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The Midnight Gospel Review 2020 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
Creator: Duncan Trussell
Stars: Phil Hendrie, Duncan Trussell, Joey Diaz
The small miracle of “Adventure Time” in its earliest season came from creator Pendleton Ward’s ability to juggle ingredients that shouldn’t work so well together. The show was silly and profound in equal measures, treating that balance as the ultimate yin and yang. “The Midnight Gospel” brings that same notion to ambitious new heights, shedding the pretense of a “children’s show” that sometimes hindered the reach of “Adventure Time” and chases big ideas right out of the gate. It’s mind-blowing in the best possible way.
On some level, “The Midnight Gospel” has a much simpler premise than “Adventure Time”: Ward and co-creator Duncan Trussell have joined forces to animate select conversation from the comedian’s soul-searching and occasionally boisterous podcast, “The Duncan Trussell Family Hour,” where he interviews a range of characters about their life philosophies and usually their meditation practices. At the same time, the pair have designed a beguiling fictional backdrop, with Trussell voicing a loudmouthed pink-skinned loaf named Clancy who inhabits an eye-popping intergalactic backdrop and owns an unlicensed Universe Simulator, a kind of advanced virtual reality machine that allows him to travel to imaginary worlds and interact with the various intelligent life forms he finds there. If that sounds confusing, just wait: “The Midnight Gospel” relishes the opportunity to catch you off-guard, and clarify its purpose as it moves along.
Each trip finds Clancy accompanied by a couple of drones as he uploads the video to his “spacecast,” which provides just enough of a foundation for the zany formula to take shape. Trussell’s podcasts follow the casual rhythms of organic conversation, which stand stark contrast to the outrageous journeys that Clancy’s subjects endure as he peppers them with questions. There’s an amiable, inviting quality to these interviews that makes engaging even if you don’t care for the theme of mind-body wellness that often courses through them.
However, the design of the show itself seems like a canny attempt to imitate the quest for clarity that defines the meditation process: Every episode approaches sophisticated ideas while stuffing them into an astonishing psychedelic cartoon, so that “The Midnight Gospel” forces you to push beyond the distractions of its many moving parts and appreciate the substance at its core. The resulting trippy sci-fi adventure is a feast for the eyes and mind at once.
In despite of the “podcast come to life” gimmick, the show also has a real narrative based around its dopey anti-hero and his quest to understand his place in a very strange universe. As with “Adventure Time,” the singular premise deepens over time, though with all eight episodes of the first season landing on Netflix at once, it doesn’t take long to experience the grand design.
From the outset, “The Midnight Gospel” feels like a series of familiar ingredients stuffed together and tweaked to the silliest degree — Rick and Morty on a planet dominated by buddhist monasteries and stoned dorm room conversations, or Clancy as an adult variation on “Adventure Time” angst-riddled adolescent Finn. Eventually, though, it settles on a narrative framework of its own. Having borrowed money from his sister, Clancy bought a plot of land in a strange floating landscape called “The Chromatic Ribbon,” where he hunkers down inside an RV and engages in a freewheeling attempt to make his space cast into a hit. Using his monotonous computer as a guide, Clancy routinely sticks his head into the Universe Simulator’s vaginal gateway and speeds from one world to another, pleading with the strange creatures he finds there to speak with him.
On some level, the specifics of these virtual trips matter less than in the friends he makes along the way. Opening title cards reveal the real names of Trussell’s subjects, and on more than one occasion, they refer to him by his actual name. Yet each world is brimming with so much visual invention, from ludicrous sight gags to inspired otherworldly visions, that the creators manage to make both sides of the equation work in harmony.
Trussell’s guests are a host of colorful characters who keep each new discourse engaging on its own terms, while their surroundings take innumerable bizarre twists. Even the most basic description of these conversations indicates just how loopy things can get: There’s Dr. Drew Pinsky cast as the president of a world overrun by zombies, cocking a shotgun while talking through the parameters of legal weed; there’s novelist Anne Lamott as a carnivorous hippo, recalling her path to sobriety as she and Clancy turn into meat mush at a slaughterhouse run by killer clowns. On an aquatic planet, Clancy encounters death row survivor Damien Echols — one of the “West Memphis Three” from “Paradise Lost” documentary series — as a fish creature who talks through his preference for magic over traditional Buddhist meditation and explains why he actually feels grateful for his years behind bars. Accidentally disguised as an erotic avatar (long story), Clancy lands in a high-fantasy realm with dharma instructor Trudy Goodman as an avenging badass, as she battles an ass monster with heart arrows while talking about the value of forgiveness.
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