“I’m listening”—Jeff Pickles’ message to the children of America came during what could be considered both the best and worst moment simultaneously of his career. The speech he gave at the Christmas Tree lighting in Washington D.C., the one nobody wanted him to give, cost him his career it seems. PBS pulled the plug on the long-running franchise after Jeff went rogue and gave a speech he felt he had to, both for himself and for everyone listening. His heartfelt words were filled with a level of truth about our society and the way we treat and act towards our children. We give them an unhealthy lifestyle, we only half listen (if at all) to their wants, needs, and stories, we place unhealthy expectations on them, and we expect them to be better than us, to fulfill our lost dreams, all with just a shred of our attention. We aren’t listening to them; we’re too busy trying to write the stories of their young lives. We aren’t listening. This could’ve been the best moment of Jeff’s career because the children heard him loud and clear, and their response was clear: all they wanted was to be heard. Mr. Pickles, through his journey of healing, had stumbled upon what children from all over had been seeking, and once again, he could be that hero for all.
During Jeff’s impassioned speech, he said the words “I killed my son by not listening.” This admission might sound drastic in nature, but was exactly what his surviving son and estranged wife wanted to hear. Jeff hadn’t listened to them before either, either before Phil’s death or after, when their pain was overwhelming. Somewhere along the way, even Seb’s guard dropped; perhaps finally understanding that despite thinking he was always doing right by his kids, he too had failed to listen to them.
Jeff and Jill’s improving relationship has been spotlighted heavily over the past few episodes. We see Jill watching the episode where Jeff discusses death from earlier this season, and we get to see both Jeff and Jill’s reaction. Jeff is an emotional wreck, with feelings from all areas of his life catching up to him, yet Jill sees what we see—Jeff is trying to work through his pain. Jill calls Jeff and tells him that she watched the show, which makes him happy. She still makes him happy. We cut to a scene of Jeff and Jill playing on a snow-covered baseball field innocently, and Jill tells Jeff that he can come visit anytime.
About halfway through the episode, Will hears a house party going on next door in the house his father owns but does not stay in. Will goes over and winds up in the master bedroom, making out with the same girl we’ve seen with his group for most of the season now. Next door, Jill tells Peter that Jeff is stopping by and Peter, unable to sleep, heads next door to tell the loud party that they need to quiet down. As Peter weaves through the pot-smoking teenagers, he finds himself upstairs, where he walks in on Will and the girl making out. Unfazed, Peter’s attention was solely on the array of Mr. Pickles outfits in the closet.
It appeared the dramatic confrontation we would get would be between Jeff and Peter, as Peter left the party and saw Jeff outside. Peter did confront Jeff, telling him that he knows Jeff and Jill still love each other, but it’s time for Jeff to move on. In a scene that seemed to continue Jeff’s personal growth, Jeff confided in Peter his greatest fear: another man raising his son; a fear most men could relate to. Jeff told Peter that he was a good man, and the two men seemed to reach a place of acceptance, the beginnings of a healthy relationship until Peter offered Jeff a joint. Jeff’s calm declining of the offer was followed by the cliffhanger of the season: Jeff running over Peter with his car.
I really had to sit with that ending for a moment, to appreciate the beauty in the still-fractured Mr. Pickles. We saw a lot of healing from Jeff this season, and his speech (which I’ll get into more soon) was a truly beautiful moment from a man trying to find his way to the other side of some serious pain. Jeff’s words, “I’m listening,” rang in his head here, knowing that his son Will does listen to Peter, and Will has already run into issues because of smoking pot. Does Jeff blame Peter for those issues, or was he angry that Peter could be making a bad situation worse? To see Mr. Pickles both at the beginning of the episode taking a stand for children everywhere and by episode’s end, be the fiercely protective father, brilliantly showed how fractured Jeff still is yet what is truly important to him. Through his pain, Jeff seems to be standing up for the things he believes in, regardless of what the outcomes may be. He still feels lost, but he’s worked his way back to his feet. He’s trying to overcome his intense feelings of grief, but he’s just not there yet.
While this episode was primarily focused on Jeff, perhaps my favorite scene was Deidre explaining to Jeff how she creates new puppets. She listens to people, looks them in the eyes, hears them, and then she sees them as puppets. The roles people play in her life (referring to her father as God, for example) dictate the roles the puppets play in the show. It was this really cool moment to see her coping skills, her views on people and life, and how she really is the unsung creative hero of the operation. Deidre’s character is one I’m really looking forward to seeing more of next season.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this finale. A happy reunification between Jeff and Jill? Too clean cut. A strong bonding moment between Jeff and Will? That felt more likely. Would Jeff even find any inner peace, or would we end this season with him struggling more than ever? The fact that I genuinely didn’t know what to expect had me excited, and the show’s decision to show Jeff turn a corner yet still have so much to work through felt very real and appropriate to me. The final shot of Jeff looking up from the bottom of Pickle Barrel Falls, wondering how to get back up, was heartbreaking, in contrast to the beginning of the episode, which filled me with so much hope. This finale touched on many of the show’s strengths, ranging from heartwarming to laugh out loud to very real — an excellent conclusion to a great season of television.
It’s been about 8 hours since I watched the finale. Typically, I start writing almost right away after finishing an episode, but today, I couldn’t. The fictional character of Jeff Pickles, the star of a children’s show who has been said to have raised children from all over the world through the television, got to me. Jeff’s speech about listening to our children made me think about my own. Am I listening to them? Am I really listening to what my sons are telling me, or am I giving them less than my full attention so I can move on to what’s next? Am I writing the stories of their young lives in my mind, replacing what they want with the hopes and dreams I have for them? Am I listening? I, like most parents, would like to think that I am listening; that I’m not creating this distance between myself and my boys by not hearing them. Today I slowed down to make sure that I was in the moment with my boys. Other things can wait, but with my kids, I need to listen. Thank you, Mr. Pickles, for helping me remember what’s important in life.
We hope you’ve enjoyed 25YL’s coverage of Kidding Season 1! Daniel and I have had a blast alternating weeks covering the show and will be meeting up soon for a “postseason” discussion that will be made available soon on 25YL!