Adult Swim's Painstaking 'Rick and Morty' Release Is a Brilliant Statement Against Binge-Watching
The next episode of Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim original animated series that features an alcoholic mad scientist and his hapless grandson, is coming out Monday, March 17. In a move that both maddened and excited fans, Adult Swim also released the Rick and Morty episode Friday. On Instagram. In 15-second clips. While the die-hards are clicking through all 110 segments, we can take a step back to consider this new move in the world of viewership. Is this, in fact, the anti-Netflix? Or is it beating Netflix at its own game?
With the release of the second season of House of Cards (and other imminently watchable shows) on Netflix, there has been speculation that one model of television, waiting patiently for your show or DVD to come on each week, is being displaced by a model that allows you to binge-watch each show or film that strikes your fantasy. It's as if The Truman Show actually did exist, but with infinite flavors, from Orange is the New Black to Adventuretime . We never have to worry about changing out of our onesies again.
Then again, there are shows like Rick and Morty. The animated comedy launched on December 2, 2013, and it is slotted to release 10 half-hour episodes. In splitting the last episode, "Ricksy Business," into 15-second clips, Adult Swim seems to be asking their audience to take their obsession one step further. Watching each clip both creates a sense of fragmented consciousness and makes one aware of the care that goes into each second of the episode itself. If we are frustrated watching these in segments, imagine how much time it must have taken to create and edit them. I almost wish that House of Cards had taken this step with one of its episodes, because it could take a full 30 minutes to analyze one 15-second interaction.
In addition, the subject matter of "Ricksy Business" focuses on the concept of viewership. The episode starts off with the family on the couch, watching The Bachelor. Rick insults the show, prompting son-in-law Jerry to demand, "You show us your concept of good TV, and we'll crap all over that." Rick responds by upgrading their cable package "with programming from every conceivable reality." It is, he tells them, "infinite TV from infinite universes." Summer complains, and Rick tells her, "You just spent three months watching a man choose a fake wife."
As the family flips through the infinite channels, searching for the shows in which alternate-reality Jerry is famous, the viewer experiences a similar feeling. We are chasing them with our own clips, jumping from reality to reality in the span of a few seconds. This is Netflix, indeed, sped up to a frantic degree.
Perhaps, then, Ricky and Morty is showing us our future. We have grown accustomed to 140 characters in each Tweet, 10 seconds for each snap chat (not counting Stories) and 6 seconds in each Vine. This episode is both a parody of our shortened and hyper-segmented media world, and perhaps the vanguard of entertainment to come. And, as the likes on Instagram indicate, viewers are buying in. Thank you, Rick and Morty, for giving us a brief, hilarious, and horrifying glimpse at the show of the future.
Image: Cartoon Network / Instagram