As you may or may not have gathered from the contents of animereporter.com, I’m a man who appreciates a good helping of television, in all sorts of forms. It’s only in recent years that I’ve really come to appreciate the American animation out there currently aimed at mature audiences. While I’d been able to chuckle at South Park (I’m lying, I’m actually a giggler),for a good many years, I’d almost come to regard it as a genre of its own, occupying a space in my mind alongside Ren & Stimpy as something that my parents wouldn’t have wanted me to be watching.
Now, technically occupying the physical form of an adult, that’s naturally not really my concern anymore and since discovering series like Archer and Venture Bros, I’ve come to appreciate the cartoons out there that manage to be brazen and politically incorrect and vulgar and wonderfully clever at the same time. As much as it is a mistake for anyone to disregard anime as being all very much one collection of stereotypical tropes, it’s also a mistake to disregard the lewd as infantile or the profane as the ignorant.
Archer takes the highly saturated market of super-suave spy series and inverts it wonderfully. The main character, Sterling Archer, is, in his own mind, the world’s greatest spy, though he typically thinks of sweet one-liners and retorts just moments after the time has passed. He’s very much a boy playing at being James Bond who just so happens to have the skills and extreme fortune to back up his over-inflated ego. Archer is a series where the hero is not a good guy, he’s a total jerk, but you still kind of love to see him win, even if he’s the last person you’d want to spend time with in real life.
Venture Bros. is a similar show to Archer, only in the respect that so many of its main characters are terrible people and that it’s just as willing to see its characters suffer time and time again with very little to show for it. Venture Bros. is a bloody brilliant parody of the Hardy Boys, Johnny Quest, and just about every element of classic sci-fi and superhero cultures. It started off as more of just an inappropriate version mash of various classic cartoon series, but eventually grew to develop a strong continuity and a very real sense of character development and growth. At the moment, Venture Bros. is easily one of my all-time favourite series, though it does tend to have a fairly long break between seasons, leaving a lot of unfortunate lag time between story arcs.
This, however, is where Rick and Morty sauntered, with a slightly drunk wobble, into view. Currently just in its second season, Rick and Morty started out as a concept for a parody of Back to the Future, with the aging scientist Rick and his trusting teen sidekick Morty. Moving away from time travel plots and focusing instead on just about everything else in sci-fi, Rick and Morty very quickly establishes itself as an irreverent tribute to every alien planet, inter-dimensional traveller and mad scientist story out there. Rick, despite being Morty’s grandfather, really couldn’t give much of a crap about his safety, his peace of mind, or even his sanity, and generally has a ‘f**k it, I’ll blow something up’ attitude to the fabric of reality. Morty, the conscience of the show, generally doesn’t fare too well for serving as the show’s moral compass and, like Sterling Archer, it is Rick who swagger unceremoniously to the winner’s podium time and time again.
At the moment, Rick and Morty is a wonderful melding of Archer and Venture Bros for me. With a protagonist who seems more of a villain and basically refuses to learn any moral, Rick is the character you love to watch, but you’re glad isn’t in your life. With clear attention to the series and genres it parodies, it also combines many elements of what makes Venture Bros. such an enjoyable series while Morty’s panicked concern keeps us grounded against Rick’s unfazed attitude to acid-spewing aliens, dimensions of hamsters that live in people’s rectums and petty little things like consequences.
If you’re unfamiliar with any of the series I’ve mentioned, interested in series that aren’t afraid to offend, and you know, an adult, then I’d highly recommend any and all of them.