‘Kidding’ is an extraordinary case study of consequence

Everything matters. Even the giant foot.
Everything matters. Even the giant foot.

Image: Erica Parise/SHOWTIME

Somewhere between the puppets, musical numbers, dazzling one-take transformations, and bizarre cold opens, Kidding on Showtime became one of this season’s best and most underrated comedies. Each episode took the audience further into the world and psyche of Jeff Pickles and the rest of the Pickles family, only to discover that the people responsible for creating Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time — the happiest show on television — are all super, super fucked up. 

Plenty of TV families are OK on the outside and rotting on the inside, but what makes the Pickles clan unique, and what makes Kidding so good, is that the show makes sure to draw clean lines from the actions that they perform to the typically awful consequences they have on other people. 

Every time a character on Kidding messes up — whether it’s Phil misunderstanding his son’s needs or a random drunk girl trying to kill her childhood idol — it’s clear to see exactly why they did it and how it impacts the world around them. Watching Kidding feels like filling in an evidence board in real time, always connecting the red threads of cause and effect from character to character and action to later action. 

Watching Kidding feels like filling in an evidence board in real time, always connecting the red threads of cause and effect from character to character and action to later action. 

It’s a thrilling way to watch a TV show, even as the evidence points ever strongly towards catastrophe. 

In Kidding, what parents did to their children matters. Seb encouraged Jeff to be violent, and despite Jeff’s massive overcorrection towards kindness his repressed anger undid his life’s work. Jeff coped with his childhood by preaching to his sons, and his focus on talking led to children who think he’s incapable of listening. 

One of the most brilliant moments in the Season 1 finale of Kidding is also its cruelest. For the briefest of moments, Seb sits down and listens to his son Jeff, and Jeff gets an opportunity to listen to his son Phil. There are soft smiles and a feeling of acceptance in the air. Love triumphs over their previous mistakes! Hallelujah indeed. 

And then, tragedy. Again. On purpose. Considering how high the stakes were by the finale, it’s both sad and satisfying to see that the Kidding’s theme, that the other shoe will always drop, comes back in full force. Sad because many of these characters and lovable and it’s human nature to want better for them. Satisfying because the finale establishes what Kidding is really about. 

An apt tagline for Kidding Season 2, which is already ordered for next year on Showtime, would be “Look At What You’ve Done.” It’s a question every character could ask any other character, with a totally deserved tone of blame. Kidding is a comedy, but also a character study of what happens when everything matters and nothing is forgotten. And in that way, even with its heavy dose of unexplained magic, it’s the realest show of 2018. 

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