Preview: Kidding 1×1 (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)

When's Jim Carrey going to go full Jim Carrey?

Jim Carrey in Kidding

In the US: Sundays, 10pm ET/PT, Showtime. Starts September 9
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Atlantic to air in November 2018

Jim Carrey’s one of those ‘dangerous’ actors. Not in a Clayne Crawford way, mind, more in the sense that you don’t know what he’s going to do with his performances. His characters might snap and go a bit crazy at any moment and you never know when and what they’ll do next. But when they do snap, he’s mesmerising to watch.

After a hugely successful career in comedy that began on TV with Saturday Night Live before he got his big movie break with The Mask and Ace Ventura, he branched out into more sober affairs with The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Since then, bar the occasional cameo, he’s been missing from both TV and movie screens for some time now.

Which makes Kidding, his first regular TV role for 20 years, an interesting choice. Will it be funny? Serious? Dangerous? Or maybe none of the above.

Jim Carrey and Catherine Keener in Kidding
Catherine Keener as Deirdre and Jim Carrey as Jeff (aka Mr Pickles) in Kidding

When will he snap?

Kidding sees Carrey playing ‘Mr Pickles’, an icon of children’s television and a beacon of kindness and wisdom for America’s youth for generations. Anyone expecting that to be a cover for something darker will be disappointed, as Carrey’s character is pretty much as he seems on the tin – a kind-hearted man with no real desire to be anything except lovely to everyone, particularly children.

However, life can be cruel and behind the scenes, Carrey is dealing with some hard challenges: one of his twin sons was killed in a road accident and his wife (Judy Greer) is now separated from him and seeing another man (Justin Kirk). Pickles wants to process all of this misery in his own way, by giving America’s children a Very Special Edition of the programme that’s all about death and how to deal with it. But his father (Frank Langella), who also happens to be the show’s producer, vetos the idea because it might destroy the multi-million dollar empire that has been built up around Carrey’s wholesome nature and his puppet friends.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, what with all the problems Carrey’s sister (Catherine Keener) faces, too, so the question is whether Carrey will snap and if so, when? And if he doesn’t let it all out, is a slow descent into madness the only alternative? Moving into the house next door so he can keep an eye on his wife might just be the start of something far, far worse…

Jim Carrey

Good by association

Although billed as a ‘slow leak of sanity as hilarious as it is heartbreaking’, Kidding is really just heartbreaking in its first episode at least. For the most part, you’re only going to laugh if you enjoy kind people being hurt, tormented, socially excluded and reviled, while struggling to cope with the vicissitudes of life – and a whole bunch of sad but kindly puppets look on sadly and kindly as it happens.

But then, The Truman Show isn’t a bundle of laughs until Carrey starts to go a bit strange, so we should probably hold off expecting the laughs until later in the season, too. Do we have the patience for this? Maybe, as it’s only a half-hour episode at a time.

More to the point, there’s the top cast and the show’s creator is Eternal Sunshine writer Michel Gondry. That probably means we should assume it’ll be good by association, right? I mean, if they can get cameos from Danny Trejo and Conan O’Brien in the first episode, it must be good, right? Right?

Despite the sad evidence so far.

So I don’t really want to watch any more of it, based on what I’ve seen. It’s good at what it does, but there’s nothing that makes me want to watch more of it. Yet I feel I probably should, which is an odd place to be in. I’ll probably watch at least the first three episodes, but I do wonder if maybe we’re only going to see a full Carrey explosion when it’s too late.