A drunk, misanthropic scientific genius who’s invented a portal through time, space, and dimensions takes his naive, trusting, loyal grandson all over the universe on missions to preserve the fabric of reality while insulting his intelligence, competence, and common sense at every turn. Does that sound like a funny show or what?
Maybe it doesn’t, but after a solid year of hearing that Rick and Morty is the best animated comedy on television, I finally checked out the first season – about half of the eleven episodes are available to watch for free at the Adult Swim website – and I was immediately won over.
It’s hard to remember a comic character as immediately indelible as Rick Sanchez, the Einstein-haired, hygienically-challenged, usually-inebriated tower of condescension that forces poor little Rick to do his bidding when it’s time to, say, steal back Rick’s recipe for concentrated dark matter (it makes time travel possible, stupid) from the Zigerions, who also happen to be very uncomfortable with nudity. Rick treats every question like it’s stupid, every answer like it’s obvious, and every bizarre development (like visiting an alternate reality, or his grandson impregnating an alien sex robot) like it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before. He can’t get through a sentence without making a weird burping noise and he’s one of those guys who tries to work your name into everything he tells you.
This show goes pretty deep in exploring way-out science fiction concepts, but it’s grounded by a steady stream of pop culture references, parodying other sci-fi ideas (like “The Lawnmower Man” and “Inception”) or general cultural touchstones (like “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Titanic”) to either point out logical fallacies, ask questions that the original works left unasked, or just, you know, goof on them.
But what really keeps the show from spinning off into orbit with the Gazorpazorps is that it gives nearly equal time to the rest of Morty’s family: his big sister Summer and his parents, Jerry and Beth (Rick’s daughter). Summer is a little jealous that Rick has chosen Morty to be his sidekick instead of her, Beth and Jerry don’t have the best marriage, Rick left Beth’s mother – in other words, they have normal family tensions and normal problems, and in most episodes some bit of fallout from one of Rick and Morty’s adventures becomes a problem that the rest of the family has to deal with through the prism of their family tensions.
A show like this has to be animated – otherwise every episode would have a higher budget than Game of Thrones. Animation allows the show’s creators, Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, to indulge their every whacked-out whim, and their love of the sci-fi genre is evident and matched only by their imaginations.
Most importantly, though, this show is funny. Really funny. I’ve laughed out loud at least half a dozen times during every episode I’ve seen, both because every plot takes at least a couple of weird, hilarious turns, and because the thing is loaded with jokes, expertly delivered by a cast including Roiland (who plays both Rick and Morty), Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke, and Dan Harmon, with guest appearances by a who’s-who of comedy including David Cross, Paul F. Tompkins, John Oliver, Dana Carvey, and on and on and on.
Adult Swim has posted last Sunday’s season premiere on its website and half of season 1 has been freed from behind the paywall. They are also streaming a marathon of all the previous episodes at their website. There’s no real need to “catch up” on this show, as it has no real continuity – all you need to know is Rick and Morty go on weird sci-fi adventures. But you should watch as many of them as you can anyway, because they’re all really, really funny.
New episodes of Rick and Morty air Sunday nights at 11:30 on Adult Swim.