Reasons It's Not So Great
4) The Supporting Cast Is Boring.
There are a few recurring characters so far that aren't related to our leads, such as Morty's math class crush Jessica and a principal with a highly improbably last name. For the most part, though, the family is who we see the most of, and they're pretty basic. I get that in order to make the out-there stuff work, this show needs a mundane base to contrast the nuttiness against, hence Morty's standard sitcom relatives: a yuppie dad, a stern but loving mom, a whiny, superficial teenage sister with a phone and a boyfriend. But mind = not blown.
Not everything about them is completely run of the mill. Mother Beth's occupation as a horse surgeon is good for a few chuckles, and fits the zany tone. Generally speaking, however, most everything about the Smiths feels a bit tired and old-hat, even if it's meant in an ironic way. Something needs to be done to make them more interesting, and this fortunately does seem to be slowly improving.
3) The Female Characters Especially Need Some Work.
I'm sure you're tired of reading about how that thing you love, XYZ, is actually kind of retrograde and subtly sexist, and I agree that no one show should bear the brunt for everything that's wrong in television. But I calls it as I sees it. We already know that Cartoon Network doesn't care about female viewers, at least according to Paul Dini. Still, it feels especially sad that the regular female characters on a show supposedly aimed at more open-minded/inebriated adults don't have nearly as much to do as the men, with the possible exception of Beth.
I'm not getting on some soapbox here, mainly just concerned that so many of the roles for both genders in Rick and Morty feel predictable and lame: it's just a little more noticeable for the women. Shows like Archer manage to have plenty of active dames in the main cast without sacrificing yuks or a mainstream audience. But until we get to the inevitable gender-swapped episode, R&M will most likely continue to seem a little backward in this regard.
2) The Humor Occasionally Tries too Hard to Be "Edgy."
Look, I'm as open-minded as the next comedy fan when it comes to jokes about dark and horrifying things like rape or terrorism or attempted murder. It can be managed, and I'm not alone in thinking so. But the "Mr. Jellybean" scene, pictured above, from episode 5? Not funny. At all.
Granted, it comes in the context of that episode's greater plot, in which Morty's attempts to have a nice, pleasant fairy tale adventure lead to just as much disaster and horror as usual. And yes, the aforementioned Mr. Jellybean (Tom Kenny! How could you?) does pay the price for his crimes, almost immediately. I have zero impression that the show is trying to trivialize child abuse or endorse it in the real world or anything like that. The scene just doesn't work, pure and simple.Family Guy has long since explored all the hilarious prospects of long, jokeless scenes of pointless drawn-out violence, and I think it's safe to say there's nothing new here.
And if you're trying to argue that it's supposed to be disturbing or the show's attempt to "get real" for the sake of character development, then it fails on that front too. It's just a recycling of sexual assault tropes for shock's sake, and the resolution to this plotline doesn't justify it. A 9/11 joke in the second episode falls similarly flat and didn't make me laugh so much as just sigh and say "Really?". So far there have been several instances of the show attempting to be "edgy" for cheap laughs like this, and it needs to outgrow that habit and have a little more faith in its audience's intelligence. There are plenty of other jokes, even in this very episode, that prove you can be dark and shocking without being lazy.
1) Haven't We Been Here Before?
To me, the biggest thing this show has going against it is that there's already an Adult Swim cartoon about the consequences of sci-fi adventuring on the adolescent male pscyhe: it's called Venture Bros.
Now, I'm not saying these two shows can't co-exist. R&M has its own distinct tone and universe that's completely different from Venture, and I'm certainly happy to let it fill my need of satirical action and '80s pop culture nostalgia while the latter is off the air. But it's pretty reasonable to assume that most people who come to this show will at least be vaguely familiar with the far more original Venture Bros. style, and Rick and Morty can only suffer by that comparison. Without giving anything away, the ending of the most recent episode, in particular, seems a little reminiscent of one of Venture's "reset button but not a reset button" plot points and how it affected its young heroes.
But if Venture hadn't been made, the premise of Rick and Morty would already be a familiar one, and Harmon and Roiland have even admitted that they've had trouble running over some of the same ground as other animation mainstays like South Park. The whole "oblivious douchey hero punishing the innocent young sidekick" thing has been around since the dinosaurs, or at least since Dinosaurs (gone but not forgotten) and there's only so far you can go in that direction without making your audience think of other, better shows, especially with such obvious jokes (the "rocky mountains" gag from Episode 3 is one you can see from miles away).
It's fully possible that this'll all level out the longer the show's on the air, and I hope it does stay on. But the creators have some work to do to make sure it does.
More By Andy Hughes