The Midnight Gospel marries interview podcasts with psychedelic animation. But it’s not just that, the interviews are conducted by Duncan Trussell and on the animation side of things we’ve got Pendleton Ward known for the legendary Adventure Time.
This combination is a match made in heaven with great visuals along with philosophical rants making you feel like you’re high long after you’ve run out of bud during this pandemic. The show really couldn’t come at a better time.
So what’s the context?
The show follows Clancy, a character who goes around different galaxies to interview select characters in each galaxy. And you guessed it each character is an actual real person talking about something existential, as the world around them seems to crumble, in some way.
In the first episode, we interview Glasses Man who is actually Dr. Drew Pinsky who tells us about the wonders of meditation on psychedelics, as a zombie-apocalypse rages on. Other episodes include Anne LaMott, Damien Echols and Caitlin Doughty, and many more.
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The way the show is structured makes it feel like you’re watching something both intimate and innovative as well as extremely artistic at all times. One can only hope that a sort of director’s cut narrative might be released with Trussell and Ward’s commentary.
In the meantime what are some of the things that make the show what it is?
The Chromatic Ribbon
In an interview with Comicbook.com, Duncan Trussell explains that the show’s reality was fully developed, with storylines, explanations of the science of each world, along with its economies. You name it they thought of it. But here’s the catch, you don’t get it all explained to you.
“I spent a long time building the world of The Chromatic Ribbon knowing that many aspects of that world, the lore of the world, the certain history of the world, the way the simulators work, the way the economy in that world works, the way it’s connected to our world…”
“I know everything about The Chromatic Ribbon, and, intentionally, we decided not to go through what that world is or its history, but to let that kind of evolve through the series.”
Like many great worlds, think Westeros and Middle Earth, Azeroth, and the Star Wars Galaxies, The Chromatic Ribbon is introduced and built slowly from a linear perspective where we must uncover things as Clancy moves around and enters each world.
Keeping things vague helps future worlds and storylines stay both relevant and logical. We all hate plot holes. Some of the best ways to keep things vague are by dropping you mid-world with no official guidance.
That official guide is usually a narrator. Trussell explained that having a narrator in a complex world such as the Chromatic Ribbon might provide clarity for the audience but it can also feel cheap and almost insulting to audiences who otherwise would’ve liked to discover the meanings and structures of the world on their own.
Or even make up their own meanings.
Duncan Trussell said they toyed with the idea of including a narrator for quite some time.
“If done correctly, it can give it this legendary, mythical feel, but by now it’s a trope, and at the very worst it can seem just lazy. Or even worse than that, it can seem almost condescending, like you don’t believe that the audience will be able to assemble what’s happening in a way that makes sense to them.”
“So we decided. We’ve thought about David Lynch a lot and how some of his shows. It’s just like suddenly you’re just dropped into the deep end of a world that feels completely alien to our world with very little exposition, and you have to make your own decisions about what that world is. It’s an empowering feeling, somewhat frustrating sometimes, but that mystery is really powerful.”
Some of the best content ever created has multiple layers of entertainment. In the TV industry, this is often called complex narratives. On the internet its often called millennial or Gen Z humor.
You know when multiple memes are stacked on each other, where part of it is referencing a vine and somehow we get this full circle joke that now lives on Twitter?
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Anyway, with the show’s audio having deep philosophical conversations that often discuss quite painful and existential topics, the juxtaposition of an absurd reality with great colorful animation can be truly welcome.
“When we were thinking about this show, we were thinking about how it would be nice to make a show where if on one level, you just want to enjoy bright colors and psychedelic madness and cartoony cute violence, you could. You don’t have to listen to the podcast conversation.”
“But then on another level, if you want to tune in to what Anne LaMott was talking about, which is a pretty powerful and for some people a very painful topic, which is just the reality of our mortality, and just coming to terms with that in a way that isn’t turning our backs on that truth through booze or drugs or numbing ourselves just with our own ignorance. You could tune into that, too.”
The beauty of the Midnight Gospel is that you can either hone in on the deep thoughts of the podcast, or you can instead mindlessly tune in and out of what feels like a rant while you watch the beauty of the Chromatic Ribbon. Or perhaps you can do both, seeing the connection of the visual with the concepts of the auditory.
Whatever you decide to do, you’ll definitely have plenty to appreciate.