Last week marked the end of a phenomenal first season run by Showtime Originals tragicomedy Kidding. I have seriously and consistently raved about this one since it premiered a few months ago. It stars Jim Carrey as Jeff Piccirillo, who is the star of a popular children’s TV program called Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time. The show is overseen by Jeff’s dad, Sebastian Piccirillo, and also features the puppet design work of Jeff’s sister Deidre. Deidre has been dealing with a fractured relationship with her husband Scott. Early in the season, their daughter Maddy had seen her piano teacher jerking Scott off one afternoon. Jeff himself has been dealing with a personal life that has been spiraling into darkness for the past year since his son Phillip was killed in a car accident. Phillip was survived by his parents & his twin brother William. The main theme of the show is Jeff dealing with the pain of this loss. For us the audience, it has been all torturous and unexpected delight.
Central to most episodes are Sebastian, Deidre, William, Jeff, and his ex-wife, Jill. Jill is now seeing a new boyfriend, Peter, who works with her at the hospital where she works as a nurse. Jeff has secretly bought the house next to her house but has never really moved in. William has found a new group of friends in his middle school who have gotten him into doing weird pranks and smoking marijuana. The whole family has tried to intervene, but he’s adjusting to his brother’s death in his own way.
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By the time we got to the finale, Jeff had already gone through a series of escalating breakdowns, in which the usually calm and collected demeanor of “Mr. Pickles” has given way to a violent, confused, and hurt man who spasmodically lashes out. Earlier in the season Jeff had related an interpolation of the plot of the movie Robocop as an allegory for himself to Deidre. He told her it was a story where: “a bunch of cops tried to save their cop friend by putting him back together, but all it really leads to it a bunch of nonsensical violence.” I called it then as foreshadowing but more so it turned out to be an encapsulation of one of the major reoccurring themes of the show so far – many episodes end with a shocking unexpected violent incident. The finale started with an unexpected breakdown, however, with Jeff giving an off-script speech at the National Christmas Tree Lighting.
He began the holiday speech, which he has delivered ten years in a row, by telling the kids in the television audience that their parents have failed them. That the world is a horrible, dangerous, polluted place, and that if their parents cared they would work constantly to make it better or not have kids at all. He went on to blame himself for Phillip’s death, saying that Phil never wore a seat belt as a form of rebelling against Jeff, who never listened to his kids before. He concluded the live on TV speech by telling the kids to all go search for their Christmas presents. We saw dozens of kids finding a Talking Mr. Pickles doll, and when they pulled the string, he says “I’m listening.”
While the speech was still going on, Sebastian got on the phone with the Eastern European voice actors he had lined up to replace Jeff in a cartoon version of the show. As expected, CBS canceled the show, and we watched a slow, sad montage of the studio where the show was shot being packed up. Speaking to one of the producers on the show, Jeff confessed that he never understood how Mr. Pickles got back up from bottom of the falls to the top. While they were shutting it all down, a line of kids with the talking doll flooded the studio, all of them coming to have Mr. Pickles listen to their problems. Will was not allowed to cut in line, though he wanted to see his dad. Sebastian, marveling at the stunning number of kids who showed up to talk to Jeff, decided to wait in line for his turn to talk. He told Jeff that he was ready to listen as well.
The following day, we saw that Sebastian had finally aired the episode they made a year prior about Phillip’s death. Jill called Jeff about it, as she was deeply moved. She invited him over to go for a walk. Meanwhile, next door, William’s friends were throwing a party in the house that remained mostly empty, except for when they used it to smoke pot. Peter, the stepdad figure, went next door to see what the party was about. He walked right in and eventually saw the closet filled with the suits that Mr. Pickles wears on the show. He caught Will making out with a girl but simply asked them to turn the volume down.
Exiting the house, Peter ran into Jeff, and he instantly confronted him about how creepy it was that he was renting space next to his ex-wife like this. The two shared a warm heart to heart on the brisk night with sparse flurries. It led to a hug, and Jeff decided to leave without hanging out with Jill. Just as he was about to go, however, Peter offered him a doobie. Jeff asked, “Marijuana?” with thinly veiled disgust. He got in his car, and then “BAM!” out of nowhere, Jeff smashed his car into Peter, causing him to flip over and crash to the ground a broken sputtering mess. Jeff whispered to himself in the car, “Whoops.”
END SEASON ONE.
Well damn. So they just got picked up for a season two, & I guess they are ready to take this further, but I reckon this would have been a perfect ending for a self-contained single season as well. In any case, I thought nothing was going to top the penultimate episode’s violent end: Olympic medalist Sara Lipinski, who starred in “Mr. Pickles on Ice,” had her throat slit by an ice skate. Eeek! It was graphic AF. #NotAKidShow. But the writing, characters, & pacing are brilliant in every darn frame of this quirky & macabre break-out comedy. Season one ending with Mr. Pickles attempting to murder Peter leaves things looking grim for the Piccirillo family, indeed. If you haven’t seen any of it, ignore the spoilers you just read and go binge Kidding now!