Are you watching… Rick and Morty?

Rick and Morty is the new weird and wonderful television show that you should be watching.

 

Rick and Morty is a cartoon comedy that has just begun in the US.  It appears on the Adult Swim network, but has been made freely available on YouTube.  Although it’s only six episodes in, Rick and Morty has proved to be intelligent, original and downright hilarious.

In its own words, Rick and Morty is a ‘high-concept sci-fi rigmarole’ black comedy.  Although that may be a mouth-full, this volatile mix of genres is what gives the show its energy.  Rick is a misanthropic, alcoholic genius, who is always the smartest guy in the room.  His scientific inventions and business endeavours are what spark each episode’s story.  Accompanying him is Morty, Rick’s long-suffering, naïve grandson.

Justin Roiland voices both characters superbly, whilst also serving as one of the show’s co-creators.  Each episode finds the titular characters on a different, usually complex, science fiction adventure.  Additionally every episode includes a separate, more grounded, side-story for Morty’s parents and sister.  This set-up gives the writers an immense amount of freedom, which they exploit to the fullest and zaniest extent.  So far episodes have centred on super-intelligent dogs taking over the world and the building of a Jurassic Park-esque theme park inside the body of a homeless person – yes, really.

The writing can be somewhat alienating, as the creators seem to assume the audience will have prior knowledge of classic sci-fi tropes and pop culture heritage.  The second episode exemplifies this: it is both a straight parody of Inception, whilst also featuring inspired references to A Nightmare on Elm Street and Planet of the Apes.  So Rick and Morty is a wet dream for film obsessives like myself, but it certainly has wider appeal.

The main characters are very well developed; comedy in the show derives from character-based humour as well as outlandish craziness.  Rick obviously cares about his grandson, but constantly puts him through an assortment of painful and dangerous adventures.  This dysfunctional relationship is the core of the show, and is what keeps the pop culture and science fiction elements from becoming too overwhelming.

Those who are tired of Seth MacFarlane’s lazy cartoon output or mourning the death of Futurama will find much to love here.  Unlike MacFarlane’s work, the comedy in Rick and Morty feels fresh and not too formulaic. The family dynamic is not limited to a central father figure, a shrill wife, stereotypical teenagers and a pet that talks.  The humour is dark, but intelligently so.  Its darkness is not derived purely from cartoon violence or offensive material, but from existential issues and family politics.

Fans of Futurama’s science fiction parody will be right at home here, more so even, as Rick and Morty has already proved that it is not scared of delving into tougher sci-fi concepts.  Additionally, the jokes come thick and fast: there is rarely more than ten or fifteen seconds between them.  It is a very visually arresting show, brightly coloured and lovingly animated.  Even if the plot doesn’t engage you, it is simply a pleasure to watch the animators at work.

Rick and Morty, in all likelihood, is destined for cult status.  Its madcap premise and dark humour will be enough to deter mainstream audiences, but it is this combination that will also win it a small, devoted following.  Those that enjoy science fiction, animation and surreal humour may have already found a new show to obsess over during 2014.

 

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