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Series / The World According to Jeff Goldblum

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The World According To Jeff Goldblum is a National Geographic Channel documentary series hosted by Jeff Goldblum. It is one of the charter original productions of Disney+, premiering on November 12, 2019.

The series follows the self-proclaimed "curious cat" as he journeys beyond his world of acting and jazz music to travel the United States to learn and deconstruct the history and culture behind common yet much-loved — often passionately so — staples of modern everyday life, such as sneakers, denim, tattoos, and ice cream. In each half-hour episode, he crosses cultural, generational, and technological divides, makes new friends, and randomly bursts into snippets of song.

Shooting of Season Two was heavily delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it ultimately premiered on November 12, 2021 as part of the "Disney+ Day" 2nd anniversary event.


Tropes in this show:

  • Actor Allusion:
    • In "Sneakers", Goldblum is quite amused to be given the basketball nickname "The Fly." Later, when he holds his own in the street court game, he's also referred to as "Grandmaster".
    • In "Barbeque", one of his interview subjects paraphrases one of Ian Malcolm's most famous lines from Jurassic Park ("Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.") by way of explaining his work in raising insects as a mainstream food source for the future. Goldblum is a little surprised and lampshades this.
      • In the same episode, as Goldblum's voiceover describes how scientists are working on developing meat substitutes, the animation whimsically shows a cut of meat inside what looks very much like a telepod.
    • In "Bicycles", when he mentions the velocipede in the brief history of the bicycle he parenthetically notes it's "like a Velociraptor".
    • Advertisement:
    • In the introductory monologue of "Pools", he notes "What a life aquatic it is."
    • The first teaser for Season Two was released on July 4, 2021note .
  • Artistic Title: The title sequence for each episode uses the same logo every time, but the colors and graphics are themed to the subject of the episode.
  • Audible Gleam: Used more than once in "Jewelry", culminating in a Twinkle Smile at the end.
  • Birthday Episode: "Birthdays" in Season 2 sees Goldblum helping out with several real life birthday celebrations on the way to coming around on the idea of celebrating them.
  • Blipvert: In the early going of "Sneakers", Goldblum recalls the simple Keds of his childhood in voiceover, and how "several decades and a couple dozen movies later" the sneaker industry has become far more complex. On that line, there is a blipvert of headshots/stills of Goldblum drawn from his film work (ending on his cameo as Dr. Ian Malcolm, his most popular character, in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom).
  • Bookends: The song "Tomorrow" turns up at the top and bottom of "Ice Cream", tying into the Central Theme of the benefits of nostalgia, childhood nostalgia especially.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: In "Denim", the Opening Narration notes "No, I'm not the guy from the old Ghostbusters..." Goldblum's referring to Harold Ramis, who played Egon Spengler in that movie; in a magazine interview earlier in 2019, he said he's often mistaken for Ramis (who died in 2014) by people on the street.
  • Central Theme: The series as a whole has the theme Ordinary things are anything but, as noted in the Season One finale "Jewelry", and each episode has an individual one tying the specific appeal of its subject to a universal need/desire.
    • "Sneakers": People are hardwired to want/desire things that appeal to them to the point that Wanting Is Better Than Having.
    • "Ice Cream": In a complex and troubled world things that tie back to happy memories (especially those of childhood) can be legitimately comforting; nostalgia is not an inherently bad thing.
    • "Tattoos": Whether it's for decoration, protection, or otherwise, a tattoo is a means of self-affirmation for its bearer.
    • "Denim": Denim is a surprisingly universal uniform for people (about 50% of the world's population is denim-clad at any one time!), serving as a gateway to bridging differences. However, a pair still reflects the uniqueness of its wearer because it is easily changed by design and/or by the wear-and-tear put on them by their experiences.
    • "Barbeque": The experience of coming together to prepare and enjoy food speaks to humans' needs to satisfy both physical and emotional appetites.
    • "Gaming": Role-playing in electronic or real environments is a fun way to foster community and empathy.
    • "Bicycles": After decades of automobiles dominating and shaping landscapes and communities, there is distinct pleasure in returning to the self-propelled bicycle as a means of travel, especially in communal settings.
    • "RVs": Despite humans no longer needing to travel from place to place to survive, they are still hard-wired to do so, and RVs allow them to explore the world with their loved ones in tow.
    • "Coffee": The stimulant properties of coffee make it a "social lubricant" that helps bring people together in ritual and helps inspire them in other areas and interests of their lives.
    • "Cosmetics": These can enhance the physical qualities a person already has or transform them into something new — perhaps what they want to be. Either way, they reveal something about the person's inner nature.
    • "Pools": The weightless feeling of being in water recalls the womb, suggests a universal home (since humans consist primarily of water), and provides an escape from the pulling-down feeling of gravity and/or aging; it can spark a spirit of adventure or promote relaxation, depending on the activity.
    • "Jewelry": The base appeal of things that glitter and shine (going back to sunlight reflected off of water in the days of early man) is their suggestion of power.
    • "Dogs": The perhaps-unique emotional intelligence of dogs and their selfless devotion to humanity (and vice versa in the case of the latter) is what allows for the powerful bond between the two species.
    • "Dance": Dance is at once an passionate expression of individuality and a means of communal bonding.
    • "Magic": The fun of illusion comes in how bridges humans' natural tendencies for both skepticism and wonder.
    • "Fireworks": The Spectacle and danger of fireworks serves as a reminder of the awe-inspiring power and scope of the universe.
    • "Monsters": The joy of a good scare and fascination with the fearsome emerges from the human brain being wired to have similar chemical responses to fear and attraction.
  • Comfort Food: A major part of "Ice Cream" is exploring its status as this, largely due to its associations with childhood.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: This is discussed in "Jewelry" as a common function of it — i.e. wealthy celebrities buying/wearing Gem-Encrusted rings, necklaces, grills, etc.
  • Constantly Curious: Goldblum describes himself as "a curious cat" at the top of the first episode, and approaches each subject — and the people who build their lives around it — in a friendly, questioning manner. The subjects are specifically ones he wanted to learn about, taken from a list provided to him by the National Geographic folks.
  • Continuity Nod: To the host's career on occasion!
    • At the top of "Cosmetics" he describes himself as "no stranger to the makeup chair. I've been transformed into a tragically romantic human fly, a periwinkle-blue alien, even a grandiose mysterioso, all for Mother Cinema."
    • In "Dance" when the subject turns to the disco scene of the late 1970s a clip of him performing "the bump" in 1977's Between the Lines turns up.
    • The Fly is referenced again at the top of "Monsters"; later one of his interview subjects is special effects technician Phil Tippett, whom Goldblum worked with on Jurassic Park.
  • Creepy Crows: Goldblum points out a tongue-in-cheek use of this trope when he visits the gloomy "Flavor Graveyard" of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, which humorously memorializes discontinued flavors — there's a mock raven perched upon its entrance gate.
  • Dads Can't Cook: Played for Laughs as the framing device of "Barbeque", in that Goldblum is (supposedly) absolutely clueless about grilling and barbeque and sets out to learn the basics so he can come back and prepare a nice backyard dinner for his wife Emilie and their two sons.
  • Disability Superpower: Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's discusses how his anosmia led to the ice cream being so flavorful, as he has to put that much in to taste anything.
  • Edutainment: Each episode is as much about how Goldblum learns about the topic in question as what he learns, and its tone is cheeky and lighthearted. Screen Rant compared the structure of the show to classical essays.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Goldblum explains at the top of "Tattoos" that he's never been tattooed primarily because he's fickle, fearing that if he were to get one it might seem ideal at the time but become this trope down the line.
  • Enforced Plug: Two to promote the show: The December 5, 2019 episode of Jeopardy! featured a category devoted to it with answers based on tidbits from the first few episodes, with clues read by Goldblum. When Goldblum served as a Guest Host for The Late Late Show with James Corden later that month, he worked a plug for it into his opening monologue as the intentionally-contrived punchline for a joke about holiday-season traffic (namely, that everyone will be safer if they just stay in and binge watch his show).
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry / Gold Makes Everything Shiny: This is central to why people love them according to "Jewelry".
  • Evil Laugh: Played for, well, laughs at the end of "Tattoos" to emphasize The Unreveal.
  • Forgotten Birthday: At the top of "Birthdays", Goldblum explains that birthdays haven't meant much to him over the years because this he actually experienced this trope at 13, in that even he forgot his birthday and everyone felt quite awkward upon realizing their mistake.
  • Freudian Slip: Early on in "Ice Cream", the location caption "Somewhere In The Nevada Dessert" appears. The extra S in dessert then drops out, changing the spelling to the intended desert.
  • Gibbering Genius: In usual Goldblum fashion, he is/becomes quite educated on what he talks about. That doesn't stop him from his usual fumfering (the vocal affectation often mistaken for stuttering).
  • Glasses Pull: Goldblum does this a lot in the course of his adventures. It's not just for dramatic effect; he's myopic and likes to take off his glasses so he can move in and get a really good look at things and people.
  • Gold Tooth: Goldblum's first order of business in "Jewlery" is to learn about the history, appeal, and creation of gold/Gem-Encrusted teeth grills for celebrities and the like. At the end, he gets a custom-made golden grill of his own and shows it off with a Twinkle Smile.
  • Good Old Ways: Several episodes feature people who champion these with regards to their given subject matter, often contrasted with those who are innovating in the same field, with each side's approach given equal appreciation.
    • The visit to Detroit, Michigan in "Bicycles" has Goldblum get a custom bicycle built to participate in the city's weekly "Slow Roll" event, in which hundreds of people ride together — enjoying an emission-free mode of transportation that was usurped by the polluting automobile — in a city that has struggled with the Dying Town trope since the collapse of the American auto industry in the 1970s.
    • The first segment of "Coffee" has Goldblum meet "cowboy cook" Kent Rollins, who shows him how to prepare coffee over a campfire.
  • Grave Humor: The Flavor Graveyard has rhyming epitaphs on its tombstones. On top of that, when Goldblum sees that "Oh Pear" lasted less than a year he says it was "taken in its infancy...That's the saddest thing I've ever heard!"
  • Green Aesop: The virtual reality experience Goldblum undergoes in "Gaming" is designed to teach one — the participant "becomes" a tree in a forest that is ultimately decimated by a fire.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: Discussing his own affinity for denim jeans Goldblum admits that he's hasn't always picked the best ones as several photos of him wearing them in the 1980s and '90s (in tandem with his very '80s/'90s hairdos) are shown.
  • LARP: In "Gaming", Goldblum participates in this. As the much-loathed "Lord Darius of Whitehall", he's escorted across the grounds by a team of "bodyguards" who fight off assassins.
  • Makeup Is Evil: Discussed in Goldblum's potted history of cosmetics as used by men: The French Revolution had the masses openly revolting against the aristocracy — who loved using makeup. Cosmetics thus became associated with decadence, discrediting their use by men in particular.
  • Malaproper: Goldblum occasionally slips malapropisms into his conversations for fun: "I'm an open-faced sandwich" instead of "I'm an open book", for instance.
  • Mark of Shame: Discussed. Though it's not the primary reason he's never been tattooed himself (see Embarrassing Tattoo above), Goldblum briefly notes that in the Jewish community, tattoos are a sensitive topic due to many concentration camp prisoners being tattooed with identification numbers in The Holocaust.
  • Medium Awareness: Goldblum has this, whether it's his voiceover asking (as he arrives at the "Flavor Graveyard", looking up and behind him) if he's the only one who can hear the creepy music or introducing an animated transition with "Let's have some graphics!"
  • Medium Blending: Animated graphics and photos, as well as Stock Footage, are used to illustrate the backstories and current innovations in each episode's given subject, especially in the transitions from one major segment to another. Sometimes lampshaded (see Medium Awareness above).
  • Murder Simulators: The trope is discussed in "Gaming" in a brief look at societal fears about video games, with Goldblum noting that there are studies that argue they are not this.
  • Must Have Caffeine: A major element of "Coffee", naturally. Goldblum himself used to use coffee as a stimulant when working, but eventually gave up the habit in part because he never cared for the taste. Revisiting it for this episode gives him a better understanding of why so many people love and need it.
  • Network Redheaded Stepchild: Because this was not developed for Disney+ but National Geographic's cable channel, only making its way to the platform in the wake of the Fox-Disney merger, it stands out among the original Day One documentary productions in that it's not built around a Disney IP and doesn't have an obvious kid-friendly hook. Downplayed in that it ended up the most-promoted of the documentary shows, used in online banner ads to represent the service's National Geographic brand the way Moana represents Disney in-house films, The Incredibles represents Pixar, Iron Man represents Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Darth Vader represents Star Wars. It was also one of the first Disney+ shows to be renewed for a second season!
  • Nice Shoes:
    • "Sneakers" naturally includes many examples of these, leading up to Goldblum unboxing a custom pair created for him by "Shoe Surgeon" Dominic Ciambrone. They take their primary inspiration from the letterman jacket of Goldblum's uncle, who was almost a professional basketball player, and incorporate such materials as black satin and, on the underside of the tongues, zebra-print faux fur (Goldblum having a weakness for animal prints).
    • Whimsically brought up in the opening narration of "RVs": "Here come my two-tone loafers!" as the camera initially focuses on his feet.
  • Opening Narration: Each episode opens with one in which Goldblum introduces both himself (in a different, humorous way each time) and the topic. By "Pools", the penultimate episode of Season One, he notes that the viewer should know who he is by now, and the Season Finale "Jewelry" averts the trope in favor of focusing on the topic at hand. He introduces himself in passing after the title card.
  • Painting the Medium: Occasionally; for example as Goldblum prepares to unbox the custom sneakers made for him at the end of the first episode, the image mock-pauses (complete with appropriate icons) as his voiceover warns that if the viewer wants to stay in the moment of suspense they should close their eyes now. The screen also mock-pauses 8-bit style in "Gaming" to lead in and out of the review of various controversies gaming has seen over the years.
  • Playing a Tree: In "Gaming", Goldblum discusses this trope when he's told that the virtual reality simulation he's about to experience involves "becoming" a tree. He notes he never played a tree even when he was first getting into acting as a kid in School Plays.
  • Previously on…: "Pools" opens with a quick montage of clips from the previous ten episodes.
  • Serious Business: A core concept of the series. Goldblum is specifically examining this trope as it applies to each episode's subject — how it's made, sold, bought, and consumed.
  • Shout-Out: Goldblum mentions, quotes, and/or references a movie that he wasn't involved in at least Once an Episode. Standout examples include:
  • Sitcom Archnemesis: Goldblum gets quite frustrated when he goes through a sneaker test and is repeatedly accused of "bopping" too much when he runs, with the tester refusing to give a straight answer on what that actually means, eventually calling him "my new nemesis."
  • Something Person: In "RVs", Goldblum gets to work with some of the tools during his visit to an RV factory, one of which is a staple gun. He dubs himself "Stapleman" and asks the craftsman aiding him if he should turn that into a superhero movie.
  • Stage Magician: Penn & Teller are prominently featured in "Magic".
  • Standard Snippet: "On the Beautiful Blue Danube" underscores a demolition derby in "RVs" and a water aerobics class in "Pools".
  • Stock Footage: Vintage news and other media footage is used to introduce and highlight the pop cultural history of the topic of each episode, and is sometimes used for humor as well. In "Ice Cream", his joke on the Navy aircraft carrier about four bell-rings being the standard alert for a "squid attack" is punctuated with footage from the trailer for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
  • Stop Motion: Some of the title sequences emulate this style with clay-like letters bouncing around.
  • They Called Me Mad!: Parodied in "Ice Cream" as Goldblum explores a forest in the Pacific Northwest with Tyler Malek (of the boutique chain Salt & Straw) for unusual natural ingredients for his own flavor of ice cream. In voiceover, Goldblum notes "Yes, yes, they called me mad at the institute..."
  • Timmy in a Well: Almost exact words used when Goldblum discusses pop culture dogs like Lassie at the top of "Dogs" (though the phrase didn't come from anything that actually happened in that show). In the final segment of the episode, Goldblum participates in a rescue dog training exercise where he is the "victim" trapped in a concrete pipe whom a dog must sniff out.
  • Twinkle Smile: Goldblum closes out Season One with one thanks to his new golden grill!
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: Featured in a positive, intentionally cultivated light in "Cosmetics", first with a troupe of drag queens, and in the episode's finale a visit with YouTube artist Mimi Choi, who turns people's faces into surreal works of art. She creates a look for him that appears to give him a second set of eyes, complete with matching "glasses".
  • The Unreveal: In "Tattoos", the viewer never finds out whether Goldblum himself is going to get a tattoo, with a smash cut to black just as it's about to be revealed. (This is followed by an evil chuckle.)
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Near the end of "Sneakers", Goldblum discusses how the human mind is effectively wired for this trope. Production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, associated with happiness, peaks in the brain not when a want is fulfilled, but immediately before — it peaks with anticipation rather than fulfillment. This is why a person is never quite as happy on Christmas morning or a vacation as they are before it, and why people never stop wanting stuff in general, and this is tied back to the popularity of unboxing videos online.
  • The Watson: Going into each episode with no more knowledge of its subject than the average viewer would have, Goldblum thus reacts to, explores, and questions what he discovers the way said viewer would...more or less. This is Jeff Goldblum. (At the top of "Tattoos" he refers to himself as a detective, and refers to the viewer as "Watson".)