There is no one quite like Jeff Goldblum. That singular personality, that sense of style, and the, uh, particular cadence of his speech, are all part of his essential Goldblum-ness and what makes him such an entertaining personality, one whose popularity has seemingly risen on account of him just being himself. Goldblum’s specificity of character is such that he’s become the rare kind of actor who brings himself to whatever role he’s playing. And as such, it makes perfect sense that Disney+ would join forces with Goldblum to bring more Jeff Goldblum into the lives of TV watchers everywhere with the immensely entertaining docuseries, The World According to Jeff Goldblum.
The realm of reality/docuseries/edutainment television programming has been relegated largely to the world of food shows as of late, many of which have traded too heavily on the notion of celebrity — either of the host, the guests, or both — often without bothering to have a central idea beneath the shiny veneer of famous people eating food in gorgeous locales foreign to most American audiences. Thankfully, Goldblum is here to shake things up a bit. And while, yes, he’s certainly taking advantage of his own celebrity status, it’s a position he’s earned over decades of work, and, as mentioned above, his endearingly eccentric mannerisms and personality.
But, The World According to Jeff Goldblum differs from shows of a similar ilk for more than just its free spirit host; the series actually has an underlying idea that it wants to explore with every episode, and it’s one that, in the episodes made available to critics ahead of the premiere — and launch of Disney+ — the show more often than not finds time to thoughtfully explore.
That’s particularly true of the first two episodes, ‘Sneakers’ and ‘Ice Cream.’ As the straightforward titles indicate, the series is interested in exploring the unusual importance placed on things in our consumer-driven culture, particularly why people are so taken with the thing or things in question — whether it be sneakers that sell for thousands of dollars or ice cream that includes pig’s blood as one of its ingredients — and what it is that brings consumers back again and again. And Goldblum is there to not only guide the audience through the history of sneakers and how they became a multi-billion dollar industry, or how ice cream’s seemingly humble beginnings have given rise to some truly bizarre and controversial flavor combinations, but he’s also there to tie it all together, make sense of it, and revel in the simple joy of stuff.
The series starts off with a fun little adventure, as Goldblum investigates sneaker culture, by attending a sneaker convention where millions of dollars in cold hard cash exchange hands as enthusiasts barter with sellers for some rare or highly desirable footwear. He speaks candidly and casually with sellers and buyers alike, asking them to expound upon the particular itch that can only be scratched by buying new or hard-to-find sneakers. The segment ends with a deal being brokered over Goldblum’s shoulder for tens of thousands of dollars worth of apparently rare and desirable footwear.
Throughout it all, Goldblum’s outsized personality keeps each excursion entertaining, even for those who see shoes simply as a necessary piece of equipment. And he’s able to maintain a level of interest among viewers by keeping the half-hour episode moving around to a variety of locales, featuring a number of interviews with people in the know about sneakers and sneaker culture. One segment features Goldblum with Paul Francis, head of sports science at Adidas, as they discover the latest in innovations for sneakers, before he spends some time with Jaques Slade, a popular YouTuber who does unboxing videos of new and upcoming sneakers.
By covering so many aspects of the topic in question, The World According to Jeff Goldblum is able to investigate sneaker love from a variety of angles, until the converge on the one aspect the series seems to zero in on again and again: pleasure. ‘Sneakers’ and ‘Ice Cream’ in particular are interested in the dopamine effect that can be elicited by tracking down, unboxing, and trying on a new pair of sneakers — or consuming a new or favorite flavor of ice cream. Steering each episode back to the notion of pleasure and making people happy — even if its through something as relatively shallow as the accumulation of or consumption of stuff — gives the series a through line that’s been sorely lacking in similar programs as of late.
For his part Goldblum was born to be in front of the camera as host of his own series, as his ineffable charm and million-watt charisma could make just about anything fun and engaging. Though it’s miles away from Parts Unknown, The World According to Jeff Goldblum is perhaps the closest new program to capture that indescribable sense of discovery and pleasure and to deliver it through such a wildly magnetic personality.
The World According to Jeff Goldblum premieres Tuesday, November 12 on Disney+.