Is “Rick and Morty” the spiritual successor to THIS cult comedy?
WORDS BY BRENDAN O'SHEA
Wubba-lubba-dub-dub! It’s been (well) over a month (or two) since Adult Swim pulled a fast one on us and released the first episode of Rick and Morty’s highly anticipated third season.
It kinda got me thinking about comedy – and in particular, sci-fi comedy. Is Rick and Morty a sort of spiritual successor to ANOTHER show, tapping into some of the same themes and ideas and spinning them through the generic American domestic sitcom?
In the 1990’s American producers tried to spin a remake of the self-aware British sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, featuring the misadventures of an atheistic, alcoholic slob as he travels through parodies of well-loved sci-fi concepts. It’s… not a bad way of describing Rick and Morty either, so here are five ways that Red Dwarf and Rick and Morty are similar:
1. " Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die”
Nihilism is a big, big part of Rick and Morty – and in both Rick and Morty and Red Dwarf, the writers decided to explore (admittedly) different answers to existential questions using toast-related robots.
In Rick and Morty, existential angst:
In Red Dwarf, defining your own meaning and with Sartre-esque glee inflicting hell upon other people:
2. “I sound like some barely human grossed-out slime ball”
It’s quite possibly more apparent in Red Dwarf, but both series indulge in its own characters depraved bad habits – as seen in this clip of Lister reawakening with amnesia. He… doesn’t like who he is.
By contrast, Rick and Morty underplays the slobbish behaviour of its main characters – however Rick himself is rarely seen without his hipflask, often affecting -urrrrp- speech which is -urrrp- punctuated by alcoholic burps M-m-m-morrrty. He sometimes also gets drunk and tries to commit genocide.
3. Enjoying the Little Things
As we discovered in Rick and Morty, Rick really, really likes his Szechuan sauce. Is this his motivation? Who knows – but it’s clear Rick is chaotically driven by nothing of deep traumatic meaning.
In Red Dwarf, Lister is driven by his desire to (re)find his true love Kristine Kochanski, move to Fiji and live on a farm with a sheep and a cow and breed horses. The driving source (sauce?) behind both shows though is clearly an appreciation for the little things, and is amply summed up in Red Dawrf’s ending theme:
4. Both are post-modern with their sci fi
If post-modernism is an awareness of medium and genre, then Rick and Morty and Red Dwarf are both part of that same genre. Especially in the way they parody popular films to further develop their own characters – from an Alien from the Alien films (who can shapeshift and suck out personality traits) to incepting Maths teachers.
5. “The ultimate atheist”
Both shows also focus quite heavily on a cynical, atheistic universe, with Red Dwarf even taking a moment to throw its characters into “reality” and discussing their own show like they were fans discussing the meaning in Doctor Who or Harry Potter – where they discuss how Lister is, in fact, the ultimate atheist:
And of course there’s the classic ending to Season Two’s opening episode, with Rick himself a character who could also probably be described as an “ultimate atheist”.