Why Adult Swims Future Depends On Rick & Morty

Why Adult Swim’s Future Depends On Rick & Morty

No TV series has come to define Adult Swim, both creatively and historically, as much as Rick and Morty — here’s what this means for the future.

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Why Adult Swims Future Depends On Rick & Morty

No single TV series has come to define Adult Swim, both creatively and historically, as much as Rick and Morty — and as a result, the network’s future depends on the show. When Adult Swim debuted in 2001 as part of the evening block of entertainment on Cartoon Network, it was sold to audiences as a grown-up late-night mixture of alternative animated programming, short films, and anime. The latter was crucial to the identity of the block, with landmark anime series like Cowboy Bebop and Inuyasha screening there. While Adult Swim also showed a lot of popular syndicated shows, their original programming was a decidedly more niche affair. These were shows that delighted in the obscure, the irreverent, and often bizarrely experimental diversions. Think of the extended hallucinogenic and surprisingly horror-esque short Too Many Cooks or the anti-humor and individualistic daring of Tim and Eric. Despite the programming’s often radically differing creative directions and intentions, one can instantly recognize an Adult Swim original for what it is — and there’s no better exemplification of that than Rick and Morty.

Premiering on Adult Swim in 2013, Rick and Morty is the brainchild of animator Justin Roiland and former Community showrunner Dan Harmon. The series revolves around the Smith household, headed by Rick Sanchez, an embittered and ceaselessly drunk genius scientist who drags his grandson Morty on dangerous and deeply depressing adventures through time, space, and an endless number of realities. Like many Adult Swim shows, the set-up is rooted in a highly specific genre parody, in this case, a skewed interpretation of countless science-fiction tropes and boy adventurer tales, only this time with a brutal focus on how the ability to do things like visit alien planets and various versions of oneself would be more mentally scarring than wondrous. Rick and Morty received near-rapturous acclaim when it started and has continued to attract a level of audience attention that greatly overshadows most of Adult Swim’s own low-key expectations.

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Rick and Morty has come to define and mold Adult Swim in a way none of its other programs have ever even come close to replicating. For all intents and purposes, it is the definitive Adult Swim original, and that’s a big deal given that so much of the block was defined by its willingness to eschew the typical conventions of television. Following Adult Swim’s landmark 70-episode renewal deal, the network has invested heavily in the show — so much so, that the block’s future depends on the animated series.

Rick & Morty Is An Adult Swim Original

Why Adult Swims Future Depends On Rick & Morty

Rick and Morty is partly the work of Williams Street Productions, the official animation and live-action television production studio division of Cartoon Network. They are also the in-house production arm of Adult Swim. While not every series made for the block comes courtesy of Williams Street, most of the notable ones do in some form or another, from Aqua Teen Hunger Force to The Eric Andre Show. Rick and Morty is another example, although, like most of the shows on their roster, it is a co-production with various other companies. Williams Street and Adult Swim don’t own a lot of shows outright, but having at least a modicum of control over one of their most popular series certainly benefits them in a way that it wouldn’t have had they only been the distributor for it.

Rick & Morty Sells Lots of Merchandise

Why Adult Swims Future Depends On Rick & Morty

Geek merchandise of any kind is now par for the course for any show, film, etc. with a sliver of popularity, but the sheer amount of official Rick and Morty merchandise available is new for Adult Swim. Its shows typically avoid such normalities in pop culture given their deliberately small focus and demographic. Cartoon Network’s own website allows one to find an array of officially-licensed products at an array of locations, from Amazon to Gamestop to Wal-Mart. Anyone on the hunt for Rick and Morty t-shirts, board games, comic books, mugs, or Pickle Rick swimming pool floats, then it’s all easy to find and purchase. A lot of the available merch is also specifically marketed to children, which feels like an extended joke on the part of the show given its highly unsuitable-for-kids nature.

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Adult Swim Invested Heavily Into Rick & Morty

Why Adult Swims Future Depends On Rick & Morty

While only 41 episodes of Rick and Morty have aired over the space of seven years, the show was famously picked up for an additional 70 episodes over an unspecified number of seasons, a rarity for any show — but especially an animated one. This signals a major investment of trust and resources into Harmon and Roiland’s long-term plan for the show, assuming there is one (and given the deceptive complexity of the series, it feels safe to assume that these guys know what they are doing.) Many Adult Swim shows notoriously don’t run for long, or have ridiculously extended shelf lives thanks to their willingness to let showrunners take years between new seasons. Rick and Morty is part of that curious lineage, with only five seasons of less than 50 episodes over the course of seven years, averaging out to less than six a year. The risk is clearly worth it, not only financially but creatively. Long before Netflix and other streaming services followed suit, Adult Swim broke the mold by letting its series take as long as they needed to do what they wanted to.

Rick & Morty Exemplifies Adult Swim’s Creative Brand

It’s still something of a shock that Rick and Morty is as commercially successful as it is, given that the show, as with the lion’s share of Adult Swim series, defies the conventions of mainstream television and often seems to be actively repelling its audiences. Rick and Morty delights in setting up its devoted fans’ expectations then smashing them down with a cruel laugh; yet, viewers keep coming back for more. It is not unique in this regard, but the series now feels like a Rosetta Stone for Adult Swim’s entire creative ethos: Take a simple, seemingly one-joke set up designed for tiny audiences, then segue into increasing weirdness and narratively complex U-turns and end up with wholly unique programming that pays off in a way that will only work for those devotees.

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Think of many of Rick and Morty’s predecessors on Adult Swim as proof of this brand taken to its (il)logical extreme. Metalocalypse started out as a death metal take on a Spinal Tap-style parody of rock music with a hilariously convoluted backstory that played out as a joke right up until it wasn’t. The series even ended its epic commitment to its own grandiose narrative with a literal rock opera. Morel Orel’s first season played out as a predictably cruel parody of Claymation kids programming with a religious bent, but from season 2 onwards, it evolved into a deeply serious family drama about depression and familial trauma with the kind of emotional gut-punches and tear-jerking moments that would have put any HBO prestige drama to shame. The Venture Bros. started out as a parody of familiar kids’ entertainment — this time the Johnny Quest and Hardy Boys stories — before becoming one of television’s most multi-layered and metatextual narratives, with worldbuilding so dense and complex that it needs its own encyclopedia. Every one-joke reference or gag was eventually fleshed-out into a key part of the mythos and initially broad pastiches became one of the most intensely detailed analyses of “geek culture” as a whole. In that sense, it feels like the less nihilistic older sibling to Rick and Morty.

Adult Swim was never intended for the mainstream. It was a platform for experimentation and the kind of comedy that is typically dismissed as niche or unsuitable for general audiences by the rest of television. Yet, even with the deck stacked against them and with the show itself doing everything in its power to be anti-mainstream, Rick and Morty changed the game and showed them that they could stick to their guns while still rake in the cash. It’s a lightning-in-a-bottle moment that may never be replicated, so Adult Swim is holding onto it for as long as they can.

Link Source : https://screenrant.com/rick-morty-adult-swim-most-important-why/

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