Our 5 Suggestions for the Show Going Forward
On December 2, 2013, Adult Swim made an impact in adult animation with the premiere of Rick and Morty.
The show had a slow start for a couple of seasons, but word of mouth and online discussions about its clever writing gradually garnered an audience. And by the time Season 3 premiered, its popularity had exploded, becoming the adult animated face of a generation.
Not only were they crushing it on Adult Swim, but the show was getting fast food deals, showed up on countless products, presented for the Emmys, cameoed in movies, and setting a precedent for a slew of science fiction projects that currently permeates pop culture.
However, by the time the series hit its sixth season, the chatter became less and less, then news of Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland began to surface, putting the show’s future in question.
Although the series will return for a seventh season without the involvement of Roiland as a creator or the titular voices of the character, there are several things the creative team and network will have to pull off to make the transition and the series legacy at large a success.
Rick and Morty turned a decade old this year, and as the anniversary approaches, the future of the cartoon is more unknown than ever. These are five suggestions for the series moving forward.
No More Controversies
Besides the fans making headlines on behalf of the program, Rick & Morty and the folks behind it had not been subjected to any online controversies before The Roiland Incident. Initial news of Roiland’s domestic violence charges, based on an alleged 2020 incident, was first reported on January 12, 2023. NBC News, the first to report publicly on the case, obtained the criminal complaint in the case, which charges Roiland, 42, with one felony count of domestic battery with corporal injury and one felony count of false imprisonment by menace, violence, fraud, and/or deceit. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in October 2020, and the semi-sealed case was kept out of the public until January 12.
However, this isn’t the first time one of the series’ creators has been in the news for the wrong reasons. In 2018, Dan Harmon came under fire for a supposed TV pilot he created in which he travels back in time to sexually assault serial killers when they’re children in an attempt to thwart future crimes. In the video, he was reportedly seen “simulating rape” on baby dolls. Harmon subsequently released a statement about the video, apologizing for its content and the offense it has caused.
Adult Swim needs to keep the show’s staff on a tight collar for the next few years so as not to tarnish the brand any further. The things the series’ two creators have done are more than enough to stain Rick & Morty’s legacy forever, and it would be a miracle if The Roiland Incident doesn’t supersede the show itself whenever it’s mentioned in casual conversation from now on.
Address Controversy in the Very First Return Episode
People online now saying, “I’m done with Rick and Morty,” will be there to see what happens in the first episode post The Roiland Incident. And at that moment, during the season premiere that will arguably have the most eyes on it since its Season 3 debut, you have to address the controversy. As noted by IGN’s Kim Horcher, the nihilistic nature of the show, alongside its multiversal setting, lends itself to breaking the fourth wall and explaining things away. Since the lead characters will be voiced by new VA(s), the minor difference in their voices can be explained away canonically; maybe they’re different versions of their characters.
It can also be used to make a very meta joke at the expense of Roiland and The Incident. However, the latter will take much more tact, grace, and overall effort to pull off than just not joking about it at all.
Come To Terms That The Heyday Is Over
After the domestic violence reports and however it plays out in the coming months, Rick and Morty’s staff, and especially Adult Swim, have to accept some people will never watch the show again, and that’s okay. Rick and Morty is a decade-old animated series in 2023, it has settled into its fanbase, and the casuals aren’t who isn’t who the show has been geared toward in the first place.
Although the show is currently in its sixth season and churning out some of its best episodes ever, nobody is talking about it outside of its core audience. Rick and Morty, lauded as the second coming of The Simpsons and Family Guy in terms of popularity, there’s no social media chatter and even less word of mouth. We suggested during Season 6’s midseason finale that it may be because it’s embarrassing to be a Rick and Morty fan at this point. But now? Those sentiments could be truer than it was in 2022. At the very least, we doubt the merch is going to be moving at the same speed at which it was before The Incident.
It’s gone from no chatter about the season to how the show will continue now that the titular characters have different voice actors. A show this long in the tooth has settled into its audience, and for as many casuals who will go is as many who will pride themselves on staying. Appeal to them, for better or worse. They may be Schezwan sauce-loving, fast-food employee-beating superfans, but they’re your core audience!
Do Not Allow The Show’s Quality To Dip
We live in a generation where it’s almost worse to be middle of the road than to be complete trash. There’s so much television to watch that young folks don’t feel the need to invest time in anything below a certain quality. We’re all spoiled and jaded, and you cannot allow that sentiment to follow you going forward into Season 7. It took a long time, but in 2018, Adult Swim ordered a fourth season of the animated series alongside 70 additional episodes.
It was a massive pickup rarely seen these days, which only spoke to how successful the series was during its third season, not only in terms of viewership but across digital, gaming, live streaming, retail, and fan experiences. In 2017, the show claimed the title of #1 comedy across all of television with millennials. Rick and Morty is an intelligent show, making the concept of multiverses mainstream. It’s a pioneer of some of the best films we’ve gotten this decade, including Avengers Endgame and Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Although nobody is expecting the series to break new ground, it can’t falter in its storytelling quality. People are looking for the chink in the iron, any excuse to pile on, and the writer’s room cannot give their audience any further incentive to do so.
End After The Season 10 Order Expires
We know you guys thought you were going to be The Simpsons or Family Guy of the current generation, and the series was indeed well on its way to becoming just that. But now that the chatter of the show has gone down, the titular characters have been recast, and there’s nothing but controversy, those dreams may be dashed. Now is the time to recalibrate how Adult Swim and the staff want this show to be remembered as it goes forward. Adult Swim could offer more seasons after the 70-episode deal is finished, but it would be foolish to continue the show by then. The show can’t dip in quality, so it isn’t allowed to go on autopilot like the aforementioned cartoons once they hit their milestone.
Instead, aim to be King of the Hill, bow out gracefully and finish the arcs of your characters. Put a period behind the nihilistic worldview of the show and put a nice bow on it, then leave. Get out while the getting is good, and make sure Rick and Morty (the characters) have a proper sendoff. And hey, who knows? Maybe in a few years, when the noise dies down, and justice has been served, maybe Rick and Morty can get a reboot series, too.