Some shows – like some people – make themselves difficult to love.
Jim Carrey’s “Kidding” has been like that. It’s fresh and original, with a warm heart, weird humor and talented cast. But it keeps pushing viewers away, deflating any sense of hope.
Now, however, it has redeemed itself. The next episode (shown here, with Ariana Grande), at 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, is exceptionally good … and different.
The entire half-hour is a show-within-a-show. A fictional character is using his more-fictional characters to describe his personal heartache; the result is sometimes funny, sometimes moving.
Carrey plays Jeff Pickles, who started a kids’ show, with his dad (Frank Langella) as producer and his sister Deirdre (Catherine Keener) as puppetmaker.
Jeff is a sweet-spirited guy, but he crumbled after one of his twin sons died in a car accident. He became distant from his wife Jill (Judy Greer), who was driving, and their other son Will.
That’s where we met them in the first season. Separated from Jill, Jeff secretly bought the house next door, spying on her and her new guy Peter … whom he later crashed into with his car.
Even that might have worked out. Jill assumed it was Peter’s fault; Jeff volunteered for a liver transplant and became a hero …. until he told her that he hit him deliberately. He’s like that, forever ducking any real chance to be happy.
And now? Peter is better; Jeff isn’t. He fired his dad … then learned that Deirdre owned the rights to many of the puppet characters … and lost them in a divorce settlement.
That’s where we are now – an entire half-hour edition of Jeff’s show, telling kids about divorce, loss and change. Jill is there; so is Deirdre, who faces the puppets’ wrath. There are songs and emotions, plus Grande; it’s sometimes quite moving, occasionally funny and always fresh and original.
And it brings aftershocks, at home and with the shows Jeff franchises overseas. Sunday’s second episode has him facing the backlash from his divorce tale.
That second one is a pretty good; the first is great. We might end up liking “Kidding” after all.
– “Kidding,” 10 and 10:30 p.m. Sundays, Showtime
– The show-within-a-show is the first of this week’s two episodes, Feb.23
– They rerun Sunday night at midnight; then 9 p.m. Monday; 11:30 p.m. Tuesday; and 6 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday (March 7) and Sunday (March 8)