Jim Carrey is an actor best known for his comedic performances, and plenty of people are still happy to drop quotes from projects like Ace Venturaand Dumb and Dumber if the situation calls for it. That said, Carrey has also proven he has dramatic acting chops, as with The Truman Show and the unforgettable Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He makes his first big return to TV since appearing on In Living Color way back in the early 90s with Showtime's Kidding, a dramedy that puts a dark twist on a Mr. Rogers-like character whose life and family are turned upside down after a personal tragedy. The role seems like one Carrey was born to play. Now, Kidding has officially screened, and critics have shared their thoughts on Jim Carrey's new show.
With its keen self-awareness, exceptional writing and consistently great acting, Kidding -- starring a perfectly cast Jim Carrey in his first series-regular role since In Living Color two decades ago -- is Showtime's best and most binge-worthy series in a long time. The ease with which the show works belies the difficulty of its feat. Creator, writer and executive producer Dave Holstein (I'm Dying Up Here, Raising Hope, Weeds) and director and executive producer Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) have crafted a winning combination of searing humor and pathos, blending hopefulness and blunt reality in a way that's truly original.
Tim Goodman of THR was a fan both of Jim Carrey in the role and in the finished product that combined comedy with darkness. Kidding is hardly the first dramedy to hit the airwaves, but that Goodman deems in "truly original" bodes well for viewers looking for something new. "Binge-worthy" is a vital compliment nowadays, as many viewers prefer to consume their TV content via marathon rather than one episode at a time.
The result is 'Kidding,' Showtime's new drama slash comedy from 'Weeds' producer Dave Holstein, about a kid's show host trying to stay positive through a fog of grief no less. It tries to capture the kind of strange and bruising tone that made 'Eternal Sunshine' so good; sometimes, it even succeeds. But more often than not, 'Kidding' feels caught between too many tones and ideas to become quite as distinctive as it could be. The series vacillates between uplifting anecdotes about the endless possibilities of kindness and deeply depressing shots of existential bleakness -- sometimes on purpose; sometimes, not so much.
For Caroline Framke at Variety, Kidding was less successful in balancing the highs and the lows. Any positive comparison to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a good thing, but this critic believes that Kidding is bogged down by its ideas, and it doesn't truly stand out as a result. Although she acknowledges the drama and the comedy, she seems to indicate that the show doesn't always balance them well.
At first, 'Kidding' feels like a far-too-slow and misguided show, at once too strange and too familiar, yet another story of a sad, middle-aged white man coming to terms with his own reality. It's often too somber as comedy and too shallow to be drama. But there are moments when the series starts maximizing its full, talented cast and turns the odd into the oddly fascinating, and they remind you why Carrey is a star.
At USA Today, Kelly Lawler has her own thoughts about what works and what doesn't with Kidding. For her, Kidding doesn't get off to a particularly strong start and seems like something that has been done before. Nevertheless, the series picks up and the cast makes the most of the material, proving that this show is indeed a showcase for Jim Carrey's talents.
Even during the height of his movie career, Carrey was always a better actor than his comedic wild-man routine would suggest, as demonstrated by films like 'The Truman Show' and 'Eternal Sunshine.' To the extent that 'Kidding' creates an opportunity to indulge both of those halves -- to wear both the comedy and tragedy masks -- it's a nifty wedding of talent and material.
Brian Lowry at CNN is also complimentary of Jim Carrey and acknowledges the serious side of Carrey as a performer that is sometimes forgotten due to his legacy as a larger-than-life comedic actor. To him, Kidding shows Carrey's comedic and tragic sides in the best way.
Carrey's worth the price of admission, though, even if it's not the TV comeback vehicle many of his fans would want. Heck, he'd probably be a huge hit just hosting a full-length version of the show within the show, rather than this version that only gives us innocent glimpses amidst all the mourning. But like Jeff Pickles, Carrey wants to lean into the harder parts of life. More often than not with Kidding, he succeeds.
Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall goes so far as to suggest that Kidding could be a hit even if it was just Jim Carrey performing episodes of Jeff Pickles' show. He does note that it's possibly not the show that some fans would have wanted of him.
What happens is that you get another post-comedy comedy, which means Kidding is melancholy more often than laugh-out-loud funny, and well-acted even if some of its character development is lacking. More than anything else, it's a showcase for Carrey, who returns to television in a regular role for the first time since In Living Color, no doubt lured by the prospect of bringing to life yet another off-kilter protagonist. (Jim Carrey playing someone who's a little odd? Never!)
Jen Chaney at Vulture is another critic who believes that the cast elevates the material beyond a shortage of character development. Jim Carrey may not be returning to television for In Living Color 2.0, but all signs point to a performance that makes Kidding worth at least trying.
If Kidding sounds right up your alley as one of the offerings of the fall TV lineup, you can catch new episodes on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. If you don't want to wait until the September 9 premiere date, you can watch the series premiere for free now.