Imagine the creators of “South Park” collaborating with Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” on a twisted retelling of “Back to the Future,” and you’ll have something like “Rick and Morty.” It’s a triumph of late night television.
Rick Sanchez is our misanthropic, hedonistic Doc Brown with shady connections across the multiverse, and his grandson Morty is somewhere between Marty McFly and SpongeBob. It’s much more fiction than science and each episode manages to concoct an epic parable. Think “Futurama” invading the “Twilight Zone.”
“Rick and Morty” consistently, and in hilarious fashion, asks the hard questions: How do I know I’m real? What is love? How would my dog feel about being a pet if he could talk and build robotic body armor?
There’s a stylish clash of sarcastic highbrow philosophy and lowbrow middle school humor, much like you’d see you in the works of the late great David Foster Wallace.
A recent episode featured a self-contained “microverse” full of sapient aliens Rick had created to power his car. The drama starts when the aliens, one of which voiced by Stephen Colbert, stopped making him fuel.
Executive producer Dan Harmon, who also produced “Community” and “Harmontown,” is in top form. The show’s mockery of cultural icons always includes some clever reimagining. In an “Inception” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” parody, Morty and Rick venture into their math teachers’ mind, quickly realizing that other peoples’ dreams are probably pretty horrifying.
The ongoing second season has taken some harsh dark turns. Occasionally you get spontaneous gore and horror, made somehow more biting with the childish animation. Occasionally the terror is in the implications.
As a viewership, America is already used to serious satire on television. It’s been 18 years since “South Park” debuted and “The Simpsons” have aired more than 500 episodes over 26 seasons.
Both giants remain dynamic and occasionally still put out some biting commentary, but “Rick and Morty” is taking on the challenge of satire in a new age when many of us are just too used to it to feel the beauty anymore.
Millennials are irreverent. We like mockery with a touch of iconoclasm, but so much of it has just been done before. We grew up on it. It’s nothing new.
“Rick and Morty” counters with quality storytelling colored with some extremely impactful moments and themes. It’s a cartoon; the characters are caricatures, but Millennials are used to caricatures being taken seriously. It’s low blow, but fitting to mention Donald Trump here.
Every episode can easily stand alone. Yet as a whole, there is actually some great development of characters and tropes that began as jokes. Pay attention to Morty’s parents’ marriage or Rick’s hedonism as it occasionally descends into depressing self-awareness.
“Rick and Morty” has wit, bite, brains and in its own twisted way, heart.
Christopher McDermott is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.