Kidding is one of the most unique and intriguing new television series to hit airwaves in the past few years. Though audiences have become accustomed to being in a "golden age" of television there are still shows which find ways to not only push the envelope creatively but which also genuinely surprise and delight with their originality, complexity, and idiosyncratic delights. The series is produced by star Jim Carrey along with creator Dave Holstein (Weeds), Raffi Adlan, Michael Aguilar, Roberto Benabib, and director Michel Gondry.
Jeff (Jim Carrey) is a world renowned and beloved television host for a children's series (which strikes comparison to the like of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood). His on-air persona is that of Mr. Pickles, a warm, kind, and generous spirit who radiates meaningful characteristics through his show as it beams into the homes of millions. Jeff himself isn't too far removed from the kindheartedness of Mr. Pickles. Everyone who knows him sees the kindness which inspires the beloved Mr. Pickles character.
The children's series is produced by Jeff's father, Seb (Frank Langella). Unlike his son (whose involvement in the series stems from a desire to help others), Seb is simply a business-man whose interest is to profiteer on the production and its franchise development (as the series is translated into other countries with different "hosts" around the world bringing a spin to Mr. Pickles and he looks into the possibility of replacing his son with an animated version of the Mr. Pickles character so he can fully control every aspect of the series). Deirdre (Catherine Keener) also works on the production and tries to counter-balance some of the mad-cap producer-ideas from Seb.
While the series itself presents Mr. Pickles as an almost-perfect and idyllic being, Jeff isn't having such a peachy-keen time in real life. His young son Will Pickles (Cole Allen) is addicted to drugs and Jeff is trying to help his son overcome his use of drugs. Jeff is also lonely and looking for a relationship with someone. His relationship ended with ex-wife, Jill (Judy Greer). Though Jeff and Jill are on speaking terms it's clear that things are rocky for the entire family. Jeff is dealing with a personal mid-life crisis of sorts while trying to sort out the meaning of his life in relation to family, to friends, and to the world of viewers experiencing his show.
In my mind, Kidding is a perfect remedy to the increase is television series which star unlikable and overbearingly dark protagonists in their overbearingly dark worlds. Not every television series needs pitch-black vibes, folks. This series has the touch of being a smart, complex series which has dark characters and serious themes but you can become more easily involved in the storytelling.
This isn't a House of Cards type series where nearly every character might feel unbearably unlikable. Though Kidding revolves around serious dramatic themes like divorce, drug addiction, and finding meaning in one's self (as well as finding balance in family and work) it's also a series where you become engaged with the character's and their respective journeys. You root for these characters.
Kidding was created by Dave Holstein (Weeds). This is a well-developed show with great writing, characters, and themes at each turn. It's easy to get engaged with each episode as the show quickly pulls you in with it's storytelling craft. The series feels like it has an overarching aim and direction, developing piece-by-piece. The characters are on a journey that feels well laid-out by the staff of writers.
The series is directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Jake Schreier (Robert and Frank), and Minkie Spiro (Call the Midwife). Michel Gondry is the primary director who oversees the creative development. Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry created magic together when they made the cinematic gem Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They have perfect collaborative synchronicity once more with Kidding.
From a production standpoint, Kidding excels. The music by David Wingo (Take Shelter, Midnight Special) is unique and charming. The score feels whimsical and part melancholic while effectively matching the tempo and mood of the story. Cinematography by Shawn Kim and Shasta Spahn is engaging and beautiful throughout. The costumes by Rahel Afiley (Flight of the Conchords, The Muppets) are stylized for the characters and the quirky nature of the story. The production design by Maxwell Orgell matches the outlandish originality of Gondry with aplomb.
Kidding is that rare television series which grips you from the very first episode. More often than not, television can sometimes take some time to truly win you over completely. The first episode is not always the best indication on whether or not a series will ultimately work for you. (Even some of my all time favorites like Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn't completely win-me-over from the first episode). Yet with Kidding, that initial episode is a good indication of what's in store from this charming and quirky television series. I'm not kiddin' (pun is intended, folks) about Kidding being something truly special.
Kidding arrives on DVD with an MPEG-2 encode in the original television broadcast aspect ration of 1.78:1 widescreen. The DVD's are presented in anamorphic widescreen for widescreen televisions. Unfortunately, that's the most positive thing about the presentation: no black bars on all sides. This presentation is predictably mediocre with high compression levels. It's mediocre by DVD standards (feeling as if little thought or care went into the presentation). The presentation quality has little to add, with poor definition, frequent pixelation, and bad color reproduction. This entire presentation feels like one which was just tossed on disc without any regard to trying to eek out the best of the DVD format.
The audio is presented on DVD with 5.1 surround sound. This is a average quality sound mix which occasionally has interesting sound design decisions but mostly is front-heavy and dialogue-driven. Nothing impressive regarding dynamics or fidelity but it's a serviceable presentation.
The DVD includes a handful of fluff EPK behind-the-scenes promotional videos (which were previously released as promotional videos online).
The most interesting extra on the release is a making-of break-down of the filming of one particularly challenging sequences in which an entire apartment is given a time-lapse make-over which required production crew to rapidly run around the set, making major set alterations, without breaking the sequence's single-take photography. This sequences clearly demonstrates the brilliance of director Michel Gondry (who has become a master of these photographic efforts with music videos from the likes of The White Stripes to The Chemical Brothers).
Kidding is great appointment-level television. Jim Carrey is incredible in the series and delivers one of his best performances to date. The show is engaging from start to finish and leaves one practically begging for more. Season 2 can't come soon enough. The series is also beautifully directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and feels so creative, original, and complex with each episode. This is easily one of my new favorite television outings. Must-see television.