stealing from him, but he’s acting obtuse with his emotional naivety. The Jeff Pickles persona and wide-eyed optimism is great when interacting with children who need happiness the most, but it’s maybe inappropriate when meeting your ex’s new boyfriend.
I found “Pusillanimous” to be an incredibly well-written episode of television even if it did too much to push Jeff out of sympathetic territory. The use of callback jokes like P-hound and that brilliant “otter twat” scene, which highlights how Jeff is pushing the boundaries of his show as his own act of defiance and self-therapy, show how satisfying and tightly wound a half-hour series like this can be, never over staying its welcome. The writing coupled with Gondry’s directing, used to great effect in the opening car theft-in-reverse montage and when showing Jeff spying on Jill as if she’s in a dollhouse, which is shot almost dreamily enough to make you forget how unsettling it is, feels like this show operating at a high level early on.
I like the addition of Justin Kirk as Peter. His reliable brand of smarm and sarcasm that he brought to Weeds should work perfectly opposite Carrey’s infantile earnestness. Their first meeting is polite, if slightly passive aggressive from Jeff’s side, but hopefully Peter starts pushing back on Jeff. So far, it’s most fun to see people like Jill or Seb spar with and rub up against Jeff’s stubborn refusal to live on planet Earth. Seb’s reaction to Jeff’s “haircut” is a perfect example of this. Their back-and-forth when it comes to art vs business is the sort of clash I hope to see Peter and Jeff develop, but maybe their relationship will be the place that Jeff can play the assertive role. His little history lesson about “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater” is the sort of clever cruelty that Seb would bring down on Jeff.
Elsewhere, Deirdre begins to investigate her husband’s relationship with their daughter’s piano teacher. She’s able to be assertive with the piano teacher, but when it comes time to ask her husband if he’s gay, she shies away from the moment. Meanwhile, Will continues his bad seed routine, dipping out of school to smoke weed, then practicing some reckless abstractism when prompted to draw a self-portrait for extra credit. It’s also pretty clear that he’s pulling away from Jeff just as Jeff manipulates his way into getting an extra night of the week with Will.
Overall, Kidding is able to find more funny moments this week and avoids being overly melancholic or shmaltzy. Carrey is still giving an expert, layered performance even if it is a bit unnerving. Jeff’s denial of the realities of his family life while having the realities of his mental state ignored at work will surely combine and combust, but there’s still no telling how it will explode.
Nick Harley is a tortured Cleveland sports fan, thinks Douglas Sirk would have made a killer Batman movie, Spider-Man should be a big-budget HBO series, and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson should direct a script written by one another. For more thoughts like these, read Nick’s work here at Den of Geek or follow him on Twitter.