The world of sitcoms is in transition. 30 Rock and The Office ended last year. How I Met Your Mother is ending this year. Arrested Development came back for a long awaited fourth season, but on Netflix, then a movie, then a fifth season on Netflix, so it’s very different from the usual TV watching routine. Community and Parks and Recreation are constantly in danger of cancellation or a forced hiatus by NBC, and they likely have more seasons behind them than ahead of them. Modern Family is carrying ABC, and appears safe for a long time, but other than that, there are a lot of new shows, and most of them are bad. Personally, I was watching too many shows already when New Girl and The Mindy Project started, so I haven’t gotten into them yet, and now I’m way behind, even though I heard good things about them.
Fortunately, there have been some good new shows. I’ve already written about Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and now I’m here to talk about Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty. Futurama can be added to the list of long running shows ending recently, when Comedy Central aired their series finale back in September, and Rick and Morty has the chance to fill the void in the animated science fiction comedy genre. From the mad scientists Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, it’s a show about an adolescent boy named Morty, and his mad scientist grandfather Rick, who go on crazy adventures together. It’s a weird and twisted mix of Back to the Future, Doctor Who, and The Magic School Bus, with a little bit of Adventure Time thrown in there as well. Rick is like a drunk Doc Brown, or an amoral version of The Doctor, or the cynical answer to Ms. Frizzle. Morty is his young and insecure sidekick. A less confident equivalent to Marty McFly or Rose Tyler, and would probably be able to relate to Arnold Perlstein really well.
The main cast includes co-creator Justin Roiland as both Rick and Morty, as well as SNL alum Chris Parnell, Scrubs alum Sarah Chalke, and Spencer Grammer (daughter of Kelsey). The ten episode first season includes guest appearances from Dana Carvey (SNL), John Oliver (The Daily Show), David Cross (Arrested Development), Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants), Claudia Black, and Virginia Hey (Farscape).
Dan Harmon’s claim to fame beyond creating Community has been creating his now famous story circle. It’s a tool to help writers figure out their way through writer’s block, but it also means that the characters he creates when using that template are not static. Rick Sanchez might rub you the wrong way right now, but he’ll develop as time goes on. Too many people turned Community off after the first episode because they thought Joel McHale’s Jeff Winger was too big a jerk to be a leading man on television. If you watch Community progress, you can see the changes the characters have made, while still giving glimpses of their original selves. Early episodes of Doctor Who are the same way, if you take the time to go back to 1963. Rick and Morty has the chance to be great, but it needs to be given a chance. Rick is a genius, and he lives the life of an adventurer, but he’s also crazy. The rest of us live boring lives, but he goes on adventures and builds robots because everyday life is too mundane for him to handle. All we have to do is sit back and be entertained.