Before the precedent-setting saga of firing then re-hiring to run the show he created, Dan Harmon had logs in the fire at other networks. Pilot deals with CBS and Fox are on the backburner or fizzled out, but Harmon’s newest show on Adult Swim is a strong addition to his portfolio as a writer, and a real treat for animation fans.
The new show is called Rick and Morty, created by Harmon and longtime collaborator Justin Roiland. Harmon and Roiland have worked together on the underground comedy film festival Channel 101, which Harmon founded. Channel 101 has helped the careers of many now-famous comedians, including the Lonely Island gang, who produced a series for Channel 101 way back in 2003.
Rick and Morty is an implicit spin on the Doc Brown/ Marty McFly dynamic. The show never acknowledges this, at least not in the pilot episode, but the similarities are apparent from the get-go. Morty (there’s the first similarity right there), a young neurotic boy voiced by Roiland, goes on adventures through space-time with his mad-scientist, alcoholic uncle Rick (also voiced by Roiland). The pilot’s story establishes their relationship as well as Morty’s parents, voiced by veterans Chris Parnell (SNL, Archer) and Sarah Chalke (Scrubs). Rick and Morty travel to an alien dimension to smuggle some powerful seeds for one of Rick’s experiments.
I didn’t even notice on first viewing that Rick and Morty were voiced by the same actor. They’re distinct and entertaining characters that bounce off of each other in a really fun and strange overlapping way that perfectly fits the Adult Swim dynamic. Harmon’s penchant for really crazy set-pieces and non-stop gags is on full display here. And with an animated show without the budget restraints of a show like Community, it works like gangbusters in this pilot episode. If you’re a fan of adult-skewing animated shows, especially those in the Adult Swim realm of Aquateen-type strangeness, Rick and Morty is definitely a show to watch out for.