I know what you’re thinking. “Stacey Taylor, this episode of this programme is over a year old. Why on Earth are you choosing to review it now?” I have two answers to that question; 1. I am a terrible person who has only just arrived at the Rick and Morty party (for shame!), and 2. ‘Rixty Minutes’ is, without a shadow of a doubt, as close to a perfect 20 minutes of television as I think we may ever get.
For those of you unfamiliar with Rick and Morty, it’s an Adult Swim animated show created by Justin Roiland (the amazing voice talent behind Adventure Time’s Earl of Lemongrab) and Dan Harmon (the man behind Community). It follows the Smith Family (Beth and Jerry, kids Summer and Morty, and the genius lunatic inventor Grandpa Rick) and their (mis)adventures following whatever crazy thing Rick has invented or gotten himself into that week. It’s completely and utterly bananas, tear-inducingly funny and insanely clever. When The Hubby introduced me to its greatness just a couple of months ago, I was instantly hooked. We ploughed through all 11 episodes of the first series, but it’s Episode 8 that has stuck in my mind since my first viewing. As of writing this review, I’ve now seen it 4 times, and it has not once failed to make me cry and/or snort with laughter. I am most likely going to re-watch it immediately after finishing this article, too!
The premise of this particular episode is that, during a family viewing of The Bachelor, Rick becomes incredibly bored of the Smith Family’s terrible TV watching habits. When challenged by Jerry to put on what he would consider to be great TV, Rick upgrades their cable package so that they now have access to all channels across all parallel realities. That’s right, Infinite TV Possibilities. After spotting an alternate version of Jerry being interviewed on the Letterman show, Jerry, Beth and Summer become almost obsessed with finding out how the alternate versions of themselves fared in life. Rick produces a visor which, once it has scanned their eyeballs, will lock onto any alternate versions of said eyeballs so that the family can see what their other selves are up to. Morty isn’t interested in this (“Hey man, I don’t give a crap about myself, Rick. Let’s watch some crazy stuff, yo!”) and so he and Rick spend their time channel surfing. The majority of this episodes humour comes from these snippets of other dimension shows and adverts, such as Ants in my Eyes Johnson’s Electronics store (“I hope our prices aren’t too low, I can’t really tell because I can’t really see anything, I have so many ants in my eyes!”), a police procedural following Detective Baby Legs as he is given a new partner by the name of Regular Legs (absolutely perfectly performed by voice acting legend Rob Paulsen) and the highly disturbing commercial for the cereal Strawberry Smiggles (“Oh my God, I see demons! I see demons are coming!”) to name but a few. The improvisational nature of the majority of these bits is what allows them to be so completely hilarious; and becomes even funnier when Morty points out just how ludicrous it is, allowing you to accept the ridiculous premise and just go along for the ride. Roiland’s voice work in this episode is worthy of a huge round of applause; he voices both titular characters throughout the series (and often a few background characters too), but it’s his cracking up at the end of the trailer for the movie ‘Two Brothers’ that just creases me every time. It’s just perfect, and I adore it.
Running alongside this insanity, Beth, Summer and Jerry are discovering things about their other lives (and subsequently their actual lives) that maybe should best have remained unknown. The juxtaposition of these two storylines is just wonderful; giving us lots of Beth, Summer and Jerry drama but providing enough TV-based gags to temper any potential bogged-downness that could’ve occurred. At one point Summer decides she needs to move out and “I don’t know…do something with turquoise!”, and what follows is one of the most poignant scenes of Rick and Morty so far. There’s no sugar coating here; Morty doesn’t beg his sister to stay using promises of happiness, joy, or even bribery; he tells her the cold, hard truth: “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everyone is going to die. Come watch TV.” It’s grim, and unpleasant, but so overwhelmingly reassuring that I’m not quite sure why it hasn’t been said before. It’s a testament to the amazing writing that, despite all the huge laughs this episode was getting, this moment was the highlight of the episode for me. The suggestion that maybe we ought to spend more time living the life we have than dreaming about the one we don’t or struggling to find ourselves and our place in the world is a meaningful one, and it’s so perfectly played that it’s hard not to take this in as a surprise life lesson. In the end, it’s good enough to convince Summer to stay, and return to the living room to watch more bonkers TV.
The episode culminates in another brilliantly touching Smith Family moment that could’ve fallen into the twee camp, but manages to steer clear via the use of a low-speed car chase on TV following Alternate Jerry’s drug-addled breakdown. It’s a wonderful end to a superb episode, and I couldn’t sing its praises more if I tried. Roiland and Harmon have a fantastic grasp on how to mingle the ridiculous with the everyday, the over-the-top huge adventures with the quiet family moments, and it’s a complete joy to behold. Very few shows can tackle the sorts of ideas that Roiland and Harmon do in Rixty Minutes (how your life might be different if you had/hadn’t done certain things, finding your place in the world/your world, the fragility of life, etc) with such success, and they do this whilst managing to stick to their comedic roots. Their writing is absolutely top-notch, and I never want Rick and Morty to end! You need to watch this. Seriously.
Rick and Morty will return in Series 2 (huzzah!) due to air on Adult Swim on July 26th 2015. That’s plenty of time to catch up on Series 1!
Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StacebobT)