'Kidding': Jim Carrey Returns to TV in New Showtime Comedy

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06 September 2018

SHOWTIME, Sept. 9, 9:00 PM ET

By Jeff Pfeiffer

It must have taken a pretty special project to get megastar Jim Carrey to return to a regular acting gig on television after two decades. Showtime’s new comedy series Kidding, premiering Sunday, is certainly that type of project.

While funny, the series also has a darker tinge as it chronicles the crises of faith and sanity experienced by Jeff Pickles (Carrey) — better known to legions of children as Mr. Pickles, the Mister Rogers-esque host of a long-running kids’ TV show.

While Jeff has remained a beacon of kindness and wisdom to his young viewers, when his own family implodes, he finds there is no puppet or host to guide him through it.

At a recent press conference, creator/showrunner/writer Dave Holstein explained that, “To us, [the show] wasn’t about … someone having a nervous breakdown or ‘psycho Mister Rogers.’ … [I had a] fatigue of characters who existed because they were doing drugs or killing people, and [I wanted] to find the journey of somebody who didn’t want to ‘break bad,’ but wanted to stay good.”

Jim Carrey would seem to be a perfect actor for a such a character. And in fact, Holstein admitted that, after he completed a spec script for Kidding in 2010, he wrote on it: “Jeff Pickles, think Jim Carrey.”

For his part, aside from the premise, Carrey also was drawn back to television by Kidding because of the involvement of his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry.

“For me, he was the linchpin,” Carrey said of Gondry’s involvement. “I was incredibly interested in the material, but when Michel came onboard, I thought, ‘I get to go play with a teammate, and that’s really wonderful.’ So, it was a thrill.”

Gondry is also directing other acclaimed actors on Kidding, including Catherine Keener, Judy Greer and Frank Langella, who all play people in Jeff’s life.

“I think the really fun challenge of this show,” Holstein said, “is that it was really easy to write from the perspective of any other character in the cast.

“[So, from] Frank’s perspective, or Catherine’s perspective, where there’s this creepy weirdo at the center of it that believes in all these naive, optimistic things, it’s very easy to look down on that person and not empathize with them. … But if you take that and apply it to someone with the moral caliber of Mister Rogers, maybe — just maybe — you could empathize with that person.”
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