“Kid­ding” review

Variety - - Contents -

Com­edy-drama: Show­time (10 episodes, four re­viewed); Sept. 9, 10 p.m. Star­ring: Jim Car­rey , Judy Greer, Frank Lan­gella

The last time Jim Car­rey and Michel Gondry col­lab­o­rated, they pro­duced some of the best work of their re­spec­tive ca­reers. “Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spotless Mind” gave Car­rey a chance to deepen his per­for­mance be­yond his usual car­i­ca­ture, while Gondry found space for sharp mo­ments of hu­mor within his gauzy dream­scapes. So the prospect of th­ese two com­ing back to­gether after al­most 15 years apart was an ex­cit­ing one.

The re­sult is “Kid­ding,” Show­time’s new drama-slash- com­edy from “Weeds” pro­ducer Dave Hol­stein, about a kids’ show host try­ing to stay positive through a fog of grief. It aims to cap­ture the kind of strange and bruis­ing tone that made “Eter­nal Sun­shine” so good; at times, it even suc­ceeds.

But more of­ten than not, “Kid­ding” feels caught be­tween too many tones and ideas to be­come quite as dis­tinc­tive as it could be. The se­ries vac­il­lates be­tween up­lift­ing anec­dotes about the end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties of kind­ness and deeply de­press­ing shots of ex­is­ten­tial bleak­ness — some­times on pur­pose, some­times not so much.

At the heart of “Kid­ding” is Car­rey’s Jeff (or “Mr. Pick­les,” de­pend­ing on his mood). No mat­ter what he’s do­ing or who he’s meet­ing, this Mr. Rogers fac­sim­ile faces the world with a benign smile, his head tilted to ex­actly the right an­gle with which he can say, “How are you?,” “You’re like no one else” and “I’ve got you” all at once. Well-honed over 30 years of fronting “Mr. Pick­les’ Pup­pet Time,” this stance has made him the pa­tron saint of child­hood de­light. But a year after one of his twin sons died in a freak car ac­ci­dent, he is closer than ever to crack­ing un­der the pres­sure of staying in one piece, whether he wants to ac­knowl­edge it or not.

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