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The Midnight Gospel Might Be the Near-Future of TV

Season 1, Ep. 60

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 questions 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 conversations 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.


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 so many of us are in quarantine. Innovative moviemakers could easily script and voice their stories separately, and then unite them through animation.


Does The Midnight Gospel work? We discuss. But there's no question it's thought provoking — The Midnight Gospel inspired us to think about real 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.

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7/2/2020

Do the Right Thing

Season 1, Ep. 67
Today’s episode revisits the 1989 classic that put Spike Lee on the map, Do the Right Thing. Over 30 years later, the film’s raw depiction of racial relations in Bedstuy remains controversial - every group feels aggrieved, lashing out with both words and actions. By the time the film is over, one could make a strong case that no one did the right thing. The bubbling tension under the surface during the hottest day of the summer explodes into a riot that feels unavoidable once 911 is dialed.Lee refused the urge to give the audience simple good versus bad character depictions. Singular characters act on their righteous impulses but are often guided by misplaced, unspoken misunderstandings. By the time Mookie throws the trash can through Sal’s pizzeria, his actions are about more than simply the death of Radio Rahim. The audience is given several reasons Mookie could be at the end of his rope with Sal and his family from Pino’s liberal use of the n-word to Sal’s supposed flirtation with his sister - Mookie’s frustration is macro and micro, legitimate and illegitimate.Although Do the Right Thing takes place almost entirely on one neighborhood block in 1989, it represented situations happening nationwide. Gentrifying neighbors and passersbys still have the same tense interactions with the black and brown youth today.. No wonder the film continues to resonate in the summer of 2020 as Black Lives Matter protests continue.Do the Right Thing is available for rent today on several streaming platforms.Episode Breakdown0:48 - Where did ‘Sweet Dick Willy’ get his name from?1:50 - Themes echoing in the modern day5:05 - Is Mookie a passive character?11:36 - Does anyone do the right thing?16:50 - Radio Rahim’s intimidating presence and killing21:00 - Real life police brutality comparisons23:15 - The shock of police brutality, camera phones, and Black Lives Matter31:40 - Mookie’s future and parenting in the film35:50 - Closing thoughts