“They’re doing a scene from Grey’s Anatomy in the breakroom” – Vivian.
The third episode of Showtime’s Kidding offers up hope that the bizarre blend of black comedy and drama can match the high standard of Jim Carrey‘s performance. Throughout a harrowing opening shot we’re introduced to Riki Lindhorne‘s Shaina, a drug addict stuck within a dingy apartment and finding solace in Jeff’s words during tough times. Whilst this worked solely as a nihilistic cold open akin to last week’s episode, I’m glad that Shaina actually had a role to play this week.
As for the rest of the episode? It finally offered up some interesting characters who are able to bounce off Jeff’s character, and gave us a heck of a lot of character development in such a short span of time that I’m still feeling the whiplash.
Jeff is still trying to introduce darker topics into ‘Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time’, this time trying to find names for the different emotional pains everybody feels using a particularly bleak and brilliant heart puppet that bursts from his chest cavity named ‘Mr. Thump Thump’. I’m still fully holding out hope on an episode entirely devoted to these puppets, as their creativity and presence on screen lights up every scene they’re a part of.
Seb and Deirdre, arguably the two weakest characters of the show, spend the majority of the episode together as Seb details his plan to begin replacing Jeff with a fictional/animated Mr. Pickles that would offer him full control over the character amidst Jeff’s real-world meltdown. Seb feels too one-dimensional at times, his only interest being the continuation of the show and therefore money in his pocket whilst feigning an interest in his family. At the same time however he’s constantly seen spending time with them and offering help cooking family meals or dispensing (what he believes to be) good advice in times of need. It’s a character I’m hoping the show can find something to do with, not just because it feels like a waste of Frank Lengella‘s performance aside from the odd entertaining reference he splices into casual conversation.
Catherine Keener‘s Deirdre is the same- this isn’t her show and it seems all of the crew know it. So why does she keep getting so much screen time devoted to her weak storylines? Her main arc seems to merely be that she cares about Jeff and brushes off everything else. In the series premiere, she was introduced as a mother who had unconventional and almost-malicious ways of dealing with her daughter’s behaviour, a plot thread which would have slid perfectly into the show’s apparent ethos. Yet here the most we get from her whole family is a neat little visual joke of her gay cheating husband romantically laying out babybel cheeses for his lover in a hotel bedroom. It often feels like wasted potential in these moments, especially considering the condensed runtime of the episodes for the genre.
Judy Greer‘s Jill is absent this week, which allows Jeff and WIll some much-needed screentime. As I said in my earlier recaps, Will (Cole Allen) is one of the few performers who contrasts Carrey’s performance well on screen. There’s an interesting father-son dynamic here that could really be explored. Will is the adult in every given situation, and seems to be humouring his dad’s affection and personality to great effect not out of sympathy, but rather compassion. He shares an enhanced sense of right and wrong from his dad. Whereas Jeff is impossibly nice and wholesome to seemingly everyone he meets, Will seems to listen and attempt to connect with them whilst not sacrificing an ounce of his personality. It’ll be interesting to see what the two can learn from each other as the show progresses.
“You’re too young to have friends that lost” – Jeff ‘Pickles’ Piccirillo.
There is another hopeful star in the form of cancer patient Vivian (Ginger Gonzaga) this week; her limited conversation with Jeff at the beauty clinic within the hospital was a highlight of the episode. She brushes off Jeff’s niceties and told him to use them on someone who was going to live longer than eight weeks. Contrasting with Will, she comes across as someone who could actually need the support that Jeff offers. I hope we see more of her in the coming weeks.
Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank) directs the episode for the first time in the series and offers up one of the best visual transitions of the series so far as we see how much Shaina’s life has changed over the years, with her main crutch being the wise words of Jeff on the screen in front of her. It’s a wonderful piece of visual storytelling and the following date between her and Jeff shows another performer who is able to create chemistry in ways that Keener and Langella can’t. Jeff is her messiah and doesn’t quite realise it until the end of the date, and it’s difficult not to spend the majority of these recaps talking about Carrey’s performance as once again it’s the best thing here. The devastating effect it has on him when people tell him that he’s saved them is an interesting road to go down, and allows for a nice reflection when it’s the nail in the coffin that leads to Jeff having sex with the young drunk student he lives down the hall from. It doesn’t take a lot for Jeff to give in to his darker desires anymore.
“The old Jeff died in a car crash he wasn’t even in” – Seb Piccirillo.
If it takes so little to lead Jeff astray, then this allows his cracks to grow larger and his actions at the end of the episode are seemingly something he can’t come back from. I wonder what’ll finally cause him to release his anger? I don’t know…maybe…the news of an animated replacement for him on the show?
We’ll find out soon.