Review: Dan Harmon has another winner with Adult Swim’s ‘Rick & Morty’

“Rick & Morty,” the Adult Swim series co-created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, premiered back in December when I was otherwise occupied. And as unfortunately sometimes happens, once I miss the premiere of a series, I miss it altogether. One of the few advantages of nursing a broken leg is that it’s given me slightly more viewing time, and I used some of that to catch up on the series, including the latest episode, which I’ve embedded below. (The series regularly airs Mondays at 10:30, and Adult Swim’s video site allows authenticated users to watch previous episodes.) A few thoughts on the series so far coming up just as soon as you take two strokes off my golf game…

So for those who don’t know, picture “Rick & Morty” as an animated version of “Back to the Future” where Doc Brown/Rick is both far more brilliant and far less kind (and almost always high on something, whether of earthly or extra-terrestrial origin), where Marty/Morty is constantly suffering for his relationship with the crazy old man, and where the universe (the show features frequent travel to other planets, dimensions and timelines) is chaotic, cruel, and incredibly gross.

And what impresses me most – though it’s not a surprise, given both Harmon’s work on “Community” and the fact that this is on Adult Swim – is the commitment to that dark, messy, disgusting worldview. “Rick & Morty” is not a comedy that does things by half measures. It goes to twisted emotional places early and often, it eschews sentiment most of the time (though one of the show’s most striking moments, in the delightful “Meeseeks and Destroy,”  involves Rick demonstrating that somewhere in that black heart of his, he cares about his grandson), and its endings are never so much “happy” as “slightly better than the monstrous alternative.” (And “slightly” might be overstating it for the episode embedded below.)

I would not recommend watching it while eating (and probably not while playing with a pet), but beyond that I’ve been enjoying it tremendously so far for its imagination, for its emotional/philosophical consistency (Rick’s a selfish ass, for instance, but he’s also almost always right about the poor motivations of the people around him and what the consequences of their actions will be), for the excellent voice work (Roiland plays the two title characters, while Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke and Spencer Grammer play the rest of the family), and for the balls-out comedy of it.

A year ago, “Community” was struggling through the Port and Guarascio season and Harmon was doing his Harmontown tour of America. Now he’s got two shows on the air at once, has absolutely righted the ship at “Community,” and has this unsettling, hilarious treat to boot. Good times.

What does everybody else think?