Jim Carrey as a Mr. Rogers type. Sign me up. It’s just nice to see him do something again. The premiere isn’t until next Sunday but the episode has already been posted online.
Synopsis: Jeff Pickles decides it’s time to talk about death on Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time. His executive producer, Seb, feels that Mr. Pickles the persona and Jeff Pickles the person need to remain separate. Deirdre punishes her daughter Maddy for not eating her veggies. (IMDB)
Writer: Dave Holstein
Director: Michel Gondry
Running Time: 32mins
Airs: Sundays at 10pm on The Movie Network (Canada)/Showtime (United States), starting Sept. 9th
Maybe it’s a coincidence that this series and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? both arrive in the same year? Jim Carrey hasn’t done all that much in terms of movies and TV this past decade so it’s definitely nice to see him in something that takes advantage of his acting abilities. Here he plays a man named Jeff, a man more commonly known for his other persona, a Mr. Rogers type children’s TV personality named Mr. Pickles. His arguably naive and out of touch, ultra-positive personality becomes challenged after the tragic death of his son Phil in a car accident. His life has gone on a downward spiral ever since, leading to he and his wife Jill (Judy Greer) separating and him living in an apartment.
This episode started with Jeff as Mr. Pickles celebrating his 30th anniversary on television on Conan. We also meet the puppet creator on Jeff’s show and his sister Deirdre (Catherine Keener) exercise her unorthodox parenting skills on her daughter Maddy (Juliet Morris) who refused to eat her vegetables by forbidding her to bathe. Jeff wanted to talk about death on his show but his producer and father Seb (Frank Langella) thought otherwise. Seb was concerned about the show and how it may be received and believed that Jeff should separate himself and his problems from Mr. Pickles.
We later meet the rest of his family, including his other son Will (Cole Allen), who were both embarrassed by him. Jill believed that Jeff was repressing his grief. Jeff stumbled onto Will getting a nest of bees to perform a prank and stopped him. The best example of the contrast between them was when Will scared away a family attempting to buy a house next door to theirs. Will stumbled onto a group of teens doing drugs on his brother’s headstone. As Will was about to join them, his father just happened to drive by and disappointingly stare at him.
A running gag in the episode involved a two person puppet and whether or not those two people were having sex in it because it smelled (they were). Jeff finally convinced Seb to do an episode about death. In order to explain death, Mr. Pickles used the idea of donating as a metaphor for death. Things got very emotional when he opened up about his own experience with death. Things then got weird when Deirdre learned the real reason why Maddy did not want to eat her vegetables. Her husband Scott (Bernard White) may be having an affair with a male neighbor.
Will chose to not attend dinner with his father, grandfather, and aunt. Instead, he pulled the nest of bees out of the garbage and placed it on his brother’s gravestone to keep it safe. It didn’t deter Seb who went there to place a rose on the headstone. Jeff was shocked when the episode about death didn’t go to air. Seb believed that the episode would hurt his image so Jeff chose to alter his image. The episode ended with Jeff moving in to the house next door to Jill and Will and having an uncharacteristic outburst after seeing Jill get cosy with another man.
Overall, this was an excellent premiere that will surely leave some viewers feeling confused. When they see Jim Carrey and Showtime, they think it’s going to be a super funny comedy but this series just isn’t. It’s a series about a man who just happens to be a children’s TV host and his family dealing with grief. There were still some funny moments here, however, this episode at least leaned more towards drama. There’s nothing wrong with that though hopefully further episodes can keep the right balance. Carrey is simply sensational as Jeff, giving an emotional nuanced performance that perfectly emulates a Mr. Rogers type whose personality and demeanor slowly wears away. He was compelling to watch here and it will be interesting to see where Jeff goes as a character. This is well worth the chance because of Carrey alone if you set your expectations right.