Sunday, September 16, 2018

REVIEW: 'Kidding' - Jeff Continues to Make Changes to the Show While Also Pushing Into Jill's New Life in 'Pusillanimous'

Showtime's Kidding - Episode 1.02 "Pusillanimous"

Jeff makes a rash decision that could affect the ability of the show to continue. Seb strategizes how to rebuild Jeff's image. The two disagree about how Jeff can repair his family. Deirdre tries to learn more about what's happening while Maddy is at her piano lesson. Will decides to let loose with his new friends.

Jeff has spent a lifetime being told that he is a magical and empowering voice for all children. He is the embodiment of everything that must be upheld and cherished in the world. He is teaching the right values to the millions of children who consume his show every day. He's a proud and loving husband and father. And yet, the show is analyzing how that perception and complete adoration can be corrosive to the mind. Jeff is in his natural element when it comes to simply entertaining and cheering up one of the patients in the cancer ward. He can brighten his day and make him proud of the shaved head he has to sport leading up to his surgery. Jeff can also make himself the butt of the joke by claiming that his sudden hair loss is much less flattering. It's all played as very genuine and sweet. Jeff is making this young boy feel good about himself. He is spreading happiness and cheer. It just comes with this child now believing that Mr. Pickles also has a brain tumor. That's the big lesson that he walks away with following this chance encounter. He may just see it as completely magical. Mr. Pickles came out of his television and into his hospital room to help him cope with the uncertainty that comes from surgery. He is going through the exact same thing and can relate to it. Jeff even plays along with it by saying the real trouble is getting back into the television to keep doing the show for everyone to enjoy. He's good at entertaining kids. But it's also an encounter that this boy has no idea if it's real or not. That can still be magical. The visuals and messaging of the shows we consume have power in the world. Jeff is able to help this boy through this moment. It's just not the instant fix he was hoping for by showing up at the hospital in order to continue invading Jill's life. That's much more traumatizing and complicated. He has no idea how to handle any of those complications.

But again, Jeff has continually been built up as this special person who can do no wrong. Every idea that he has is a good one that can empower children to actually express themselves in ways that are healthy and beneficial to everyone involved. He has a platform that means something. He has a family that are picture perfect. But now, he sees all of the deceit and destruction that actually defines his life. He believes he's the pillar of the family who needs to be there to support his wife and son through their own complicated lives. Instead, he witnesses a new man coming into their lives and simply replacing him. It was always creepy that he bought the house next door and was essentially spying on his family without them knowing. They are still left in the dark by the end of the episode as well. The final punchline is the realtor taking down the sign and Jill proclaiming that they are finally getting new neighbors. She is completely oblivious to all of the deception that Jeff has provoked onto the family. He has done it all in the name of being the provider he has always been for the family. And yet, Jill wasn't happy in that role. It's still unclear who she is beyond the simple definition of the woman Jeff is completely in love with. They are still very attached as well. They are only separated. They are still technically married because they haven't signed divorce papers yet. They are living apart with Jeff only getting to see Will once a week. And now, Jeff is so depressed to learn that he isn't all that necessary after all. That's absolutely crushing to him and he doesn't have the tools to properly grief that loss as well.

Jeff believes he can fix everything with his family simply by making a pie. It's the kind that his wife loves. He can bake this and it'll be a huge surprise. And yes, it will eventually produce a moment that is incredibly shocking. It's just going to come from the looming threat of him leaving the oven on for an entire day. The realtor doesn't notice it when she is in the house. Nothing happens when she is there. But it's a lingering threat that is bound to lead to some complications in the future. Right now, it's simply more important to meet the new man in Jill's life. Peter is an anesthesiologist who gets sexual pleasure out of licking a woman's toes. Jill seems to be enjoying that as well. That is more than likely something that Jeff would never have done. In fact, it's hard to imagine what kind of sex Jeff would like. It would have to be very simple and bland. That too could have added to Jill's frustrations because the man she married was too wholesome and normal. He could never really tell when he was crossing some inappropriate boundaries. Sure, she still relies on him in order to get a new vehicle. She invites him in when he stops by the house unannounced. But he is still very much trying to mark his territory by saying that he and Jill are still married. However, so much of it is an internal conflict for Jeff. He just sees a destructive guy who is no good for Jill. That's mostly because of him smoking and then littering. And yet, Peter has made his presence known. Will goes to him for advice instead of his father. That too is crushing for Jeff. It makes him want to key Jill's new van. That wouldn't be good and healthy though. So instead, he resorts to an inside joke that only he and the audience would understand by giving Peter the nickname of Big P.

Elsewhere, Jeff is finally understanding that there is an entire machine running behind the scenes of the show that actually dictates what happens. He believes he can just walk into a room with some grand story and they will shoot it later that day. He's delusional in that way. Seb keeps having to talk to him about the importance of the local affiliates and how they are inevitably going to air the episodes out of order. They have to deliver a product that stands alone by itself. There can't be a serialized element to Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time. The viewers are looking to Mr. Pickles for comfort and stability. They don't want a program talking about loss while making huge changes to longstanding segments. Jeff doesn't see the harm in a change to his hairstyle. Of course, he has absolutely no shame in just walking around everywhere with this buzzed streak at the top of his head. It's not flattering in the slightest. It's proof that he's so close to a complete breakdown because he can't rationalize all that his life has become. He no longer has any control. The facade has completely been destroyed. He tries to regain that control. Instead, his father asks the hair department to fit him for a wig. It's a hair piece that he is then just comfortable wearing all of the time. That too shows just how susceptible he can be. Seb is always having to manage his son. He has to be the calm and collected rationale for the show. But he has always been able to reign Jeff in. He can simply make the argument that the show can't go on production hiatus for six weeks as Jeff's hair grows back because that would mean everyone would be deprived of work and a paycheck during that time. As such, that's the simple way to keep Jeff in line despite the grand ideas he keeps wanting to pitch.

Of course, Jeff takes meaningful action by the end of this episode as well. Sure, his show isn't being broadcast live to the world. It's still just a taped segment. But it's clear that Jeff and Seb's disagreements are growing. Jeff wants to embrace change while Seb doesn't want to do anything that will jeopardize the profits of the program. It's a very delicate line that has to be balanced in any kind of entertainment property that is incredibly popular. There is a life beyond the show filled with merchandizing. Jeff doesn't seem to have any clue about that aspect of the life and character he has created. He wants to believe he can just introduce the topic of gender fluidity when it comes to one of the long-running characters. He just wants to unilaterally make this decision. Of course, it's a smart idea. One that is very relevant and important to the modern cultural landscape. Kids programming needs to embrace LGBT visibility in order to teach children that it is all completely normal and wonderful. It's a perspective that is very necessary and shouldn't be a big deal whatsoever. The problem here is Jeff just wanting to make the decision himself without thinking through the ramifications. Sure, Seb is a little old school in believing that this puppet has to be marketed as a boys toy. Him changing genders isn't something that can just happen. It will affect sales too much and confuse people. He is not well-informed on this particular topic. Jeff gets support from the crew on the issue. But again, it's something he brings up in the spur of the moment and then storms off set when he gets immediate blowback on the idea. As such, that only further proves just how temperamental and reckless Jeff is capable of being. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pusillanimous" was written by Dave Holstein and directed by Michel Gondry.
  • Deirdre continues to go back and forth over whether she wants to destroy her life by confronting her husband about his affair. She is gathering information. She is talking to the crew members who know the best way to know if someone is gay. She just has to ask. And yet, that would also be an admission to herself that this marriage has been a lie. It's destined to fail and she's not ready to admit that just yet. So, she may still be choosing to live in this fantasy.
  • However, Scott has to know that his wife has learned about his affair with their daughter's piano teacher and next door neighbor. She confronts the teacher about fucking her husband. That confrontation is bound to get back to Scott eventually. So, Deirdre can't hide from the inevitable for too long. That means she is going to have to make a decision about what she wants very quickly. This could destroy her life or it could improve it.
  • Will's new friends also happen to go to the same school as him. He is a freshman and they are older. So, there is always the fear that they are just picking on him or just trying to use him for some nefarious personal gain. But right now, their impact is clear. Will doesn't want to treat an extra credit portion of a test all that seriously because it's simply drawing a self portrait. But then he returns to the class during lunch and uses the teacher's food in order to make the portrait. That's going to get him in trouble.
  • Of course, there is also the idea of Will hitting puberty and wanting to know how to be seen as suave and impressive to the ladies. He is going to Peter for that advice instead of his father. Jeff has successfully convinced Jill into him getting two nights a week with Will. And yet, Will still goes to Peter in order to know what kind of cologne women like that will make him seem more desirable.
  • The cold open this week is the strongest comedic moment from the show so far. It highlights the depressing state of Jim's life while also balancing the fame he has throughout the world. His car is stolen and being torn apart. And yet, the robbers realize it's Mr. Pickle's car and immediately start reassembling it. He is a legend whom they admire. And so, they get it all back together in time for Jeff to come out in the morning to drive to work. It's so strange but very effective.