Midnight Gospel

Netflix’s trippy The Midnight Gospel, from comedian Duncan Trussell and animator Pendleton Ward, might be a model for pandemic-era TV shows: It asks the big questions in life without requiring any actors to get too close to each other.

The series is about a scamp named Clancy Gilroy (voiced by Trussell), who uses a butt-shaped simulator to travel to different worlds and interview people for his “spacecast,” which is basically a podcast, about fun subjects like what happens when we die, why death is so essential to life, and what it means to be enlightened.

You can appreciate it for the deep, philosophical exchanges Trussell has with the other beings he encounters (voiced by guests as varied as Dr. Drew Pinsky, Damien Echols, Anne Lamott and Ram Dass), or you can enjoy the insane animated shenanigans, such as the zombie war in the first episode. Or you can enjoy both. The show mixes high and low.

It’s a cheerfully psychedelic series, with Dr. Drew explaining in the first episode that there are no bad drugs, just bad ways of using them. That’s only the start of the mind-expansion, which also explores magic, meditation, and Jesus.

Its formula — interesting conversations brought to vivid life through animation — seems like a very intriguing answer to the question of how to make a TV show at a time when most of us are separated in quarantine. Innovative creators could script and voice their stories separately, and then unite them through animation. It might be a good example for a lot of near-future TV and film production.

So do we like The Midnight Gospel? We discuss it on the latest Low Key Podcast. Your hosts Keith Dennie, Aaron Lanton and me get together (with no animation this time, sorry) to talk about our varied reactions to this very interesting eight-part series.

There’s no question The Midnight Gospel is thought provoking — it inspired us to think about reality v. simulated reality, and our tendency toward self-destructiveness. By the end of the episode we’ve covered everything from Animal Crossing to the Michael Jordan doc The Last Dance to, of course, COVID-19. Stick your head in the simulator and join us.

You can listen on Spotify or right here by pushing the arrow: