Throughout the 10 episodes of Kidding Season 1, Editor in Chief Andrew Grevas & Daniel Siuba alternated weekly analysis of the each episode. Now with the season completed and Season 2 announced, Andrew and Daniel are back, discussing Season 1 in great length as well as discussing some things they would both like to see and not like to see from Season 2. In this discussion, Andrew’s interview with Kidding creator Dave Holstein is referenced several times: Kidding Creator Dave Holstein Discusses Shocking Finale, Show’s Origin, Jim Carrey & Much More!, for those that haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.
AG: Really glad we’re able to do this look back together. Did you want to start with overall impressions of the season or did you have a particular topic you’d like to start with?
DS: I was watching little snippets yesterday and I was surprised by how many things I had missed. For instance, I’m not sure if you caught this but in the first episode right before Jeff goes on Conan, the mirror in his dressing room is shattered. It happens so quickly. It shows the Kidding title frame and then there’s a shattering sound and for a split second you see him in the Green Room & then the camera zooms over to him.
AG: I didn’t notice that. What symbolism jumps out to you there?
DS: The thing that I was kind of tracking the whole time was how there was this incongruity between how Jeff presented himself and then spontaneously he would destroy these objects. I didn’t realize the destruction was happening so soon. The other thing I didn’t catch was in the scene where Will is walking with the girl that he was sort of dating, and he said that Phil was always doing bad stuff and he was always getting beat up for it. When you’re watching a show about a child who has passed away, you want to see them as a “good child” that passed away. You almost want this positive nostalgia. As the show went on, we learned that Phil was acting out all the time and was very destructive, and that was one of those things that they were hinting at earlier than I thought they were.
AG: That is really interesting because I don’t think it was until Episode 8 I believe that we really got to see the dynamic between Jeff and Phil, Phil acting out and how in a lot of ways Phil was a child who just wanted his dad’s attention.
DS: There are lots of layers like that, that can be easily missed in a first viewing. How do you feel about binging versus watching week to week?
AG: I’m always a fan of watching week to week. Don’t get me wrong, I will binge a show but I really do like giving my mind a week in between episodes to fully embrace all of the nuances from every episode and the level of detail is more difficult to appreciate when binge watching something. Things get lost or overlooked. I know a lot of people disagree with that notion but I’m less likely to emotionally engage with material when I binge.
DS: It was interesting that Dave (Holstein) mentioned in your interview that he was a fan of the Netflix model. I can understand that opinion as a creator, wanting everyone to have it all at once but as a viewer, I felt I experienced each episode in a unique way because there was time in between. It wasn’t just tracking the narrative.
AG: I think that’s what I do with most shows that I binge is just track the narrative and it really does require a second pass through to pick up on the details that could easily slip through the cracks otherwise. Kidding is already a show that requires a second watch. Material like this is so emotionally heavy that it’s easy to get fixated on either the heavy emotion or in other cases the humor. Deirdre is a character I always appreciated more during my second viewing of an episode. Same with Jill. I wrote endlessly about how much I appreciated her moments of silence and how much Judy Greer did with body language. That is the art form of acting and I might not have appreciated it as much with only one viewing of an episode or by binge watching. I would just be waiting to see if anyone else got their throat slit with an ice skate.
DS: (laughs) That was probably the most shocking thing that happened. I just did not see that coming. With the way the video game music was building in that scene, I thought Jeff was going to flip out but before he even had a chance, there it went (laughs). Blood everywhere.
I really tuned into Deirdre from the start. It might be just because I like Catherine Keener so much as an actor. This might be autobiographical, but there was something about her quietness and how she also conveyed so much with her body, but in a different way than Jill. With Jill, it was more outward and extroverted but with Deirdre it felt like this deep, internal experience she was having.
AG: The flashback we saw where their mother left explained so much about the family narrative. I believe that was the same episode where we got to see Seb hugging the pillow in bed.
DS: That scene also served as the creation of Puppet Time. He’s creating this character to sort of distract from what’s happening. The really interesting thing is that the way that scene was shot was sort of unreal. The show as a whole plays with all of the ways that imagination can function. The way that you can create for others, like the song Jeff created for Vivian to help keep her hopeful. I feel like Jeff’s imagination was sort of appropriated by Seb really early on and it became this money-making machine and the family business. There’s this part of it that’s very unimaginative, very controlled and dominated. It sort of gets the life choked out of it and that’s also something that Jeff is fighting with the whole time. How can this imaginative avenue for expression remain fluid and still reach people, still reach children and not just be about money?
AG: In the beginning, the show made it seem like it was about Jeff recovering from the death of his son and his family falling apart. As we learned more about the family dynamic, we saw that a lot of ongoing problems were finally coming to the surface as a result of the tragedy.
DS: One of the things I really loved about the show was how psychologically accurate it seems. The way it portrays how families really can be and the way that people can react to loss. When you pull someone out of a family system, whether it’s because of death, jail, addiction or whatever, it upsets the entire system. All of the things that people were doing and how they were acting, it’s almost like these floodgates open and the system has to start over.
AG: What did you make of Jill and Will’s emotional progress throughout the season?
DS: With Will, it’s a little more complicated because he’s still growing up and so in addition to struggling with the grief of losing his twin brother, there’s still this sense of figuring out who he is. There’s this constant push-pull between wanting to be himself and wanting to throw off things that are connected to his father or brother, like the magic kit he throws out but he does go back and get it later. With Jill, it’s still a little mixed. I felt like she was becoming more accepting of Jeff. If you look at the first episode where she was still kind of a wreck and said she was going to go to her wine club and drink on an empty stomach. By the end, it seemed like she was becoming gradually more stable. There’s this other part of me—and this may have more to do with my feelings towards Peter, because his character is kind of a tool–he was just someone who she could fall in love with, that she worked with and that was readily available. It’s going to be more complicated moving forward. Did he survive getting hit by the car? Is he going to be incapacitated and that’s going to be another loss for her? If I was going to speculate I could see Peter not remembering what happened and Jeff being able to skirt around that. That ending left me feeling conflicted. Is Jeff making progress or getting worse? When he was having that conversation with Peter outside, I just kept thinking I didn’t believe him when he was trying to be cool with Peter being a father figure to Will. There’s this really interesting dynamic with Jeff throughout the season where it’s like he’s saying the things he thinks he should be saying but that doesn’t make them honest.
AG: I’ve been playing the speculation game also and I guess the one outcome I don’t want to see is Jeff getting arrested. No interest in Mr. Pickles getting caught up in a legal battle. With Jeff it’s very much one step forward, two steps back. That’s just what healing looks like for him. If you take the speech from the opening of the finale, he needed to say those things for him, even though it was self-destructive. He had to free himself of that burden. That speech was for Jill and Will and also for Phil despite being on national TV. It was that big moment we wanted for Jeff all season long. However, he’s also a very protective person and for me, in that final sequence in the finale, the switch happened when Peter pulled out the joint. I’m not sure if he was lying or rather trying too hard to force a relationship with Peter prior to that but once the joint came out, Jeff’s protective nature came out. He thought about Will already having problems with smoking pot and Peter paid for that.
DS: I feel like there will be some way around Jeff facing legal consequences. I could very much see Peter not remembering what happened or Jeff throwing money at the situation.
AG: I like where you’re going with the not remembering because it puts things back on Jeff. How does Jeff react? Yes he escaped the situation but what does that guilt do to him? It kinda brings things full circle, back to Jeff and how he deals with the demons in his head.
DS: I felt mixed about the speech. There were things that felt amazing, where what he said about parents and children as a whole was really powerful but there was something about the way he did that, that kind of reminded me of the beginning of the series where I felt like it was more about him than his family. It goes back and forth. I don’t have a strong feeling about it but it comes up, sometimes I’m still questioning his sanity. Sometimes I feel like he’s so deeply connected with people but then other times not.
AG: That’s a debatable topic for sure. I do think Jeff had himself on a pedestal prior to the destruction of his family and maybe he didn’t mean to but the way that everyone else viewed him allowed him to stay up there. His crashing point was realizing that he didn’t listen or pay attention to the things his children were telling him or that Jill needed him to be vulnerable and not a television character during the worst time of their lives. It felt like a realization to me and that’s why I enjoyed the speech so much. Granted he did hijack a Christmas celebration to do this and he also lumped in every other parent out there into his guilt, which was a little selfish but based on the children’s reactions after there was some truth to it. It was also very much an act of rebellion towards his father, which was an aspect I enjoyed.
DS: He and his father have so many moments throughout the season where they aren’t really confrontations but these detached, emotionless conversations where Jeff says what he wants and Seb tells him how it’s going to be instead. Even when Jeff destroys his office, he does it while he’s gone and they never really fight. They haven’t had it out yet.
AG: Do you think hitting Peter with the car was a climax to Jeff’s physical anger or is there more to come?
DS: In some ways, hitting someone with a car is a detached form of violence. All you do is put your foot on the gas. It would’ve been different had he beat the shit out of Peter in the street. I didn’t think about this before but it kinda feels like all of the other ways in which he’s acted out physically, its like he’s not really thinking about it. Even with the lamp; he doesn’t say he broke the lamp, he says the lamp was broken. So short answer is that I think it’s an ongoing thing.
AG: Let’s switch gears for a minute. What were some of your favorite laugh out loud moments from this season?
DS: On the first watch, there were things that I laughed out loud at and things I felt were very sad. Then watching again, things that seemed much more sad I found myself laughing at. In general, I felt like the first episode was pretty serious but when I watched it again I really enjoyed the two men who were having sex inside the puppet. They were saying “oh it’s really hot in here, really sweaty in here” and Seb asked why it smelled the way it did and then later it shows them having sex in this puppet. That was just so absurd. I really liked when Jeff killed that bird. That was so satisfying, the flipping of the light switch on and off until the bird seized. Then when he tries to bury it, it felt so real, trying to cover up a crime and you can’t do it the way you want to so he puts it down a garbage disposal. Even though it was so heartbreaking and made me so uncomfortable when Vivian broke up with Jeff in front of his entire family and then they all just completely attacked her. It was so awful but at the same time there was something really, really funny about that.
AG: The breakup scene is the most humorous scene to me, it’s a scene that will always come to mind when I think about the entire season. It was so over the top, yet perfect. The characters at first almost seem to be out of character in how chorus like they are booing her out of the room but the more I thought about it, it didn’t feel out of character for them at all. It was hysterical and also extremely sad at the same time, which is kind of the show in a nutshell.
As a viewer, what do you want to see out of Season 2?
DS: There’s some part of me that wants to see Seb as more human and that wants to see him come down a little bit. A confrontation between Seb and Jeff. There’s part of me that wanted more resolve to Deirdre and Scott’s marriage. It doesn’t seem like there’s going to be a clean-cut resolution. What I’m most fearful of, what I don’t want the show to lose is the way that it merges imagination and reality together. It’s really integral to how the story is told and I think there’s part of me that’s nervous that the show will become too narrative heavy. The story is told in this childlike, dreamlike way and that continuing is something I’m more concerned about than “what happens”.
AG: I see where you’re coming from with your concerns but I have a feeling, based off my interview with Dave and what he cited as his favorite memories of Season 1 that the dreamlike quality of the show is here to stay. As far as Season 2 goes, Deirdre is probably the character I’m most concerned about. While I’m fond of how a lot of things in this show feel true to life, Deirdre’s martial situation staying in this holding pattern of denial won’t make for exciting television in another season. In the first season, you can justify the characters not doing what they need to do but how entertaining would that be next season? The moment in the finale where Seb went and sat next to Jeff on the couch gave me a lot of hope for them but that’s not to say there won’t be a lot of conflict ahead.
DS: I hadn’t thought of this before but there is a part of me that is worried about Deirdre. Compared to everyone else she is so withdrawn and so depressed. It reminds me of the comment Jeff made about how the quiet ones are the ones that make the news. The other thing I didn’t want to forget is how sad it was when Will was so inspired by Jeff’s speech and he goes to see him and he is confronted by the line of children. It was sad that he feels like he’s just another kid, like he couldn’t just go and cut the line because he’s Jeff’s son. That was really telling for where he’s still at.
AG: That makes their dynamic more interesting because from Jeff’s perspective he’s made this big, public overture and now their relationship can begin to thaw and heal but with Will not being able to see his dad, how much good did the speech actual do for Jeff and Will’s relationship? Was that big moment in the finale all for nothing?
Thanks again to everyone who joined Daniel and I for our weekly episode coverage, my interview with series creator Dave Holstein and now this Season 1 review. I know I can speak for Daniel when I say that we both really enjoyed both the show and writing about the show and we’re excited for Season 2!