The Midnight Gospel basically defies all attempts at a succinct description, but here goes: it’s an animated series that combines repackaged podcast interviews with some newly recorded dialogue and wild, adult animation to create a psychedelic experience in conversation with itself. And it does a pretty good job of it.
The show, created by Pendleton Ward (Adventure Time) and comedian Duncan Trussell, uses interviews recorded as part of Trussell’s ongoing podcast, the Duncan Trussell Family Hour, but not in the way you might think. The podcast is basically just a conversation between Trussell and guests like Dr. Drew Pinsky or Ashley Matthews about anything and everything, and usually features Trussell picking the brains of his guests about whatever they’re most knowledgeable about while offering up his own experiences and insights. The show is much more… elaborate.
The Midnight Gospel stars Clancy Gilroy, a spacecaster, who travels through a multiverse simulator to interview folks for his spacecast on various simulated worlds. These guests range from fishbowl robots to deerdogs and beyond. Gilroy is, of course, voiced by Trussell, while his guests are sourced directly from the aforementioned podcasts. The animation, provided by Titmouse, transforms the source material into a gonzo journey through the multiverse.
And the experiment here largely works, though some of the new dialogue doesn’t mesh quite so well into the old recordings, and the results cannot be denied. Pairing an interview about drugs and states of consciousness with an animated segment about a president navigating a zombie apocalypse or an interview about accountability and being an artist with one about a clown world meathouse industry might not sound like winning combinations on paper, but the final product is something else altogether.
It’s clear that a lot of thought went into the construction of these episodes. While the premise of each might sound ridiculous, every situation manages to dovetail nicely into the actual interviews despite the obvious disconnect between the two while managing to pack as much silly, over-the-top animation as it can into each second. At the end of the zombie apocalypse episode, for example, it’s revealed that the zombies themselves are actually experiencing something quite euphoric, tying directly into the subjects covered in the interview.
Overall, I’m not quite sure if I enjoyed watching The Midnight Gospel, but I absolutely can’t stop thinking about it. And maybe the point isn’t to like it, but to chew on it, anyway? It’s not like the interview subject matter is light reading material -- there’s a whole episode about ceremonial magic and Eastern traditions -- and the animation flies by at a pace where new, fantastical environments, characters, and obstacles are introduced practically every minute. The Midnight Gospel made me laugh, think hard thoughts about things I never have, and contrary to many other shows, I can already imagine myself returning to Clancy and his strange, imperfect spacecast multiple times in the future.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Midnight Gospel is set to drop all eight episodes of its first season on Netflix on April 20th. That’s right; the show is releasing on 4/20. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the upcoming animated series right here.