Midnight Gospel, The

Tagged: TV

US animated online tv series (2020). Netflix. Created by Pendleton Ward (see Adventure Time; Bravest Warriors) and Duncan Trussell. Executive producers include Pendleton Ward and Duncan Trussell. Directed by Pendleton Ward. Writers include Mike L. Mayfield, Duncan Trussell and Pendleton Ward. Voice cast includes Phil Hendrie and Duncan Trussell. Eight 20-37 minute episodes. Colour.

Living in a caravan in the "Chromatic Ribbon" Dimension, wastrel Clancy Gilroy (Trussell) creates podcasts (subscribers: one) by illegally using a Universe Simulator (Hendrie) – an AI "biomachine that generates multiple universes" (see Computers; Multiverse). Selecting an avatar he travels to a different Earth each week, interviewing its inhabitants about enlightenment, Drugs, Religion, mindfulness and – increasingly – death. The planet is usually in crisis, with Zombies, Monsters, Aliens and parasitic clowns, invariably concluding with the End of the World.

The voice tracks are extracts from the Duncan Trussell Family Hour podcast, discussions about life and meditation with – for example – a former death row inmate and a mortician; some new dialogue is added to tie it closer to Ward's animation, particularly the episode bookends. Clancy considers himself enlightened by his talks but is repeatedly shown to be egotistical and shallow. The conversations might not appeal to all, but their juxtaposition with the animation adds to the overall surreal experience: one discusses the history of embalming in America. The final episode, built around Trussell's talk with his mother shortly before her death from cancer, is genuinely affecting.

Aside from the opening and closing segments, the animation is usually only loosely linked to the conversations – weird imagery presented in a babbling psychedelic stream of consciousness: it is often violent (see Horror in SF), but also stunning and sometimes beautiful. Visually a combination of Hieronymus Bosch, Fantasia (1940) and children's brightly coloured cartoons (see Absurdist SF), The Midnight Gospel is a remarkable series. [SP]

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