Whilst we’ve definitely seen a lot of Jeff and Deirdre Piccirillo’s backstory, enough to know where Puppet Time and most of its themes come from, we’ve never been given the inciting incident that set the show in motion. It turns out it was in 1986. As young Jeff watches the Challenger explosion live on television surrounded by children, he marks television’s power as something he can ultimately use for the good of mankind.
“This morning I saw television kill the dreams of children all over the world, what if I use that same power to heal them?” – Young Jeff ‘Pickles’ Piccirillo.
He disturbs young Dee, who puts her dreams of going to Japan on hold to help him create the first version of Puppet Time. And the rest, as they say, is history. Flash forward to now and Kidding is playing fast and loose with some nonlinear storytelling as each character’s stories sync up across different times. After the brother and sister have both gone through their own journeys of acceptance, Jeff and Dee are looking to make amends. Jeff is destined to mend Jill and Peter’s relationship after she rejected his proposal; he has to look out for his fellow liver brother. He’s also taken to filling the role of the 24 missing Mr. Pickles’ from around the world, leading to what I can only assume is an unholy workload.
Whilst at Jill’s, Will continues to be disappointed by his dad’s lack of spine and storms over to Seb’s house for advice on how to get the magic back after being let down by the Fibonacci sequence in his time travel book. It’s nowhere near as insane as it sounds I swear. His grandfather is busy however with the continued image of his ex-wife, when really it’s an overly-keen young black man. Throughout ‘The Acceptance Speech’ I wondered whether this televisual trickery was to signify Alzheimer’s or dementia in Seb due to it being used at the same time as the memory centre, however I believe this is just another one of Kidding’s surrealist quirks. Directors Bert & Bertie masterfully weave body doubles in and out of frame to heighten the physical comedy on display, whilst Jas Waters’ script could potentially touch on something deeper within the character’s psyche. Who knows how this’ll pan out when he introduces ‘her’ to the family?
Dee on the other hand, alongside Derrell (Alex Raul Barrios – good to see him given more to do recently) fight to get back the rights to Astronotter from Scott (Bernard White). Dee has an idea that Seb rejected in the 90s to remind America that Puppet Time is a national institution, and she wants NASA to send Astronotter into space. Without him being blown up like the Challenger, potentially. But this is Deirdre Piccirillo we’re talking about, of course she goes about handling this in a calm and mature manner… by taking her daughter Maddie’s axe to the set of Scott’s latest car commercial starring the character.
“There’s nothing worse than a dead puppet” – Deirdre ‘Dee’ Piccirillo.
She manages to disturb a heart-to-heart with Scott’s new partner, sports-star Blake Griffin no less, and snags the rights to Astronotter back in exchange for an extra day a week with Maddie. This is healthy parenting 101. Dee’s outrageous crusade to get her fictional character into space might seem odd, but there’s an underlying sinister threat bubbling away in the distance. Jeff enlists the help of his Filipino friend Josip to gather a whole new patch of Pickle Pals to form Jeff’s ‘new family’. But as the two converse via their talk-to-me-Pickles they’re cut off, and Jeff is subject to a number of death threats over the phone. It appears that Toyco has put the toy out of commission after all of Jeff’s personal information (including his home address – Jill’s home address) leaked online.
Throughout the entire episode we’re sporadically shown smashed pickle jars littered outside of the television studio where Puppet Time is filmed. Not only that, but their lids count backwards from ten in a sinister countdown that could end up foreshadowing the repercussions of Jeff’s actions this season. Early on we’re shown glimpses of a Pickle Platoon meeting, where kids are decorating their own pickle jars to send to Mr. Pickles. But the platoon leader ominously fills his car with them, and when it’s revealed that the jars themselves are filled with gasoline, everything goes to red alert. Jeff’s intrusive doll and his recent public actions have made him the enemy of many people it turns out, and now that his apparent address is public, things could turn violent quick.
“I’ll wear this ring so that you know my proposal that this proposal is a real proposal to propose” – Jill
Jeff speeds down to Jill’s just as her and Peter are talking about their future engagement, swaps the house numbers between theirs and Jeff’s empty house. I must admit for all the shots of a car filled with pickle jars, I was expecting something catastrophic, when in reality it was just a solitary jar sparked aflame thrown against the door. Jill, Peter and Will all come outside to see the commotion, and Will notices the new number of the house – the next number in his Fibonacci sequence. This means there’s only one more left, and with two episodes of Kidding this season left we can safely assume Will’s magic is going to have a big effect.
Whilst the converging narratives of the characters didn’t always utilise the best results in terms of comedy or tragedy, Kidding confidently sets itself up for a home run. The return back to the Challenger disaster- and in particular how it affected Deirdre (who looked up to Christa McAuliffe)- allows the instalment to come full circle. Astronotter was the first character she created for the show, and represents a time in her life where her goals were simple and achievable. Now with the notion of making them a reality, Dee might actually find some peace amidst the various insanity that her job puts her through. As for Jeff? He’s definitely in danger, and he needs to decide whether it’s worth putting those he cares about through the same. Something tells me it’s not going to be an easy decision to make.