Jeff Goldblum digs into the history and appeal of a variety of topics, including pools, jewellery, coffee and gaming, meeting people who are enthusiastic and channelling his own curiosity about the world around him. Along the way, he tries such varied practices as making his own ice cream and eating grilled crickets.
When you look at the list of subjects that Jeff Goldblum is tackling in this first series of his eponymous documentary series for Disney+, you might wonder whether he came up with them simply by pointing at objects around his home – sneakers! Ice cream! Denim! But in reality, the series’ choices were made by show producer National Geographic, though he’s happy to wander around investigating what makes them either appealing, or fascinating – or both, in the case of something like coffee.
Goldblum makes for a cheerful, daffy host, even if his real-life persona is little different from many of his big-screen roles. This is pure, uncut JG: working in person without a script, he’s often given to drifting off into singing little ditties. But there’s a real joy to be had as he sincerely indulges the passions of those he meets and throws himself into, say, playing the part of a lord along with a group of live action role players, wanders through a lush Oregon forest on the hunt for unusual ice cream ingredients, or uses virtual reality to become a tree, growing from a seed to a fully-fledged plant. “I’m a curious cat, for sure,” he announces early on, backing up those credentials with a silken purr unlike anything you’d expect to hear coming from Sir David Attenborough. Step up your game, Dave.
Your appreciation for the show will entirely depend on your appetite for the presenter’s singular style.
At a swift 30 minutes each, the mini documentaries would never claim to offer the same sort of deep dive for real detail you’d expect Ken Burns to pour into his work, as this is strictly fluffy infotainment. Yet there’s something to be said for the natural ebullience of Goldblum as he gently interrogates his interviewees like an afghan hound nuzzling their hand. And if you were to start a drinking game of whether the host will end up hugging someone each episode, you would be buzzed early on.
Naturally, there are references to Goldblum’s cinematic CV (Jurassic Park most frequently, though there are nuggets for Fly fans) and plenty of charm to be found in both his onscreen appearances and his bubbly narration. More factual information is delivered via vivid animation that has you wondering if this is what the inside of Goldblum’s brain looks like — all buzzy, shifting graphics and side trips into off-topic jokes. Credit also for not ignoring discussion of more divisive topics, such as the brain-threatening warnings about caffeine or video games.
If there’s a downside, it’s that this is the sort of quick-take show that feels a better fit for short YouTube videos, and not something Disney should be throwing resources towards (though the company has already ordered a second run, so clearly there’s been some viewership). And, of course, your appreciation for the show will entirely depend on your appetite for the presenter’s singular style; if he tends to itch your brain more than stimulate it, then this is one you should probably avoid. Goldblumaphiles, meanwhile, wallow, um, ah… away.
Breezy and bright, this is the sort of diversion you’ll probably turn to after you’ve watched other things on the streaming service. Yet there’s real happiness – and some actual facts – to be gleaned.