Sep 24, 2015

[TV] Rick and Morty: Season 1

I've enjoyed my share of strange and unusual cartoons. I totally bought into the concept behind Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and have always been eager to see what they have to offer. The segment has never seen full release here in Asia, although we have had snippets that included shows like Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. But beyond that, we've had pretty slim pickings.

So I heard about Rick and Morty only recently as more and more friends seem to be talking about it plus it was featured as the subject of a PBS Idea Channel episode. And quite frankly, I trust Idea Channel enough to act as a recommendation for elements of pop culture worth experiencing.

And man, the show is naturally crazy, and is the case of most Adult Swim cartoons. But it's also one that keeps a single foot in the realm of science while the rest of it is off exploring the wonders of some pretty novel storytelling.

Synopsis: Rick and Morty is an animated TV series created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon for Adult Swim. The show has roots in the Back to the Future parody Doc and Mharti.

The show focuses on the titular characters Rick and Morty, both voiced by creator Justin Roiland. Rick Sanchez is quite the brilliant scientist, but it doesn't seem like he lets things like ethics get in the way of his inventions. He always appears to be drunk on...something, but there seems to be no limits as to what he can do. Morty, his nephew, is the complete opposite. He's a 14 your old boy who barely has the aptitude to stay alive, what more do anything of note. And for some reason Rick has decided to take Morty with him on all of his adventures.

But this isn't happening in a vacuum - Morty has a mom (Sarah Chalke), a dad (Jerry Smith) and an older sister, Summer (Spencer Grammer). Rick had been absent from Beth's (the mom) life for about 20 years and suddenly he's back and he's dragging he son Morty around all of reality. But part of her is afraid he'll leave, and so largely lets Rick do what he wants with Morty without really making any significant objections.

The series is largely episodic in nature but there are moments when characters randomly make reference to events in the prior episode. Thus each episode involves Rick and Morty and maybe one or more of the other family members going off on some adventure whether using Rick's Jetsons-style flying car or his handy portal gun. They may or may not cause the end of all reality. Or maybe they'll just have a genuinely fun ride.

The show obviously derived some inspiration from things like Futurama or even The Simpsons when it comes to the quirky family dynamic. But what I really like is just how far the writers are willing to go in terms the story. You can argue that they're just following the typical adventure-of-the-week format that many cartoons follow. But really there's more to the show than that. What makes the different is just how far they're willing to push each episode and how much they're willing to risk with the narrative and all that. This is what makes the show so striking.

And thus as unappealing and disruption as Rick may be, he's still a peculiar enough protagonist to merit your attention every episode. And while you might feel more than just a little concerned about his quirks and what he's perfectly willing to do in the name of personal gain, he still has an odd charm to him. If anything, you can't deny that he's smart and a lot of times his inventions and solutions are all some haphazard effort to give other people what they ask for in order to shut them up.

Morty was a bit more of a concern for me in the beginning since he just seems like a really stupid, aimless sidekick-style character who accompanied Rick not because of fun or any other sort of rudimentary personal goal, but instead has just resigned himself to the fact that he will almost always accompany Rick. This is not to say that he doesn't enjoy this aspect t things, but it does take time.

It's hard to go into details about which episode was fun and which one was a little stale since it may all depend on personal taste and such. Plus a lot of the sort of "punchlines" behind the show are intermingled with more serious stuff and so one man's setup/premise may be another man's punchline - it all depends on perspective and such. And I think Rick would approve of this direction. Maybe.

Rick and Morty is an experience until itself and it certainly makes me laugh. I understand that the humor may not be for everyone, but a healthy appreciate for the somewhat irreverent and the quirky make be the right thing for you should you choose to get into all this craziness. So the first season of the cartoon gets 4 strange aliens that Rick and Morty encounter out of a possible 5.

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