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Writing for TV: Rick and Morty Pilot

Adult animated shows have some of the most iconic characters and quotes in all of television. Whether it’s 'The Simpsons', 'South Park', or 'Family Guy', there’s so much to appreciate and analyze, even if you’re not a huge animated show fan. From a contemporary setting, 'Rick and Morty' is definitely up there as one of the most popular shows today, animated or not.


Despite all the controversy, odd writing at times, and obsessed fan base, 'Rick and Morty' is as popular as it is for a reason. Writing for television is a challenging task not everyone can accomplish, especially in the animated world, and the juice must start to flow early on in the pilot. Thankfully, shows like 'Rick and Morty' are staples of how to get your script into reality, and its pilot is worth watching for many reasons.


The show has a dense yet simple premise, revolving around the escapades of Rick Sanchez, a cynical and eccentric mad scientist, and his kind-hearted yet apprehensive grandson, Morty Smith. Together, they navigate through a blend of domestic life and mind-bending interdimensional adventures, spanning countless realities.


Their journeys involve traveling to various planets and dimensions using portals and Rick's flying saucer. This unique series cleverly weaves together two contrasting themes: domestic family drama and the misadventures of a misanthropic grandfather dragging his grandson into thrilling hijinks.

Still from 'Rick and Morty'. Photo credit: IMDb


Iconic Characters


All animated series must develop iconic characters for the audience to follow along. Examples include Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Hank Hill, Bob Belcher, Cartman, and so many others. Rick and Morty are practically as notable as all of these characters, and much of that is thanks to the writing.


Originally conceived as a parody of 'Back to the Future', Rick and Morty featured the main characters as humorous substitutes for Doc Brown and Marty McFly. However, the show evolved into something more distinct.


Rick, in particular, embodies a belligerent and alcoholic rendition of 'Doctor Who', possessing immense intellect and the ability to traverse limitless dimensions. He often takes his unwitting grandson Morty along on his escapades. Thus, the series took on its own unique identity, blending elements of science fiction and humor to create an entertaining and adventurous narrative.


Setting Up Your Writing


When crafting a series, leveraging ideas to enrich and delve deeper into your themes becomes a crucial lesson to bear in mind. For example, the exploration of implanted memories in later episodes delved into the realm of supernatural and mystical elements to show a battle against darkness and self-discovery.


Likewise, a show like 'Star Trek', with its utopian vision of space exploration and encounters with diverse alien civilizations, might have delved into the ethical implications of implanted memories on interstellar diplomacy and cultural understanding.


'Doctor Who', known for its time-traveling adventures and complex characters, would have examined the consequences of tampering with memories across different historical eras and alien societies.


'The X-Files', being a sci-fi mystery series, might have approached this concept with a darker and more enigmatic tone, exploring government conspiracies, extraterrestrial phenomena, and the blurry line between reality and deception.


Every show possesses its unique themes, storytelling style, and tone, offering an array of possibilities to tackle a shared concept like implanted memories in ways that align seamlessly with their narrative identity.


As a writer, understanding and respecting the essence of your series while incorporating fresh ideas can lead to an engaging and dynamic exploration of your chosen themes. It allows the audience to experience varied perspectives and enhances the overall richness of your storytelling universe.


Originality and Making Adjustments


Even with 'Rick and Morty' being influenced by so much in the Sci-Fi world, it’s original. However, that originality was adjusted as it went on, particularly with Rick’s character. As belligerent and gross as Rick is, he’s even more so in the pilot, and the creators lowered his burping to make an adjustment.


Many aspiring writers are often advised to "read lots of books" rather than "watch lots of TV." However, some of the most audacious, peculiar, and captivating writing in recent times can be found on television. It’s better to craft an original story rather than worry about technique and what not to do.


'Rick and Morty' is a remarkable gem on TV, offering each episode as a densely packed rollercoaster ride into the darkest corners of the human condition. Putting its ridiculous fan base aside, the show is silly at times and doesn’t always work, yet it works, and that’s what matters.


What’s Logic?


Part of the reason so many people worship 'Rick and Morty' is the show’s ability to throw logic out the window. Much of the show is unpredictable, meaning it’s challenging for the audience to know how a storyline will go or develop. Though it’s ideal to have a base or concept for your script to stay grounded in, don’t be afraid to take risks.

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