5 Things You Need to Know About ‘Rick and Morty’ (Adult Swim)

Dan Harmon (Community) and Justin Roiland’s (Fish Hooks) new animated series Rick and Morty premieres tonight, December 2nd at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on Adult Swim, and having seen the first two episodes I can tell you this much: the minds of Harmon and Roiland are special places to visit. And by special, I mean a little scary. But in an awesome, not easily explained sort of way.

That’s not much of a preview though, so below you will find the five things you absolutely must know before you check out Rick and Morty.

1. It’s a family comedy not intended for the whole family.

Rick and Morty takes what would be in any other creator’s hands a wacky sitcom plot and turns it into a demented, wickedly funny half-hour of animated child endangerment and inappropriate sex jokes. The general premise is Grandpa Rick, a truly mad scientist, moves into the home of his daughter, her husband and two children. He takes her son, Morty, a not-so-bright kid, under his wing. Kind of. Really, he just uses Morty as his “helper,” which means Morty has to do things like put with his grandpa taking him to strange alternate dimensions to smuggle alien items across intergalactic borders.

Beneath his nuttiness, there is a sense that Rick is fond of his grandson, but given that Rick is just this side of being a certifiable sociopath that affection does not extend to worrying about Morty’s safety, education or general well-being. However, it’s also a coming of age tale for Morty. We get to watch this shy, weird kid blossom into a hero of sorts and come into his own despite his entire family believing he has issues. There’s a real sense of triumph in seeing the oddball be the voice of reason and show off his smarts when everyone around him underestimates his abilities.

2. The pilot has the best cold open ever.

When people say “ever,” it’s easy to write them off as being hyperbolic. I’m not being hyperbolic. The Rick and Morty opening sequence is right up there with Lost‘s. Everything you need to know about the dynamics of the show are in those first three minutes; it’s wild, offbeat, exciting and hilarious. I don’t want to say too much for fear of ruining it, but here is a quick teaser: it involves a drunken, midnight joyride in a spaceship.

Intrigued? You should be.

3. Harmon is still the king of pop culture and meta references.

Right from the start, Rick feels like a bawdier version of Back to the Future‘s Doc (and Morty sounds an awful lot like Marty, doesn’t it?), but he’s just the tip of the pop culture iceberg Harmon taps into. While the first episode is devoted to world building, the second episode (airing next week) is pure meta. It takes the idea behind Inception and runs with it, creating an episode full of Easter Eggs and original meta nuttiness.

Think Community if money was no object. Yeah, it’s that good.

4. The animation is beautiful.

Just look at the scenery in the photo above. Rick and Morty combines the off-kilter look of Adventure Time with stunning backgrounds. The alternate dimension that Rick and Morty visit in the pilot is so richly drawn and brimming with cool visuals it’s hard to appreciate them all it once. The series is committed to using animation to create fully realized worlds with oddities popping out of every corner.

The best use of animation in the first two episodes is found in the pilot during a chase scene through an intergalactic airport. Every creature is rendered in a way that makes you want to stop and examine them. It gives even the gooiest alien a beating human heart leading to my favorite joke of the entire episode. (“Shoot them, Morty, they’re just robots.”)

5. The humor is not for those who are easily offended.

On a scale from Futurama to Robot Chicken, Rick and Morty is closer to Robot Chicken on its roughest day. There are only a few things that get under my skin, but even I cringed at Rick and Morty a couple of times. Nothing is sacred here. If you have delicate sensibilities, this show will horrify you. The aforementioned animated child endangerment is just the beginning, there are underage sex jokes (yep, those were definitely part of the cringe factor), incest jokes and some worrisome sexist moments that landed with a thud for me. The key to most humor lies in being clever and most of the moments in question weren’t nearly as clever as the rapid-fire weirdness surrounding them.

Rick and Morty is a unique ride, but go into knowing that it’s not without flaws, and if you happen to have a delicate constitution steer clear. Everyone else, enjoy the madness.

Rick and Morty premieres Monday, December 2nd at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on Adult Swim.

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