It’s no secret that even though we all know Jim Carrey from his goofy comedies, the actor has had some pretty dark roles over the years. Just think of films like The Cable Guy or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It was in that latter movie that director Michel Gondry saw the tears of a clown, so to speak… and he’s never forgotten them.
The series revolves around the host of a children’s show, Jeff Pickles (Carrey), and his wife Jill (Judy Greer). In the pilot Jeff experiences an unthinkable tragedy, but must somehow go on to entertain the millions of children who rely on him, despite his own personal demons fighting to get to the surface. It’s not your typical rubber-face Carrey project; there are no “Allllllrighties” filling the numerous deep silences.
The character has a Canadian connection for Carrey though: while most U.S. reporters and critics are comparing the character of Mr. Pickles to Mister Rogers, Carrey remembers watching Mr. Dressup (Ernie Coombs) on TV as a kid and pulling from that. Well that and The Friendly Giant (Bob Homme).
“I had The Friendly Giant in Canada. There was a wonderful opening sequence where you come into the castle, and he puts the furniture out for you, and things are little, tiny, miniature. Mr. Dressup… he was on for, gosh, my whole life,” Carrey reminisced recently at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles. “Those are the things I grew up with, and they were just wonderful. They were wonderful.”
Of course it’s hard not to reminisce about any of these notable kids’ characters without recalling the sidekick puppets they brought along with them. Mr. Rogers had King Friday and Daniel Striped Tiger, Mr. Dressup had Casey and Finnegan, and The Friendly Giant had Jerome the Giraffe and Rusty the Rooster. Where does that leave Mr. Pickles? With a slew of colourful puppet characters that he helped to conceptualize, including one named Oops.
“We’ve all been very creative as far as the creation of the puppets are concerned. Oops was an idea that came to me when I was thinking how I could personify on this show, some kind of character that gives people the excuse to be flawed,” he said. “How would he give children an excuse to make mistakes? And my idea was that the Oops shows up in everyone’s life. So we’ve had this wonderful creative process developing the puppets together. It really is that type of children’s show vibe on the set when we get working with the puppeteers because they just bring with them this beautiful–I don’t know–appreciation of that simplistic, simple communication with children.”
If you’re tuning into the series to see a funny guy entertain kids though, this show might not be what you expect. It took a lot to get Carrey to return to any kind of entertainment spotlight, let alone television. It was the dark nature of Mr. Pickles and the unchartered territory the series takes that lured the former stand-up comedian… that, and another chance to break free of his former Ace Ventura or Dumb and Dumber mould.
“You always have to talk everybody and yourself into the next step, whatever it is. I mean, it’s just, you know, human beings; when something works, their instinct is to grab onto it and don’t change a thing and stay with it as long as you can. I’ve never felt comfortable with that,” Carrey explained about why he feels a need to do roles like these. “It’s like everything else. It’s really not a choice.”
Well alrighty then.