March 5th, 2020 by Karen Burg. Video: Chase Helzer

Main Photo
WROT Puppet workroom... Jeff Piccirillo/Mr. Pickles [Jim Carrey] with Viva Lost Pages, a new puppet for his long-running beloved children’s show Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time... All of the puppets are based on real people in his life. You’ll learn more about Viva’s touching story further in the gallery... Photo by Paul Sarkis ©Showtime. All rights reserved.

Set Decorator
Don Diers SDSA
Production Designer
Maxwell Orgell

In his first series regular role in over two decades, Jim Carrey stars as Jeff, aka Mr. Pickles, an icon of children’s television and a beacon of kindness and wisdom to America’s impressionable young minds and the parents who grew up with him. But when this beloved personality's family begins to implode, Jeff finds no fairy tale, fable or puppet will guide him through the crisis, which advances faster than his means to cope. The result: a kind man in a cruel world faces a slow leak of sanity as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. --Showtime
Jim Carry shares,
“What I really like about this whole project is that no matter how bad things may look, there’s an innocence inside us that can never be destroyed. It’s always there...Jeff Pickles is a gentleman who has raised everybody’s kids for 30 years. He’s reached out through the medium of television to love people.”
But, as the series Creator Dave Holstein points out in a KCRW interview, 
“He’s the kindest man alive and a ticking time bomb at the same time...
At the heart of the show is a father who loses one of his identical twin boys, and is, in a way, stuck with the “ghost” of the deceased child around all the time.” [Editor’s note: The remaining twin realizes that now when people look at him, they often see both him and his dead brother.]
Dave adds, “...The show deals a lot with identity and duality...Something I came across when researching grief, is that there is a direct line from grief to identity crisis. When someone dies, you ask yourself, ‘Well who am I now?’”
Set Decorator Don Diers SDSA and his inimitable team* collaborated deeply with Production Designer Maxwell Orgell and his teams, Props, Graphic Design, Costume departments and puppeteers to help explore this existential question visually, creating a range of environments, from stage to personal, including some fabulous magical realism!
Don gives fascinating details in the video interview here, which include: 
... “The aspect of Magical Realism universe as mystery and almost a powerful spiritual force. The boy is into Magic and shares these concepts with his stoner friends. The writers provide us with an environment to believe in magic in life’s tragedy...”
...In Season 1, twin houses next door to each other. Jeff buys the one next to his ex-wife’s house to attempt maintain the life he had. But it’s only a mirror reflection, an empty shadow of his life before the death of the twin...
... Deirdre’s two Puppet workshops as a device to highlight her conflict. Her Identity as a sister, friend, coworker, creative partner etc to Jeff...and major changes in her life and home in Season 2...
... Almost identical Mr. Pickles Puppet Time sets in different many parallels and visual twinning throughout the series...
...The Mr. Pickles Puppet Time set reflecting Jeff & Deirdre’s childhood home...
...So many intentional “compare and contrast” elements...and Easter Eggs!!

Interview with Set Decorator Don Diers SDSA, held at R.C. Vintage prop house: 

Set Decorator Don Diers SDSA Interview about Showtime's KIDDING from OfficialSDSA on Vimeo.

Head Buyer Christine Staggs encapsulates the Season 2 experience: "...A season with much larger sets, requiring larger crew and to work with special effects to configure some scenes. We had sets that were constantly moving characters and viewers between real time, imaginary worlds, and even international settings, with flashbacks and puppet sequences. At times, that meant a combo of stage and location for the same set/scene. We were constantly trying to weave these together, i.e. the ICU with partial wall filmed at the lake, and some of the art piece in the hospital in real time were echoing the imagery of the lake. Writers explored deeper the intricacy of duality when faced with changes in life which we reflected in some sets such as Deirdre’s new office and her now ex-husband’s house."
An example is this set change to reveal a person’s evolution over 5 years from meth junkie to going clean to finding and defining herself. And it was filmed in a non-stop sequence, which has gone viral on YouTube: 
CLICK HERE for Shaina's Apartment sequence shoot!
Don and team focused on finding not only signature pieces to enable the viewer to quickly define the changes, but also lightweight and easily movable for that extremely fast, choreographed turn around. 
So, check out the gallery above, with special notes from a cameo of guest Arian Grande as the Pickle Fairy of Hope...
...and the on-camera interview with Don...
...and the fun viral set change...
And enjoy!!!
Karen Burg, 


*Set Decorator Don Diers SDSA would like to acknowledge his incomparable crew, particularly:
Leadman Ken Turek
Head Buyer Christine Staggs
Buyer Assistant Danny Diamond SDSA Associate, Season 2
Art Department Coordinator Michelle Thieme, Season 1 
Art Department Coordinator Lisa Parker, Season 2 
OnSet Dresser Tim Gideon, Season 1
OnSet Dresser Austin Randoph, Season 2
Artist/Set Dresser Paula Zimmerman
Gang Boss Eddie Tamayo, Season 1
Gang Boss Phil Bufano, Season 2
...And his great resources, especially the following SDSA Business Members:
Chris Art Resource
Enchanted Studio Props
Hollywood Cinema Arts
Hollywood Studio Gallery
Alpha Companies Motion Picture Rentals
A-1 Medical Integration
Scott’s Mansion:
Modernica Props
   Assorted sets:
Advanced Liquidators Office Furniture
Dina Art Company
Green Set
History for Hire
Lennie Marvin’s Propheaven 
Modernica Props
Omega|Cinema Props
Practical Props 
PSW/Props Services West
RC Vintage
Sandy Rose Floral, Inc
Sony Pictures Studios

Photo 3
WROT Puppet workroom... Set Decorator Don Diers SDSA gives us insight into the sets for this disarmingly brilliant show... See photos here, and for even more details, see the video interview below! Photo courtesy DD/Showtime.

Photo 4
Swazzle, Inc... “This is a research field trip my crew and I made to Swazzle puppet studios, where we met with puppeteers/puppet makers, twin brothers Patrick & Sean Johnson... Great fun and fascinating research!” Left to right: Don, Puppeteer Patrick Johnson, Artist/Set Dresser Paula Zimmerman, Leadman Ken Turek, Buyer Christine Staggs, Puppeteer Sean Johnson, and the eternally curious Sy the Wide-Eyed Fly ©Showtime

Photo 5
Deirdre’s home workroom... Jeff’s sister is the puppet maker for his show, which has been running for 30 years on Public Access TV. Diers et cie established two different workrooms for her, the one at the studio, and a more personal one at her home. He reveals... “Artist/Set Dresser Paula Zimmerman [pictured] spent more than a week working at Deirdre's worktable. We wanted the keep mess Paula made on the table and floor to ensure that we achieved a true artist’s presence in Deirdre's home workroom. We used odd vintage bins, baskets, lunch boxes, and many handmade pieces to create the character and backstory of the space...” Photo courtesy DD/Showtime.

Photo 6
WROT Costume room... The poster...the puppets...the patterns...It's visual alliteration! Don notes, “We rented real puppet costume patterns and puppet hats, as well as partial puppets from puppet makers James Hayes and Swazzle studios...” Photo courtesy DD/Showtime.

Photo 7
WROT Puppet workroom... “Detail of the WROT Puppet workroom, notice one newspaper article taped at Deidre’s station. I wanted to acknowledge for her one the few times she gets a bit of press...” Editor’s note: So much more from Don in the video interview below! Photo courtesy DD/Showtime.

Photo 8
WROT Puppet workroom... “Jeff gives Deirdre one of Vivian's favorite sweaters to create a puppet from before Vivian's death from cancer...” Jim Carrey, Catherine Keener. Photo by Paul Sarkis ©Showtime. All rights reserved.

Photo 9
Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time stage... “Jeff introducing Vivian to her puppet namesake ‘Viva Lost Pages’. She is the Librarian who seems to have a knack for losing the pages to books. A metaphor for Vivian's limited time to finish her life story...” Ginger Gonzaga, Jim Carrey. Photo by Paul Sarkis ©Showtime. All rights reserved.

Photo 10
Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time, Season 31, Episode 1... The show gets a reprieve and is back after having been canceled in its 30th Season! And there’s a special guest for the first episode of the 31st Season... Ariana Grande as Picola Grande, The Pickle Fairy of Hope... Photo by Beth Corey Dubber ©Showtime. All rights reserved.

Photo 11
Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time returns... The comeback is noted... Jeff is interviewed by journalist Lesley Stahl... Don points out, “The Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time set in the background was, we find out later, almost a replica of Jeff & Deirdre's childhood home...” Jim Carey, Lesley Stahl. Photo by Beth Corey Dubber ©Showtime. All rights reserved.

Photo 12
Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time - International... “Here we see the Japanese Mr. Pickles-san as he is retiring. We would change out small dressing for each country's set...” Taka Arai. Photo by Erica Parise ©Showtime. All rights reserved.

Photo 13
Jeff & Deirdre’s childhood home... The Mr. Pickles’ Puppet Time set is a direct reflection of Jeff’s memories of his childhood home, pictured here. In real time, the KIDDING puppet show set was created first and this one based on it! Zackary Arthur, Brooke Fontana. Photo by Nichol Wilder ©Showtime. All rights reserved.

Photo 14
Jeff & Deirdre’s childhood home... Don & team jumped into the “origin” story aspect... “This is creative young Jeff's first version of ‘Pickle Barrel Falls’. He has the ‘Town Square’ with the fountain in a ‘70's parfait cup. The Lego cactus of ‘Confettii Canyon’ is on the right. Top right corner, on a mantle shelf sits a rocket ship top...Aston-Otter's, perhaps?” Photo courtesy DD/Showtime.