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Series / Kidding

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"Do we need another show about colors? Kids know the sky is blue. They need to know what to do when it's falling."
Jeff Piccirillo (a.k.a. "Mr. Pickles"), "Green Means Go"

Kidding is an American comedy-drama series which premiered on Showtime on September 9th, 2018 and ran two seasons, wrapping up in 2020.

Created by Dave Holstein, the series stars Jim Carrey, Frank Langella, Judy Greer, Cole Allen, Juliet Morris, and Catherine Keener and marks the second collaboration between director and executive producer Michel Gondry and Carrey, who previously worked together on the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

The series follows one Jeff Piccirillo, who for 30+ years has been known to a loving public as "Mr. Pickles", the perpetually optimistic and gentle presenter of the public television children's show Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time. In reality he is as idealistic as his onscreen self — but one year prior to the start of the action, a freak accident claimed the life of one of his adolescent twin sons and led to the dissolution of his marriage. His resultant struggling with the grief of both bereavement and estrangement is starting to affect his work. His executive producer (and father) Seb is out to carefully conceal this from the public, much to the distress of Jeff's sister (and puppet maker) Deirdre, who is having her own problems with a troubled marriage and the effects it's having on her daughter. Can Jeff accept and cope with the heartaches of the real world while still being the All-Loving Hero he feels a responsibility to, and wants to, be?

Note that the character page includes unmarked spoilers.

Kidding provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: "The Acceptance Speech" sees Jeff temporarily turning to working in a Fake Town retirement community that provides an idyllic version of the 1950s-early 1960s to its senile/dementia-afflicted residents, and pretending to be their sons, husbands, etc. as needed. In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey's character lived in a idyllic town unaware he was actually the subject of a reality show and everyone else (including all of his relatives) was an actor devoted to providing him with the most idealized life imaginable.
  • All-Loving Hero: Jeff is a deconstruction of the trope, as his desire to be loving to everyone — even those who hurt him — and responsibility to keeping up the image of "Mr. Pickles" in public start eating him alive over the course of Season One, as he struggles to express his anger, pain, and guilt in ways that won't hurt others. At the end of the season, he both gets his show cancelled with his heartbreaking speech at the tree lighting ceremony and hits Peter with his car on Christmas Eve, and thus Season Two is his Redemption Quest as he struggles to make amends and reconstruct this trope.
  • Always Identical Twins: Will and Phil (played by the same actor); the resemblance between them figures into Will's character development as he struggles with survivor's guilt.
  • Artistic Title: Each Season One episode has a unique sequence involving cut paper pieces that form the show's title, transformed from/into an object that figures into the episode, such as a Zamboni in "The New You" and a black-and-white cookie in "The Cookie". The Season Two episodes use the same technique to create elaborate, shifting tableaux featuring relevant characters from the episode.
  • As Himself: Tara Lipinski appears as herself in a key plot thread of Season One, and briefly appears in several Season Two episodes.
  • Being Good Sucks: Poor, poor Jeff is a living embodiment of this trope in Season One. He helps Vivian regain the will to live, and she decides he has no place in her life — but he still pays her medical bills. He does the right things to atone for his My God, What Have I Done? mistake, and he's completely cut off from his wife and by extension son and loses 60% of his liver. His issues with suppressed rage are partially because the world really does seems to be All Take and No Give where he's concerned. However, things eventually improve in Season Two and he manages to earn a happy, if imperfect, ending.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Jeff, twice, is pushed to this point: in Season One the culmination of his Sanity Slippage is his hitting Peter with his car; in Season Two he beats up the stalker who tried to burn down Jill's house and kidnap (and possibly worse) Will.
  • Be Yourself: This is the guiding rule of Mr. Pickles' official fan groups...and Jeff turns it to his advantage upon learning Tara Lipinski is going to play him On Ice (wearing a Goofy Suit). He points out that if she were to do that, she wouldn't be herself, and she agrees that she'll appear as herself in the show instead.
  • Bloody Hilarious: In "Lt. Pickles", Tara Lipinski accidentally getting her throat (non-fatally, but gorily) cut in the climax of Picklebarrel Falls on Ice has a result of a trick gone wrong definitely qualifies as this.
  • Bookends: "The Cleanest Liver in Columbus, Ohio" begins and ends with Jeff receiving a Christmas time phone call from one of the regional Mr. Pickles fan clubs (a different one each time), featuring a choir of kids singing and one wishing to talk to him personally. The first time, he takes it as he assesses Peter's unconscious body in the wake of hitting him with his car, the second time, he takes it as he waits to be operated upon to save Peter's life.
  • Chekhov's Gun: This series loves this trope. Just about every Previously on… segment will reveal elements from episodes ago that suddenly take on importance in the action to come, often in surprising ways.
  • Cliffhanger: Season One ends with Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time being cancelled in the wake of Jeff's public breakdown at the National Tree Lighting ceremony, Deirdre deciding to get a divorce, Peter and Will discovering Jeff bought the house next door to Jill's without telling her, and finally Jeff hitting Peter with his car on Christmas Eve just after he seemed to have accepted his place in Jill and Will's lives.
  • Contractual Purity: In-universe, this is played with and discussed. Contrary to popular belief, Mr. Pickles and his international analogues are not beholden to this, except in Japan where it's been decided that "Mr. Pickles-San" must take a vow of chastity. Jeff is a teetotaler, but it's by choice rather than obligation.
  • Convenience Store Gift Shopping: Jeff decides to improvise some gifts for Jill and Will when he unexpectedly spends Christmas morning with them in "The Cleanest Liver in Columbus, Ohio" — so he wraps up some items already in the house (including their dog) and presents them to the two. The thought really is what counts though, and they take it in the intended lighthearted spirit.
  • Creator Breakdown: In-universe, Season One covers Jeff's descent into this as he tries to work much more serious and honest material into his program, starting with a simple discussion of death in "Green Means Go" and escalating to rants about genocide, capitalism, and the like later on. Seb and company are able to edit all these out of the show while the former plots to effectively remove Jeff from his own creation, but finally Jeff seals his breakdown in the Season One finale by giving a wrenchingly sad speech about how parents — including himself — fail their children at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony, and later hitting Peter with his car on Christmas Eve. However, Jeff sees all this emerging pain and honesty as a breakthrough and ends his speech by declaring "I am listening" to his child fans, which opens a door towards rebuilding his life and career.
  • Cutting Back to Reality:
    • Starting in "Lt. Pickles", and continuing into Season Two, Jeff periodically has hallucinations/flashbacks to past events in the locations where they originally took place, which illuminate his situation in the present. For example, in "Lt. Pickles" he realizes the restaurant he, Will and Jill are eating in used to be the Asian restaurant where he had dined the night before Derrell's father's execution and had a bitter fight with Phil in via a vision that sees the menu, wallpaper, etc. peeling back to reveal the old decor.
    • Seb's subplot in "The Acceptance Speech" and "A Seat on the Rocket" goes back and forth with this regarding his budding romance with a woman who reminds him of his ex-wife to reveal "she" is actually a gay black man, meaning Seb's stroke is far more serious than he knows.
  • Dark Secret: Deirdre's is discovered and confessed in "I Am Listening": the charity school she backs isn't real and is a means of stashing embezzled money offshore without having to pay taxes.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: In the Season One finale, when Jeff's nature Beneath the Mask comes out spectacularly in public, it immediately results in the cancellation of his show...but the kids who saw him reveal his sorrow and his promise to do better for others love Mr. Pickles all the more, setting the stage for the "recon" part of this trope. In a larger sense, Season One deconstructs the concept of an All-Loving Hero and reconstructs it in Season Two.
  • Delicate and Sickly: Vivian, a thirty-something with cancer whom Jeff enters a romantic relationship with over the course of Season One. Sadly, his efforts to encourage her to not give up on living and continue chemotherapy treatments lead to her getting better, but also breaking up with him as she plots a new direction for her life, breaking his heart and making matters much worse.
  • Didn't Think This Through: This is a running problem for Jeff and Deirdre in tandem in Season Two. Because he's so idealistic and she is inexperienced, they keep making mistakes in trying to restore both their broken lives and the franchise they've been part of for so long:
    • Jeff's original decision to fire Seb and replace him with Deirdre is one he comes to regret in "The Nightingale Pledge", but it's more justified than the others in that he had to get rid of Seb's toxic influence and there was no one else he trusted enough to install as a replacement, and in the end, he does grow in positive ways for all the mistakes he makes.
    • The Alexa-style talking Mr. Pickles toy that allows Jeff to communicate with owners in real time goes awry when parents realize what it does and start complaining; it gets worse when the Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time episode about divorce airs and proves too much of a Hard Truth Aesop for many, and even worse when one user uses it to stalk him and his family with violent intent.
    • Said episode also serves as this trope because it's produced without considering that the Multi-National Shows don't alter scripts, meaning that all of them are opened up to complaints of values dissonance, which even gets the Filipino Mr. Pickles killed by the government.
    • To allay the bad press over this, Deirdre arranges for a 60 Minutes camera crew to cover the funeral that Jeff emcees, not considering that the hosts from the international versions might hold a grudge against him. She at least manages to destroy any footage of the resultant riot.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Some of the musical numbers in "Episode 3101" are staged in this manner with Medium Blending aplenty, befitting the kinds of scenes one might see on a real kids' show.
  • Divorce Assets Conflict: A key crisis in Season Two is that Didi and Scott's divorce involves one over who will have the rights to the original set of puppet characters from Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time.
  • Double-Meaning Title: The titular "Acceptance Speech" is one Jeff makes to accept both a lifetime achievement award and that he must leave Jill and Will behind and focus on his job.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Mr Pickles-San says "Stop! Stop! Stop!" as Deirdre bullies him into sex, but the story doesn't treat it as a big deal — until Season 2. Deirdre's behavior is called out by Mr. Pickles-San's brother, who accuses her of rape, while she insists it was consensual in "The Death of Fil".
  • Dramedy: The characters' situations are treated with deep sensitivity and seriousness, but there's plenty of room for Black Comedy, often due to the contrast between Jeff's work and his sorrowful private life.
  • Drugs Are Bad: As one might expect for an American children's show host, Jeff/Mr. Pickles firmly believes in this trope and is upset to learn that Will, and later Peter, both smoke pot. Jeff is so clean-living that, as revealed in "The Cleanest Liver in Columbus, Ohio", he hasn't touched alcohol since his wedding in 2003. During the Shared Dream in "Up, Down and Everything in Between" he even rages to Peter about his drug use in song. He does soften his stance on this upon being prescribed medical marijuana, which becomes a bonding experience for him and Peter.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The final episode "The Puppet Dalai Lama" has the show end with Jeff free of Seb's cruelties forever, more beloved than ever by America's children for his heroics, seeing his show fully restored via Deirdre reclaiming the rights to the original puppets, relaunching the international franchise, and healing his relationship with Jill and Will (specifically Maybe Ever After), and most of all able to healthily cope with his problems and thus help others with theirs.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Jeff's Dream Sequence in "Up, Down and Everything in Between" ends with him having this as, having made it back up Picklebarrel Falls with the aid of Hopskotch the Sasquatch, he looks in on his childhood living room and Seb showing his younger self how the process works with the original diorama the boy created. He realizes that while he created a beautiful fantasy world that has come to help many other people out of his trauma over his parents' divorce, that trauma and Seb's actions made reality a place he wanted to avoid, eventually turning him into a Stepford Smiler who couldn't cope with tragedies like Phil's death. Jeff realizes that he must break out of this prison and as he wakes up, fires Seb, who's at his bedside. This is a more realistic use of the trope in that it doesn't solve Jeff's problem, but pinpoints exactly what he needs to solve as his Redemption Quest progresses.
  • Excited Kids' Show Host: Mr. Pickles is an Under Sixes' Host, sort of a combination of Mr. Rogers and The Wiggles in terms of his personality and messaging.
  • Fake Town: In "The Acceptance Speech", in the wake of more heartbreaks and humiliations Jeff retreats to a job at a home for elderly dementia patients that is designed to look like a suburban community from the 1960s to give them peaceful, content living routines, where he plays the roles of husbands, bartenders, sons, fathers, etc. as needed. He's good at it and well-liked, but a conversation with a woman who is suspiciously similar to his long-lost mother reminds him that, just as he can't live in Picklebarrel Falls all the time, he can't find true happiness here either; he must accept his reality and cope with it as best he can. Seb ends up here after his stroke — and reconnects with his wife.
  • Fake Video Camera View: The first scene of "Up, Down and Everything in Between" presents the video camera footage of Jeff and Jill exchanging their wedding vows in this manner. The scene in question is revisited without this perspective in "The Puppet Dalai Lama", during Jeff's flashback.
  • Fridge Logic: In-universe, Jeff notes to Derrell the secretary in the Season One finale that Mr. Pickles always travels from the real world to Picklebarrel Falls via going over the falls in a barrel with a parachute, but he's never depicted returning to the real world — so how does he do so? Jeff realizes as the episode ends that — metaphorically — finding the answer to that question is what he needs to do going forward, and it's central to the Dream Sequence in "Up, Down and Everything in Between".
  • Friend to All Children: Though he struggles to be a father to his sons, Jeff really does love children and he wants to help them any way he can as Mr. Pickles, even if it means using Brutal Honesty that their parents don't approve of. It's something of a Running Gag that they seem to love him all the more for his controversial antics, up to and including beating up his family's stalker!
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Very blackly comic version in "The Death of Fil" with the burial at sea of the Filipino Mr. Pickles once the bitter mourners crack open a case of vodka and get drunk; beyond the serious rejection of Jeff by the others and even Will, Deirdre is confronted and chased by Mr. Pickles-San's brother, Seb hooks up with one of the female Pickles, etc.
  • Goofy Suit: Mr. Pickles on Ice features a performer in this to represent the title character. There are actually two suits created, which are later used by a pair of holdup artists. One ends up with, and is used by, Jeff's stalker.
  • Grand Finale: "The Puppet Dalai Lama" might not have been intended as this as the creatives didn't know if the show would be renewed for a third season or not at the time, but it effectively ties up Jeff and his loved ones' character arcs enough to work as one.
  • Grief-Induced Split: Jeff and Jill become estranged following Phil's death in a freak car accident. She raises Will on her own and moves on with a new boyfriend, while Jeff still dearly wants to reconcile.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: "Episode 3101" of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time presents the Aesop that sometimes "Divorce is for the best", which engenders huge controversy for the children's show and even the murder of Mr. Pickles' Filipino counterpart.
  • Hope Spot:
    • In "Kintsugi", that Vivian's cancer has gone into remission serves as this for Jeff's family, because it points to Jeff emerging from his sorrowful Sanity Slippage; Seb even indulges in Tempting Fate. Shortly thereafter, she breaks up with him in an insensitive manner, which makes him even worse.
    • In "Up, Down and Everything in Between", the rocket that can return Jeff and Peter to the top of Picklebarrel Falls finally is charged up via Jeff releasing his pent-up anger in song, but Peter prevents him from boarding it and taunts him as he leaves, meaning Jeff has to find another way up.
    • In "I Wonder What Grass Tastes Like", the terms of Deirdre and Scott's divorce settlement bring an end to the hope of the Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time revival being able to use the original set of puppet characters as the episode ends.
    • In "Episode 3101", encouraged by no less than the Pickle Fairy of Hope, Mr. Pickles, D.I.Y. Didi and the puppets glue back together all of the buildings destroyed by the earthquake, only to find that Didi's glue no longer holds as they fall apart again. Interestingly, even though the episode ends with half the residents moving away and Jeff formalizing his divorce from Jill, the fairy still reminds them that hope is worth having as they move on.
    • In "The Death of Fil", Will has one when he sees a dinghy that appears to have the third number in the numerology sequence he believes will turn back time — and reunite his parents — upon it, just after Jeff explains that Peter is going to propose to Jill back home. When it turns out not to be so, he loses hope and turns on Jeff for not working harder to keep his marriage together and "kill[ing] the magic".
  • Irony: After Jeff attacks Peter for using pot, Peter needs a new liver in the wake of Jeff hitting him with his car; Jeff donates part of his, and ends up needing to treat the pain from the surgery, so the doctor prescribes... medical marijuana!
  • It's All My Fault: Jeff reveals in the Season One finale that he blames himself for Phil's death, despite not being involved in the accident. At the top of Season Two he admits Peter's near death is all his fault, which is accurate, while realizing that he blames himself for Phil's death because otherwise, he'd have to blame Jill, who was driving the car at the time — and he'd have to be angry with her. As it turns out, she wants him to tell her that it was her fault, and his doing so ends up being the key to healing their relationship, even if they don't completely get back together.
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: In the first episode, Jeff buys the house next door to Jill and Will's without their knowing so he can be closer to them — but never fully moves in, instead remaining at his apartment. He subsequently says that buying it seemed like the right decision when he did it. Indeed, no other characters (aside from Deirdre) know what he did until the Season One finale "Some Day", by which time the local hooligan kids are using it for parties.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Josip is tough, grouchy, and involved in various less-than-legal activities in his native Croatia, but he never left behind his childhood love of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time, from which he learned English and found comfort in his hard upbringing, so he jumps at the opportunity to vocally replace the real Mr. Pickles in an Animated Adaptation when Seb extends a job offer to him in Season One. That doesn't work out, but in Season Two Josip befriends Jeff via the interactive Mr. Pickles toy, even counseling the latter on his failing marriage, and becomes the first Croatian "Mr. Sour Cucumber" as the international franchise is relaunched, presumably putting his old life behind him for good.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The back cover copy on the Season Two DVD set gives away that Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time is cancelled at the end of Season One.
  • Learnt English from Watching Television: This is how Josip, the Croatian voice actor Seb briefly considers hiring in Season One, became capable of perfectly mimicking Jeff's voice, having watched Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time back in the early 1990s. In fact, all the English he speaks is in Jeff's voice because of this.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Jeff has a lot of identical white shirts, gray vests, etc. reflecting his attire as Mr. Pickles, and loads up the closet of the house next door to Jill's with them when he half-moves in. Will and Peter discovering them in "Some Day" figures into the episode's denouement.
  • Loony Fan: In Season Two, an adult admirer of Mr. Pickles and all he stands for becomes disgruntled by the show's newly introduced Hard Truth Aesops and begins to stalk Jeff with the intent of murdering him and/or his family, with Will as a particular target.
  • Lying to Protect Your Feelings: Jeff is a firm believer in Honesty Is the Best Policy, but there is one exception with regards to Jill: he can't bear to tell her that he blames her for Phil's death. It isn't until the end of the series that he can bring himself to be honest with her about this, which is a relief for her because she's suspected he felt that way all along.
  • Magical Realism: There's odd touches of this in Season One, such as the ending of "Bye, Mom" showing a kid and his dog successfully going over a waterfall in a barrel with a parachute on it just like on Jeff's show, and Will's suspiciously good "teleporting" illusion, but the show firmly enters this territory in Season Two: "Up, Down and Everything in Between" features a Shared Dream, one of Jeff's impromptu Christmas presents to Will leads him down a path of numerology magic seemingly capable of turning back time, a Fake Town turns out to reunite Seb and his ex-wife, and the final episode features two instances of Time Stands Still.
  • Married to the Job: A key problem in Jeff and Jill's marriage and its aftermath is that Jeff's commitment to his show and his All-Loving Hero nature, along with his fame, makes it hard for Jill to see her and the kids as more than just extensions of Jeff rather than having a special place in his life, especially as it becomes clear that he has a hard time communicating with the boys. "The Puppet Dalai Lama" reveals that back when they were just friends, Jeff was afraid of this happening if he were to reciprocate her romantic interest in him, and explained as much to her. They broke up; however, he did truly love her and finally (with some encouragement from the actual Dalai Lama) chose to risk heartache by pursuing happiness with her as his wife.
  • Maybe Ever After: At the end of the series, Jill has not decided whether to accept Peter's proposal of marriage, and the last shot of the series has her and Jeff looking into each other's eyes as they jointly listen to Phil's heartbeat (in the chest of a marathon runner), possibly a signpost that numerology magic has turned back the relationship to what it was before. The creatives didn't know at the time whether the show would be renewed or not; had it continued, this might have been the plot engine for a third season.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the final episode "The Puppet Dalai Lama", Jeff recalling his wedding vows with Jill allows him to accomplish this with the words "I do" in the present during their climactic confrontation. In the past, the words were his vow to love and honor her, in part by being honest in all things; in the present, the words serve as his honest reply to her question "Do you blame me for Phil's death?"
  • Missing Mom: Jeff and Deirdre's mother was manic-depressive, and in the wake of both her and Seb having affairs with others she abandoned them. The children's respective responses to this event, but especially Jeff's, were the seeds of the fantasy world of Picklebarrel Falls that ultimately became the family business...for better and for worse.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: Mr. Pickles-San's attempt to light the National Christmas Tree in Jeff's stead when the latter leaves the stage right after his speech results in him being tackled by security. Season Two reveals his whereabouts are unknown, forcing his brother to take over the role as per the tradition of the Japanese version of the show.
  • Move in the Frozen Time: Jeff does this when Time Stands Still as he pursues Jill through the street festival in the extended flashback of "The Puppet Dalai Lama"; this happens again with him and Jill in the very last scene of the show.
  • Multi-National Shows: Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time has twenty+ international variations, and his Japanese counterpart figures into the ongoing storyline starting with "Kintsugi". They end up falling apart in "The Death of Fil" after the parent show does an episode about divorce that, when presented without cultural translation in the others' shows, leads to the government-sanctioned killing of the Filipino Mr. Pickles and great criticism of the others' hosts, who turn on Jeff during the burial at sea. However, as the series ends Jeff begins assembling a new set of performers, starting with Josip as the first-ever Croatian "Mr. Sour Cucumber".
  • Musical Episode: Two in the second season!
    • "Up, Down and Everything in Between" with its extended Dream Sequence in the "real" Picklebarrel Falls, as Jeff and Peter sing through their frustrations with each other — and in Jeff's case, himself as well.
    • "Episode 3101" sees Jeff finalize his divorce by way of a Wham Episode of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time, thus including multiple musical numbers that also serve to write the puppet characters Scott got "custody" of out of the series. Only the final minute or so of the episode breaks away from this conceit.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jeff's reaction to hitting Peter with his car, which serves as the formal start of his Redemption Quest.
  • Never Say "Die": Jeff's Establishing Character Moment is that he wants to do an episode of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time that will AVERT this trope to honestly discuss death. It is filmed, but goes unaired thanks to Seb.
  • Nice Guy: Peter is relatively forgiving to Jeff after he hit him with his car. It probably helps that Jeff also saved his life by donating part of his liver...and if the Shared Dream is anything to go by, it actually made him a nicer person.
  • "No More Holding Back" Speech: In the Season One finale "Some Day", Jeff gives an unusual variation on one of these at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony. He angrily denounces the failures of parents everywhere to be the loving stewards and listeners their children need in favor of using and/or neglecting them, citing his own failure to be the father that Phil needed as why the boy perished when he did, and noting that he's been used as a surrogate parent for years via his show. But now that he's come to understand that failure, he declares that he will be someone those children can turn to when they need to be listened to.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot!: In "The Cookie", Jeff gets a dreadful insight into Tara Lipinski's true colors when he discovers her pet parrot only says obscene insults lifted from her confrontations with her troubled sister. He's so upset that he kills the parrot by flicking the lights on and off repeatedly. He successfully hides what he did by making it appear to have flown away, but feels guilty enough about it that he tries to give it a proper burial. It's pouring the day he tries though, so it goes down the garbage disposal instead...just as the sun comes out. The sisters get another parrot in the meantime that promptly becomes another case of this trope!
  • Off the Wagon: Shaina's date with Jeff in "Every Pain Needs a Name" ends unhappily due to his being uncomfortable with the prospect of a tryst with a younger woman whose life was changed for the better by his show. In "Some Day" it's revealed in passing that she's relapsed into drug addiction, possibly because of this "rejection".
  • The Oner:
    • "Shaina's Transformation", a sequence from "Every Pain Needs a Name" (Season 1, Episode 3) is a two-minute Oner showing Shaina managing to turn her life around over a period of five years. Done superbly as a single take with the passage of time being implied by furniture and lighting changing, with Mr. Pickles being on the TV throughout (the TV also changes over the course of the scene). According to behind the scenes information, it took three days of practice, 50 crew members and a special set design to pull off.
    • Part of the extended flashback to Jeff and Jill's courtship in "The Puppet Dalai Lama" depicts Jill moving on with her life and eventually moving out of the apartment complex in a similar manner, as Jeff wistfully watches her from down the hallway.
  • On Ice: A major plot thread in Season One is Seb preparing to launch Pickles On Ice, a show starring a skater in a Goofy Suit as Mr. Pickles. It's intended as the first step in, effectively, removing Jeff from his own program/franchise so his deteriorating mental state won't affect it. Jeff manages to change it to Picklebarrel Falls on Ice with Tara Lipinski just visiting the other characters, but Seb changes it at the last minute to have Tara's sister play Mr. Pickles in the final scene...only for a mishap to leave Tara's throat cut (not fatally) at the end of the premiere performance.
  • Previously on…: Each episode post-pilot opens with a recap of events from previous episodes that are relevant to the story to come (save for "Philliam", which goes with a condensed version of the Tantrum Throwing from "Kintsugi"), often with Chekhovs Guns highlighted or revealed.
  • Produce Pelting: Variations in two episodes:
    • In "Episode 3101", the angry Picklebarrel Falls residents pelt D.I.Y. Didi with pastries when she can't restore the town.
    • In the very next episode "The Death of Fil", Jeff is pelted with props and ties from the angry leads from the Multi-National Shows during his attempt to eulogize the Filipino Mr. Pickles.
  • Put on a Bus: In-universe, "Episode 3101" of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time does this with all the puppet characters whom Scott won the rights to in the divorce settlement, forced to leave Picklebarrel Falls due to the earthquake that destroyed their homes. The ending of the series ensures the bus will come back.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Variation at the end of "Kintsugi": Upon seeing the TV is Seb's office is showing Mr. Pickles, Jeff concludes his Tantrum Throwing by smashing it, leaving a broken "reflection" of his face on the screen.
  • Redemption Quest: Season Two has Jeff embarking on this in the immediate wake of hitting Peter with his car, on top of getting his show cancelled.
  • Rejected Apology: Although Jeff is sincerely sorry for hitting Peter with his car, Jill sees this as awful enough for her to finalize their divorce and no longer let Jeff be around her loved ones in "Up, Down and Everything in Between", even as she acknowledges that his action was that of a man deeply broken by others.
  • Sanity Slippage: Season One shows Jeff undergoing this.
  • Secret-Keeper: Deirdre insists on being this for Jeff at the top of Season Two, the secret being that Jeff intentionally hit Peter with his car. By the end of the episode, however, Jeff has admitted the truth to those who most need to know.
  • Shared Dream: "Up, Down and Everything in Between" features this between Jeff and Peter as both of them are under sedation during surgery to save the latter with part of the former's liver.
  • Significant Haircut: Twice for Jeff.
    • In "Green Means Go", Jeff spontaneously uses an electric razor to shave a gap into the middle of his hair. Seb promptly arranges for a hairpiece to cover it, reflecting everyone's desire to hide Jeff's wavering sanity from the public.
    • In "I Am Listening", Jeff allows Deirdre to cut his pageboy locks (which she just admitted she never liked) off as a sign of his trust in her, as part of convincing her You Are Better Than You Think You Are; it becomes a bonding moment between the two as he ends up with a much shorter, more modern 'do.
    • In "The Nightingale Pledge", Will decides to get one of these as well, similar to Jeff's.
  • Silent Credits: Most episodes have a different song/instrumental relevant to the episode playing under the end credits, but "Philliam" and "I Wonder What Grass Tastes Like" are exceptions.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Leaning more towards the bleaker end of the scale due to it being about "Mr. Pickles" struggling to understand the difficult aspects of life, but it does work itself up to an Earn Your Happy Ending finale.
  • Special Edition Title: Fitting "Episode 3101" being presented as an actual episode of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time, the traditional Artistic Title is absent in favor of in-universe credits for the show.
  • Special Guest: Several appear over the course of the series; particularly notable ones are:
    • Conan O'Brien and Danny Trejo appear as themselves in the opening scenes of "Green Means Go" as Jeff makes an appearance on Conan. In "I Wonder What Grass Tastes Like", the panel of The Talk appear as themselves as well.
    • Hopskotch the Sasquatch, a Puppet Time character so tall his face is never seen, is voiced by Dick Van Dyke in "Up, Down and Everything in Between" and "Episode 3101".
    • Ariana Grande appears as this in and out-of-universe as Piccolina Grande, the Pickle Fairy of Hope in "Episode 3101".
  • Stepford Smiler: Jeff attempts to keep his Mr. Pickles persona on at all times while suppressing his darker emotions. This is justified in that he feels a deep responsibility to his public — and Seb is not willing to let him be seen as anything else anyway. He also sincerely wants to be an All-Loving Hero at all times but needs to realize that acknowledging and coping with his darker side and, as he realizes at the end of Season One doing more to listen to others rather than just talking to them, are the only ways he can be healthy enough to do so. Over Season Two, he comes to shed this trope.
  • Straight Gay: Deirdre's husband Scott is revealed early on to be this, though he denies it up and down until "I Wonder What Grass Tastes Like", and her finding out is the catalyst in the failure of their marriage, and from there divorce proceedings, over subsequent episodes.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: In-universe.
    • The titular mobile phone game in "Lt. Pickles" is a shooting gallery game spoofing Jeff's show by letting the player kill the puppet characters. Seb's disgusted and manages to have it discontinued, much to Jeff's frustration as he found the game an outlet for his growing rage.
    • "Up, Down and Everything in Between" features an extended Dream Sequence set in a "real" Picklebarrel Falls whose puppet residents, being upset and afraid of Jeff in the wake of his nearly killing Peter, are much more foul-mouthed and angry than they could ever be on TV.
  • Sugar Apocalypse: "Episode 3101" of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time has much of Picklebarrel Falls literally falling apart by way of discussing divorce and also writing out the puppet characters Scott has "custody" of. However, even with the resultant destruction and losses the episode ends on a hopeful note regarding the inevitability of change in life.
  • Sugar Bowl: Picklebarrel Falls, the principal setting of Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time, is a classic example of this — a homey fantasyland where friendliness and kindness rule the day.
  • Tantrum Throwing:
    • At the end of "Kintsugi", Jeff trashes Seb's office in the wake of Vivian breaking up with him, having just arranged to pay her medical bills.
    • Deirdre smashes up her puppet workshop's table in "I Am Listening" as the divorce proceedings between her and her husband become more complicated. As a side effect of this, she develops a glue-sniffing habit.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. While the obvious solution to Jeff's unhappiness is therapy of some kind, it's confirmed in "Up, Down and Everything in Between" that his family has never considered it as an option because Seb doesn't want to relinquish the control he's had over his son and the world the latter created so many years ago.
  • Time Stands Still: In the Flashback to Jeff and Jill's original courtship in "The Puppet Dalai Lama", when Jeff pursues Jill (she's on a bicycle, he's on foot) into a side street festival and calls for her, this trope suddenly happens. An astonished Jeff walks through the frozen revelers and even buys balloons from a vendor to present to her once he catches up with her and time resumes. In the final scene of the episode, and series, it happens again as the two of them jointly listen to Phil's heartbeat — said heart now in the body of a marathon runner — through a stethoscope, and look into each others eyes while the crowd of celebrating runners and spectators is still.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Spoofed in "Episode 3101" when the Picklebarrel Falls puppets turn on Didi for her glue failing to hold the rebuilt houses together.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Jeff's Sanity Slippage began before the action does with Phil's death and his estrangement from Jill, but various crises over the course of Season One make it much worse. The Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time episode discussing death is prevented from airing by Seb, his date with Shaina fails when he can't see himself romancing someone who turned their life around because of his show, Jill chews him out for financially supporting the struggling family of the driver of the delivery truck that crashed into their van and killed Phil, he learns Will is hanging out with a rough crowd and smoking pot, Seb starts plotting to remove Jeff from his own creation, his promising relationship with Vivian ends with her cruelly breaking up with him during Thanksgiving dinner, he starts having flashbacks to unhappy experiences with Phil, at the premiere of Picklebarrel Falls on Ice he witnesses Tara Lipnicki getting nearly decapitated, and his speech at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony gets his show cancelled. After all this, it's not totally surprising that a confrontation with Peter, Jill's new beau, on Christmas Eve would end with Jeff hitting him with his car.
  • Twisted Christmas: The Season One finale and Season Two opener serve as a two-part example of this trope, as Jeff hits Peter with his car and the latter fights for his life in the hospital even as Jeff has his first "real" Christmas with Jill and Will since Phil died as they wait for news.
  • Values Dissonance: In-universe the Mr. Pickles' Puppet Time episode about divorce goes over very poorly when remade as is for the Multi-National Shows. Apparently, doing straight remakes was never a problem for the shows before.
  • Wham Shot: In the final minute of Season One, literally as Jeff hits Peter with his car.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Seb's new paramour isn't seen after "A Seat on the Rocket", although they attempt to get in touch with him via text message in "The Nightingale Pledge" regarding their plans for a vacation, unaware that he has been placed in an assisted living community due to his stroke-induced dementia. Presumably Jeff or another family member will follow up on that, which would be interesting given that the lover is a gay black man unaware that Seb is straight and saw him as a white woman.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: In "The Death of Fil" the international Mr. Pickles counterparts turn on Jeff for doing the divorce episode without realizing that they would all have to do the same script as is, opening themselves up to the criticism he receives for it and even worse in the case of the ill-fated Filipino Pickles.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "Philliam", set about a year before the death of Phil, reveals how dysfunctional his relationship with Jeff was — due to his embarrassment with being the son of Mr. Pickles and Jeff's inability to listen to him and Will rather than just talking to them — alongside the backstory of Derrell, Jeff's secretary.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Jeff's sheltered/manipulated upbringing means he tends not to consider the downsides of well-intended actions, especially in Season Two.
  • Write Who You Know: In-universe. Deirdre explains to Jeff in the Season One finale "Some Day" how she's based some of the puppet creations on the people in her life: Seb is the giant Hopskotch the Sasquatch, Viva Las Pages is Vivian, Thump Thump is Jill, PB & J are Will and Phil, etc. Jeff wants to know which one he is — Sy the Smiling Fly or the clumsy Oops — but she says he knows that already. And at the end of the episode, it becomes clear. Having just struck Peter with his car, he says "Oops."
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: In "I'm Listening", Jeff convinces a despondent Deirdre of this when he hands over control of the Mr. Pickles franchise to her.
  • You Are Not Alone: At the end of "The Cleanest Liver in Columbus, Ohio", Jeff receives a loving Christmas time phone call from a regional Mr. Pickles fan club just as he's waiting on an operation to remove part of his liver to save Peter's life. Of course, they don't know his situation and he can't reveal it to them, making a boy's question of whether Jeff's been a good boy this year rather awkward (whether he answers it or not is not revealed), but it's clear he is grateful to know he is loved and needed. This continues with the letters he receives from kids in "I Am Listening". It's pointed out in "I Wonder What Grass Tastes Like" that Jeff doesn't have any friends in his immediate circle, but as an All-Loving Hero, Jeff takes what kindness he can find. In the end, this is his message to the children of the world: "Family is anyone who loves you." And he loves everyone.

Hope is the song when the world is a menace
Hope is an open door
Maybe getting back up again
Is what falls are for


Video Example(s):


Jeff calling out his son

Jeff calls out his son for being continuously indecent to a guest around the dinner table

How well does it match the trope?

4 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / CallingTheYoungManOut

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