Does Rick and Morty Out-Community, Community?


author: Michael

Dan Harmon has struck gold yet again, but this time it seems general audiences are along for the ride. Which is strange, since Rick and Morty might be even more cerebral than Harmon’s cult hit, Community.

Ricky and Morty, an animated television show from the minds of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, has been steadily gaining momentum since its debut back in December and has won the hearts of audiences and critics alike. This newest program on Cartoon Network’s notoriously strange Adult Swim lineup recently aired it’s sixth episode, Rick Potion #9, which features a pheromone-driven love potion experiment gone horribly wrong. The episode, which deals with alternate realities, a flu epidemic, human/mantis hybrids, and cronenbergs, also marked a significant boost in the show’s ratings, putting it ahead of everything that aired on the main television networks. Who would have thought? Dan Harmon has struck gold yet again, but this time it seems general audiences are along for the ride. Which is strange, since Rick and Morty might be even more cerebral than Harmon’s cult hit, Community.

Rick Potion #9 has a fairly simple set-up: Morty (voiced by Roiland himself) wants to win the heart of the popular girl and asks his mad-scientist grandfather, Rick (also voiced by Roiland), for a potion that can help fulfill his desires. Rick agrees, but not before launching into a speech about the science behind love and how it’s merely the result of chemical reactions coupled with our animalistic nature to procreate. Most viewers can see the catch of the love potion plot from a mile away – it isn’t exactly new territory – and most shows would go out of their way to dispute and refute the opinions of the old man and his jaded views on love. “Love isn’t science, it’s something beyond that. True, emotionally driven love will surely win the day.”

False. In fact, the solution to the ultimate issues the duo faces by the end of the episode is so ingrained in science that (spoilers) Rick and Morty are forced to take up residence in an alternate dimension that is structured to perfectly accommodate their particular predicament. By the end, the viewer has come far from the initial premise and setup of the episode, yet the story ties itself in a perfect bow – albeit a fairly dark and surreal one – once the ending credits roll. It’s a testament to the writing, plotting, and pacing that R&M is able to pull off this delicate balance on a weekly basis.

Though, this isn’t new for Dan Harmon or his signature style of storytelling. He’s been doing this on Community for over four years now. The topic of parallel universes has not only been mentioned multiple times throughout the Community-nbc-season2-cast-09show’s lifespan, but has had an entire episode (see: Remedial Chaos Theory, 303) dedicated to exploring alternate realities and how the slightest change can set off a completely unique chain of events. In fact, Harmon is notorious for his concept episodes of Community, often to the detriment of ratings. The difference with Rick and Morty, however, is that every episode is a concept episode, yet it still sticks with audiences.

Harmon and Roiland have expressed their enthusiasm for the openness of the show’s format, thrilled that they are not tied down to continuity or logistics. This allows the writers to tackle concepts that would never work in a live-action, reality-based show like Community, and might be the key to truly unlocking the potential of the show’s creators. Certain episodes of Community, in particular the aforementioned concept ones, always felt like they were pushing the envelope just to the brink of believability, sometimes even slightly overstepping those bounds. A large majority of complaints launched at Community bring this exact issue to light, resulting in audiences dismissing plots or characters as silly and far-fetched. Either this style works for a viewer, or it doesn’t.

With animation, however, the believability factor becomes less of an issue. Animated characters on screen can easily deal with a topic like alternate dimensions without asking the viewer to drastically suspend their disbelief. In a way, Rick and Morty might finally be the delivery mechanism for Harmon’s unique brand of crazy to a wider range of people on a network better catered to this type of strange, thought-provoking (and weird) television. Adult Swim and Cartoon Network, with shows like Robot Chicken, Adventure Time, and The Regular Show, have an already built-in audience that would respond well to Harmon’s non-traditional style of comedy but might be hard pressed to venture further from their late-night cable sanctuary. With Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s names featuring prominently during the opening credits, perhaps Rick and Morty might entice some unlikely viewers to explore the world of Community and finally jump on that bandwagon.

Only six episodes in and Rick and Morty have already tackled a number of crazy topics, making incredibly poignant and humorous references along the way. With a second season seemingly confirmed (accidentally), audiences can only hope for more crazy adventures from the our new favorite mad scientist and his pushover grandson.

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