This Kidding review contains spoilers.
Kidding Season 2 Episode 1
Kidding, Showtime’s Jim Carrey-led family dramaedy, has returned from a lengthy hiatus. If you’ve forgotten, the series centers on a Mister Rogers-like children’s TV host spiraling out of control after the death of one of his twin sons and a separation with his wife. Working with his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry once again, Carrey taps into something raw and deeply melancholy. His raw-nerve performance is matched by the rest of the talented cast and ultimately enhanced by the show’s off-beat sense of humor and use of creative magical realism. Last season got progressively darker as the season went along, with Jeff’s rage and resentment building until he violently ran down his wife Jill’s new boyfriend Pete with his car.
Before Season 2 drops us in the immediate aftermath of that impulsive act, the show wisely eases us back into Kidding’s world after so much time away. After a flashback to their wedding, we are instantly reminded of Jeff and Jill’s relationship and their current situation. Several times throughout the episode, we cut away from the current action to see Jeff and Jill in happier times. Not only does it work on a visual level, but it helps remind viewers of Jeff’s motivation. Jeff is making horribly immoral choices, like not admitting to hitting Peter right away, but is doing so only to try to remain close with Jill.
Jeff isn’t the only person happy to see the former couple falling into old rhythms. Despite uncovering the fact that Jeff had bought the house next door, Will decides not to tell his mom this information. Toward the end of last season, it became clear that Will missed and needed his Dad’s presence in his life, and seeing Jeff back in his home preparing Christmas cookies like Christmas’ pasts. Will enjoys seeing his mom and dad together, even if he has other lingering issues with his dad to clear up.
The episode mainly focuses on Jeff pushing his guilt toward Peter down and ignoring Jill’s clear distress over the situation. Jeff repeatedly having the opportunity to be honest with Jill and deciding instead to act like nothing is wrong in an effort to have a comfortable Christmas with his family feels like a classic sitcom story, except for the whole attempted vehicular manslaughter thing. Eventually, Jeff’s guilt gets the best of him and he decides to volunteer to be the liver donor that Peter needs to survive. It’s certainly the right thing to do, but doesn’t necessarily absolve him, and he knows it.
Most of the episode’s comedy comes from the arrival of Pete’s Mormon family and from our brief check-in with Dierdre and her family. Besides the fact that Dierdre darkly keeps rooting for Peter to pass away, she’s also dealing with how to tell her daughter that she’s planning to divorce her father. Still, the episode doesn’t find a whole lot of time for this storyline and really doesn’t broach anything about the loss of Jeff’s show or even feature Jeff and Dierdre’s father Seb. The father-son relationship dominated a lot of last season’s back-half, so it’s weird that the character doesn’t even appear fleetingly in the season premiere.
Maybe Kidding is just trying to avoid tackling too many things at once. Jeff almost killing someone in act of rage should take precedence, I suppose. This episode had to do double duty reintroducing us to the show, so it’s hard to fault it for not being more narratively ambitious. Jeff embracing lying certainly seems to suggest that we haven’t seen the man hit rock bottom just yet. I’m happy to have this sad little show back.
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.