A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kidding is a show about a children's entertainer. However, it's far from kid-friendly. The show follows Jeff Pickles (Jim Carrey), star of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time, and his family as they cope with the devastating loss of one of his twin sons in a car accident. Their coping mechanisms often involve sex or drugs, so there's frequent nudity, simulated sex, and marijuana use (primarily by Jeff's surviving teenage son, Will). Characters use a wide array of profanity frequently: "f--k," "f---ing," "s--t," etc. The show gets a lot of mileage out of the contradictions between the placid show-within-a-show (which lands somewhere between Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Yo Gabba Gabba!) and the edgy personalities of the shows' creators, including Jeff, his father, and his sister. And while the show attempts to grapple with big issues like grief and identity, it sometimes sends mixed messages that undermine many of its own good intentions.
What's the story?
In KIDDING, Jeff Pickles (Jim Carrey) is the star of a long-running PBS show for preschoolers called Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time, which is produced by his father (Frank Langella) and features puppetry by his sister (Catherine Keener). Jeff recently lost one of his twin sons in a car crash, which has caused him to become estranged from his wife (Judy Greer) and surviving son (Cole Allen). Having repressed his grief for months, Jeff decides to cope with his feelings by using his show to teach children about loss, trying to repair his relationships with his family, and challenging himself to adapt to his new life.
Is it any good?
There's a lot to like about the first collaboration between Jim Carrey and director Michel Gondry since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kidding boasts an absolutely incredible cast -- which includes stars Judy Greer, Frank Langella, and Catherine Keener alongside Carrey doing some of the best acting work of his life. Gondry brings an off-kilter aesthetic not only to the show, but also to the show-within-a-show, Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time, which features a believable and dynamic cast of (felt-based) characters in its own right.
When Kidding tries to go deeper, however, things get uneven. It makes easy jokes at the expense of LGBTQ characters, depicting them as stereotypically sex-crazed, undermining its own attempts at diversity. The way the series shows coping with grief, its most pressing theme, is similarly contradictory. It feels less interested in having a conversation about trauma than it is about using trauma as a gateway to depicting edgy behavior like casual sex and drug use. That said, though Kidding can often feel directionless, the work from the cast, director, and designers is so strong that it's worth at least seeing where they're headed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about being in a close family. Jeff Pickles works closely with his sister and father, but is attempting to reconnect with his estranged wife and son. How do Jeff's relationships with his family affect his day-to-day life? How are his relationships healthy or unhealthy?
How does Jeff cope with the death of his son Phil? How does Phil's death affect the rest of the extended Pickles family? How does it change their relationships with one another? Do you think that Kidding's depiction of grief is realistic?
How does Jeff try to incorporate his real-life experiences into his show, Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time? What are the obstacles he faces in expressing his inner feelings through his show? How important is it to use art to express feelings?
For kids who love dark comedy
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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