The Phenomenon of Rick and Morty

The Phenomenon of Rick and Morty

In the golden age of television, we, as viewers, are overwhelmed by the amount of content out there. A new show to watch is not hard to find. However, finding a great show that will carry you on throughout the seasons is much harder. We’d consider shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones as the media masterpieces of our time, but there is another that has made its mark on the cable TV spectrum.

Rick and Morty is arguably the best animated series on television today. While animated giants like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, and Archer have made their mark in TV history, the age-personalized content has given rise to unique and incredibly smart cartoons. Rick and Morty is a prime example of this phenomenon.

Created by funny men Justin Roiland (Adventure Time) and Dan Harmon (Community), the show explores the relationship between a mad scientist and his intellectually inept grandson. Similar to Doc and Marty from the Back to the Future franchise, Rick and Morty go on adventures in the infinite parallel dimensions of the universe. The show has garnered attention worldwide and become an instant hit on its home network of Adult Swim. Here’s how this cosmic horror comedy got its start.


Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon

Both creators had established themselves in the industry with the success of their previous shows, although their individual success was preceded by their creative relationship. The two had met during a short film contest.

Coming off his time as a reality TV producer, Roiland submitted an animated short entitled Doc and Mharti, in which B2F characters go on crazy adventures. Roiland was known for his gruesome and thought-provoking animated shorts that often left audiences puzzled and unsure of how to feel.

However, it was Harmon who noticed Roiland and understood his twisted sense of humor. While remaining friends, Dan Harmon went on to create and produce the hit show Community. When tapped by Adult Swim to create a hit animated series, Harmon reached out to Roiland, and the two decided to develop Doc and Mharti further.

Though it took time for the creators to get the character dynamics and plot just right, Roiland and Harmon wrote the pilot episode of the series in one day – six hours, to be exact. Though cable allows for racier content, the network execs at Adult Swim urged the duo to keep it at a TV-14 rating. They hoped that, eventually, the series would cross over into prime-time to compete with the greats.

Initially, the series would only contain the characters of Rick and Morty, with Roiland voicing them. However, Harmon knew it wouldn’t be enough to sustain a half-hour program, and he added the other three members of the family. Harmon compares the show to a hybrid form of Matt Groening’s The Simpsons and Futurama, an intergalactic setting juxtaposed with domestic family problems. Thus, this became the start of the hit series.


Rick and Morty

While the show centers around the main dynamic of Rick and his grandson Morty, much of the appeal and comedic drive comes from the supporting characters, Morty’s family. Jerry Smith, Morty’s father and Rick’s son-in-law, represents the aspect of society that believes ignorance is bliss. Jerry doesn’t care for deeper meanings and isn’t concerned with moral conflicts. He goes along blissfully unaware, which drives Rick completely insane.

Rick, being a self-loathing alcoholic genius scientist, forces himself to put up with Jerry to maintain a relationship with his estranged daughter Beth, Morty’s mother. Beth is an assertive, empowered woman. She is a heart surgeon at an equine veterinary hospital. Like her father, Beth is very self-aware, causing her to be unhappy with her humdrum married life. The two’s frail marriage is constantly tested in each episode, often pushing the couple to their limits.

Summer is their first child and a typical popular teenage girl. She is also the sanest of the family. She is the voice of reason and character that grounds the show. However, the main contention of the show centers on Morty’s strong morals and ethics, and the vast gray world Rick operates in.

What makes the show irresistible is the nature of the conflicts the characters face each week. The writers challenge viewers to question their ethics by presenting the hard truths we’d don’t like to face, in crazy and witty ways.  One example of this is in the episode “Meeseeks and Destroy.”

Rick creates a device that allows someone to create a Meeseeks to help with a task. A Meeseeks’ sole reason for existence is to execute the task.

Being alive is painful to a Meeseeks, so they try to complete the tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, when incompetent Jerry enlists a Meeseeks to help him shave two strokes off his golf game, the Meeseeks realizes he has met his match and calls on another Meeseeks to help, and so on, until they exponentially grow and start to beat each other up out of frustration. Since they can only die if they complete their tasks, the Meeseeks decide the only way to find peace is to kill Jerry.

In “Mortynight Run,” Morty saves the target of an alien assassin, and causes death and destruction as he takes the target to safety. When Morty is about to deliver the target back to its home planet, he discovers the target is a part of a race of gaseous brains that move throughout the universe destroying carbon-based beings.

Rick and Morty Fever

Since its initial release in 2012, the show has gained considerable attention and critical acclaim. Rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and praised by critiques in The New York Times and other prestigious publications, Rick and Morty ignited a fire in the TV animation genre.

The unique and dark sensibility of the show has staked a claim in the hearts of viewers across the country and around the globe. Though the third season’s release date hasn’t been confirmed leading to rumors about a cancellation, only several months ago creators Harmon and Roiland confirmed the scripts for the new season have been completed and are awaiting production.

However, fans are optimistic that a surprise premiere is in the works for a December air date. Time will tell whether Rick will be released from the high-security intergalactic prison and able to continue his off-beat dealings with the colorful characters in our universe.

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