Fans of science fiction are going to find a lot to love in Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland‘s new Adult Swim cartoon “Rick and Morty.” Both creators have been open about the fact that the series draws a lot of inspiration from British properties like “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Doctor Who,” with grandfather character Rick being a scientific genius and his grandson Morty being along for the ride as Rick’s “companion.”
Though “Rick and Morty” has a TV-14 rating like “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show,” Roiland tells Zap2it that he and Harmon have more flexibility because they’re under the Adult Swim banner. Because of that, viewers can expect “Rick and Morty” to go to some dark places like British children TV shows do.
“I’m way out of my jurisdiction speculating about this, but I really think because there’s more money to be made in American television and entertainment in general, the definition of children’s entertainment became in the American world toothless and saccharine and safe, whereas this tradition in this older country from where our language actually comes from that there’s less at stake over there,” Harmon explains. “You can’t get rich off making TV and they have a better tradition of less-likable character. Smart, worldly characters can be these sort of sociopaths, which is such an important, resonant thing.”
Rick, voiced by Roiland, is very much a sociopath, and later is revealed to be something of a misogynist as well. As “Rick and Morty’s” first season progresses, the audience will understand why Rick acts the way he does, and Harmon compares the reason for Rick’s standoffish personality as being comparable to that of the Doctor.
Harmon elaborates, “As the episodes go by, the more kind of relativistic sci-fi premises we explore, the more we sort of walk Morty and the audience down the road of, ‘If we can jump off the cliff and as we’re about to hit the pavement clone ourselves so that only our clones hit the pavement, but they were really us and we’re now our clones but we land on our feet.’ Rick lives through that stuff every day. Suffice it to say, you do start to get a picture of the size of Rick’s world.”“[The audience] understands only as much as the companions do, basically, but we don’t want to be the companions. We want to hang out with the Doctor, we idolize the Doctor, but we don’t think like him, and that’s really interesting,” Harmon says. “Rick is diseased, he’s mentally ill, he’s an absolute lunatic because he lives on this larger scale.”
Harmon proved on “Community” that he has no problem flouting what people expect of a TV show, and it sounds like he’ll be bringing that sensibility to “Rick and Morty.” In other words, don’t expect this series to just be another silly American cartoon for children.
“I think that America’s 200 years old and our storytelling is worth money and our kids are valuable and that’s why we’re fascinating with the UK stuff, because it still has this connection to darkness that makes the laughs harder and the tears wetter,” Harmon says. “The invitation with that stuff is not to just be cynical for its own sake, but actually to revitalize optimism.”
“Rick and Morty” premieres on Dec. 2 at 10:30 p.m. on Adult Swim.