When Bad Science Goes Good

rickmortyFor years and years Adult Swim, the longtime bastion of geeks, misfits, stoners, pop culture revivalists, and the perpetually adolescent has been the haven to an array of quirky animated series, a platform for a myriad of network castoffs, nostalgia purveyors, surreal mind-fucks, and bad taste. Everything from a dead-in-the-water series that suddenly finds massive popularity (Family Guy), to anime* (Cowboy Bebop), to the comedic reinterpretations of characters from our childhood (Robot Chicken/Space Ghost Coast to Coast), to pure and warped stoner candy (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) has surfaced and thrived on this late night block of programming on the Cartoon Network. Often times it’s crudely made. It can be absurd. It can be vulgar and immature. But it’s usually pretty damn funny. People like me call it home.

Of all the shows that I’ve found myself enraptured by over the last decade or so, I’m absolutely falling for Rick and Morty, the smart and irreverent sci-fi adventure series from Community creator Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland. It’s just about everything I’ve ever wanted from a cartoon.

The show, which is a twisted, albeit hilarious take on the relationship between Doc Emmett Brown and Marty McFly from Back to the Future (based on Roiland’s shorts, The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti) posits a continuation of the duo’s adventures steeped in weird science, pop culture references, parallel universes, and heart. Oh, and a lot of belching.

Rick Sanchez, the series’ take on Doc, is a brilliant, but disturbed scientist, an alcoholic who has seen the universe from tens of thousands of different alternate dimensions, timelines, and realities, yet continues to tinker and explore, bringing along Morty, his highly impressionable, 14-year old grandson. The erratic and surly Rick has just moved in with and begun to reconnect with his family, most so with the good-natured Morty, the amiable sidekick who is dragged along through each subsequent misadventure. Rick and Morty’s family round out the rest of the cast: Jerry Smith, Morty’s insecure father, Beth Smith, Morty’s assertive mother (and daughter of Rick), and Summer Smith, Morty’s older teenage sister.

Through this first season, the unlikely duo of grandfather and grandson have faced a robot dog army, journeyed into the dreams of Morty’s teachers, battled love-stricken, homicidal sex mutants, watched alternate reality television programs, and been pursued by a host of different versions of themselves after being framed for murder. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The series is littered with smart and apt references to film, literature, popular figures, and so on, touching on Jurassic Park, A Nightmare on Elm Street, David Cronenberg, M. Night Shyamalan, the devil, and dozens of others. I’m pretty sure this is the first show that I’ve ever seen that had a wonderful reference to Zardoz (look it up). All of these outlandish and goofy science adventures and parodies and plays on popular culture, while funny and off the wall, are grounded by the well-written characters on the show. Each episode reveals just a little bit more about its series regulars, the strained, though ultimately reaffirming relationship between Jerry and Beth, Summer’s creeping jealousy of Rick’s affinity for Morty, and the constantly evolving push and pull dynamic between our eponymous leads.

I love this show.

Adult Swim has a winner on its hands here, so do yourselves a favor and get on the wagon now. The season finale airs on Monday, April 14th, though the network did pick the series up for a second season.

* Evidently the term “Japanimation” no longer flies.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

One Response to When Bad Science Goes Good
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