Martin Carr reviews the first episode of Kidding…
Meta moments of darkly awkward surrealism mix with uncomfortable character revelations, making Jim Carrey’s return to television difficult viewing. Headlined by an oddly aloof yet benign children’s television presenter, Kidding reveals itself slowly never allowing the audience too close. Screen time is split evenly between Frank Langella, Jim Carrey and Catherine Keener, while behind the scenes studio time reveals dysfunctional people cloaking deeply personal issues. Awkwardly intrusive from start to finish Carrey slowly begins to unravel from the off, never letting you get comfortable while his haircut and tailoring add to that off kilter mood.
Directed by Michel Gondry who last worked with Carrey on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this series is oddly abstract mixing camera angles, purposeful pauses and a collection of characters skating dangerously close to meltdown. However amongst the curveball shock tactics of driveway hand jobs and sexually coupled pantomime horses Kidding tries to say something more profound. Cynical as it may be and disconnected as Carrey’s character definitely is, there are pops at corporate greed, ideas of social identity and public versus private personas.
That these dysfunctional people have forged a bond through the innocence of children’s television, yet hide behind puppetry while their reality falls apart is what makes Kidding strangely engaging. Their children are sarcastic, defensive, sassy and self-aware in ways which make them somehow detached. Emotions through the prism of this television show feel superficial, made for consumption and therefore less than genuine. In the end this is how you make sense of things and that strangely disconnected performance, as it exists in direct opposition to the world Carrey inhabits. For some people this will be too much, too uncomfortable and for that reason liable to be ignored then cancelled. However they are definitely missing a trick as the supporting cast of Langella, Keener and the remaining ensemble are exceptional in making room for Mr.Pickles.
Carrey’s comeback might only last one season as it skates that thin line between sordid satire and televisual sucker punch, but it promises to remain challenging, engaging and edgy to the final scene. For those curious enough to watch this pilot episode be prepared for thirty minutes of unique television.