Cartoons have been around since the beginning of television programming.
At first, the animated shorts in the movie theaters were adapted for use on TV. Then productions were made for the then-new home entertainment medium.
On Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, there are animated programs made for an older audience. The new cartoon series "Rick and Morty" is rated TV-14, and takes a familiar family show and turns it on its ear.
"It is an animated half hour," said show co-creator Justin Roiland, "and we took a family comedy and crunched in a sci-fi show. No, take that back, it’s a sci-fi show and we crunched in a family sitcom."
As far as that goes, we are not unfamiliar with animated family sitcoms.
Years ago, some of the first animated half-hour shows were meant for children and parents. "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons" were basically sitcoms set in an atmosphere that only animation could create in relative production budget restraints. "The Flintstones" were basically "The Honeymooners" set in the prehistoric past, and "The Jetsons" were a "Father Knows Best" in the future.
Today, we have the long-running "The Simpsons" and the younger "Family Guy" that run on network prime time. Other shows and specials within the same realm have come and gone since.
But "familiar" is a place we can find comfort, while the dynamic between the members of the family and the situations they find themselves in can be original, and supply a fertile foundation to be entertained by stories we have not seen before.
"Rick and Morty," co-created by NBC’s "Community" producer and Wisconsin native Dan Harmon, is that show.
"It’s fun and incredibly rewarding. Each episode is so different from the next," Roiland said.
When we talked a couple of weeks ago, Roiland mentioned how much he enjoys working with the writers, the animation team and everyone who assists in getting the cartoon made. I opined that a show like this one almost has to be animated, that it is part of the charm that allows for endless stories.
Adult Swim described the show as, "The new half-hour animated series about a sociopathic scientist who drags his unintelligent grandson on insanely dangerous adventures across the universe."
The title character Rick, voiced by Roiland, is the scientist who has been missing for 20 years when he comes to crash and move into his daughter’s home. The family tension comes from his son-in-law who is worried how Rick takes his grandson Morty, also voiced by Roiland, and his granddaughter, Summer, on crazy adventures.
Rick builds a laboratory in the family’s garage and puts together flying machines and other gadgets from the items he finds around the house.
Roiland said that at this point there is no greater story arc, and that makes it more accessible for more viewers.
"It’s made in such a way that each episode stands on its own. So, any point is a good point to jump in," he said.
The program, which started on Dec. 3, runs at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday nights on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network.
Roiland said that he and Harmon had the original concept about 2 years ago and they, "made the pilot in sort of a vacuum." The first order for the cartoon series was for 10 episodes, or the pilot and nine more. And, he’s excited about the future.
"I’ve been tracking on Twitter and other places, and the reaction has been wonderful," Roiland said. "As more people find out about the show, we can tell that they really like it.
"The network has been incredibly supportive, and others love the show and its great watching it building steam."
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