Deadshirt Is Watching… Rick, Morty, and John Oliver

Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Rick and Morty and Last Week Tonight!

Dominic Griffin is Watching…


Rick and Morty
Season 2, Episode 6: “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”
Sundays at 11:30pm/10:30c on Adult Swim

Somehow, Dan Harmon has managed to find an outlet for his fantasy life as a legitimate science fiction writer. Make no mistake, Rick and Morty is science fiction first, and the show’s tragicomic musings on dysfunctional family life exist largely as a oversized crutches to keep the show moving in the event one of Harmon and his writing team’s big ideas falls flat on its face. Forget Inspector Spacetime. Harmon’s managed to run his own Doctor Who fanfic with network money, hiding it inside a satiric Russian nesting doll of sitcom tropes.

This season of Rick and Morty has managed to double down on the scathing cynicism and morbid minutiae that was such a defining characteristic of Season One without losing any of the show’s outrageous humor. Every episode blends a ridiculous sci-fi element with a reliably dour message about real life interpersonal relationships. “Total Rickall” used a Ten Little Indians “which one of us is an alien parasite” structure to explore the fallibility of familial bonds. “Get Schwifty,” while a minor episode, set up an intergalactic, life or death version of American Idol as a morality play on why dispassionate detachment can sometimes achieve more than short-sighted decency. To that end, “The Ricks Must Be Crazy” wants to say something about the nature of ethics in scientific experimentation, something else about the existence of God, and maybe a few things about Rick and how much of a cocksucker he remains to be.

All told, this might be the least impressive episode of the season so far, relying on the same Inception style storytelling the show already expertly skewered in Season One’s “Lawnmower Dog.” Concepts like Rick inventing a pocket universe for the sole purpose of powering his spaceship are the bedrock of the show’s mythology, and the notion that that pocket universe would house someone as selfish as Rick who does the same thing (and so on, and so on) is a great premise, but it doesn’t go anywhere particularly groundbreaking or illuminating. This might have been fine last season, but after seeing the lengths this series has gone to in breaking the mold and doing the unexpected, it’s easy to feel let down. Rick and Morty’s “just good” is still leagues better than some animated comedies’ “excellent” so it’s all in good fun, but let’s hope this was a minor detour on this season’s otherwise button-pushing path.

Episode Highlight: By far the moment that made me laugh the hardest was Morty’s breakdown upon leaving the Tree People of the Tinyverse, because moments of Morty giving into his inner Rick are always a blast. Rick’s ship mocking Summer is a close second.

David Lebovitz is watching…


Last Week Tonight
Season 2, Episode 26
Sundays at 10pm/9c on HBO

Even as a longtime Jon Stewart acolyte, the constant cries of “what will we ever do without Jon Stewart?” have always struck me as hollow and ill-informed. Reasons:

1) You need to stop relying on a comedian for news, and he’s been telling you this for years.
2) It’s not hard to find other content (looking at you, Salon and HuffPost).
3) We’re getting Trevor Noah anyway.
4) John Oliver conclusively proven that we’ll be just fine.

Last Week Tonight’s effect is going beyond making people laugh; it’s affecting tangible change. His segment on US territories was cited in a federal judge’s opinion on a lawsuit against Guam. His segment on the exploitative world of televangelism has put actual pressure on the IRS to investigate televangelists. The mock church he created in response to it, as demonstrated at the end of this episode, is getting boxes of donations that are eventually going to Doctors Without Borders.

For this, Oliver’s 50th overall episode, his main story was about the many ways LGBT people can still legally face discrimination. As per usual, the depth and detail he and his staff go into continue to make this one of the most compelling half hours of television each week, without sacrificing the humor.

I was perhaps most impressed with the way he approached the “religious liberty” argument about a Colorado bakery refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Instead of dismissing it outright, as would be easy to do, he broke it down step by step: here’s where he’s coming from, here’s why it looks like it makes sense, here’s why it doesn’t actually make sense. The LWT crew doing their due diligence and reaching out to presidential candidates to get their opinions is impressive and shows that, while this may not be journalism, it’s certainly more than merely a comedy show.

Episode Highlight: After the Colorado baker said that the Constitution gave him the right to practice his faith and fre speech with “no restrictions, anytime anywhere”:  “Except it doesn’t! […] The Constitution isn’t the star in Super Mario Bros. It doesn’t make you invincible so you can just do whatever the fuck you want.”

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