“That’s season one in your face, motherfucker!” – Rick Sanchez
“We’ll definitely be back next year. if not, it will be because an asteroid has destroyed all human civilization…” – Abed Nadir
A drunkard scientist and a emotionless television-obsessed student, both alter egos of their own maker, the tormented genius, Dan Harmon. Both aware of their “characterness”, their fictionality, the rules of the worlds they live in to the point they can play with the same conventions they are created by. Just another day in Harmontown*.
With Rick and Morty, created by Harmon himself and Justin Roiland (who voices both main characters), Harmon has found the perfect container for expressing his inner world, that in which we jump from a b-series 70s sci-fi film to M. Night Shyamalan and from Cronenberg to a family sitcom. Unfortunately, while Rick and Morty has risen as the brand new innovative (meta)mash-up of popular culture, Community, the sitcom created by Harmon for NBC back in 2009, has slowly drowned and this time there may be no rescue party**.
As we know, this show has been considered as the most innovative comedy in the last years, funny, heart-warming, self-conscious and, most of all, meta-referential. However, as it happened with Arrested Development, intelligent and obscure doesn’t seem to be everyone’s cup of tea and Community has been, since season one, in danger of cancellation. Moreover, after season 3, due to a fallout between Chevy Chase and Harmon, NBC decided to get rid of his showrunner and the audience got a Harmonless Community which “was like flipping through Instagrams and watching your girlfriend just blow a million [other guys].” After that big black stain, Harmon came back on board for season 5 but I’m afraid that the show is mortally wounded.
First Chevy Chase was kicked out through the back door and later Donald Glover left to pursue a career in music as Childish Gambino. Without two of the main characters and after whatever season 4 was, season 5 has lost freshness, silliness, craziness but also adorableness, audience didn’t connect or care at all about Jonathan Banks’ character or John Oliver’s comeback or, at least, they couldn’t fill the big void left by Pierce and Troy. And although Harmon’s insanity came back, it felt forced and out of place as in “G. I. Jeff” in which the show acquired the aesthetics of G.I Joe but that didn’t connect with story arc of the characters in any plausible way as “Abed Uncontrollable Christmas”, the clay-motion episode, did in season 2. It seems Community may have ended its course and the fan dream of six seasons and a movie might never materialize, or “depends on what fails”.
Luckily, there’s a bright side in all of this found in the freshman series Rick and Morty. Here, Harmon doesn’t find the obstacles a live action low budget sitcom presents to his genius mind. References are now non-stop, in “Lawnmower Dog” Rick and Morty get inside Morty’s math teacher dreams to plant the idea of giving Morty good grades but as they travel deeper and deeper within dreams they’ll have to face certain 80s horror film character now renamed Scary Terry who, at the same time, seems to have conjugal problems. Meanwhile, on the real realm, the rest of the family is suffering from the rebellion of the dog race who now rules the Earth. All this in 20 minutes. On “Rixty Minutes” the whole Smith family sits in front of the TV to zap among all the channels in the universe and this clash of ministories will also transfer to the audience through an alternative method of distribution. These crazy stories are only possible thanks to Rick’s portal gun who opens windows not only to other realities but to specific homage universes familiar to the audience, as The Termiantor above this paragraph. Those portals are just windows that access Harmon’s mind.
* Title of the documentary dedicated to his person.
** At the time this post was written, Community hadn’t been renewed for a sixth season.