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“Rick and Morty” on Cartoon Network
Either you think Cartoon Network’s animated series “Rick and Morty” is the greatest thing to happen to TV since sliced bread or you have yet to watch it. There are, conceivably, other possibilities—but these are the two most likely. The show recently wrapped up its first season, so if you have yet to experience the twisted joy that is “Rick and Morty,” now would be a great time to binge watch the hell out of this mother over on adultswim.com.
So what’s all the fuss and Facebook GIFing over? “Rick and Morty” is the brainchild of Dan Harmon (the comic genius behind NBC’s “Community”) and voice actor Justin Roiland (whom “Adventure Time” fans will recognize as the Earl of Lemongrab). Together (along with pal Rob Schrab), Harmon and Roiland started the legendary alternative TV website Channel 101. Now they’re the producers/creators of Adult Swim’s newest, not-so-kid-friendly cartoon sensation.
Rick is a manic, frequently drunken, permanently dyspeptic mad scientist who moves in with his daughter’s family. Rick forms an instant bond with his dorky, often panic-stricken 14-year-old grandson. Their relationship mostly involves Rick kidnapping poor Morty from school and dragging him off on various interdimensional/intergalactic adventures—or as Morty’s dopey dad calls it, “high-concept sci-fi rigamarole.” If you mashed together the Back to the Future movies, “Doctor Who,” “Futurama” and “South Park,” you’d get something that still wasn’t as funny or as brilliantly weird as “Rick and Morty.”
On the surface, the show is a nonstop pop/nerd culture parody machine. Alert viewers will detect references to Zardoz, Footloose, “Game of Thrones,” H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, M. Night Shyamalan, David Cronenberg and countless other shows/movies/writers/directors. “It’s just like Inception,” explains Rick of one particularly convoluted adventure. “So if it’s stupid and confusing, so is everybody’s favorite movie.” In addition to insider jokes, the show is also a sharp parody of TV tropes. Watch and you’ll catch the writers offering the occasional third-wall-breaking commentary, making fun of their own lazy storytelling techniques and even experimenting with Rick drafting his own unsuccessful catchphrase. Beneath all the breathless mockery and low-fi animation, however, there’s a surprisingly dark dose of reality. Death, public humiliation, sexual assault and the death of the entire human race are all possible (and perhaps inevitable) outcomes of Rick and Morty’s zany adventures. Occasionally, you know, you’ve just got to hide the mutilated corpse of your alternate reality self and carry on as if nothing has happened.
Hilarious, snarky, self-referential, nerdy, smart and leavened with just the right amount of rude humor, “Rick and Morty” has managed to recruit itself a rabid cult following in just a single season. You don’t want to miss out on a good cult, do you? Grab a robe and get watching! And if you’ve already been recruited, then join me in praying for a second season.
“Rick and Morty” airs Mondays at 1am on Cartoon Network.