Rick and Morty is great. There have been a lot of naysayers coming out of late looking to denigrate the show’s entire canon thanks to some somewhat underwhelming recent seasons, but, overall, Adult Swim’s intergalactic epic is excellent, even if it is currently suffering from a bit of an image problem. Rick and Morty has been one of the best things on TV for a while, and there’s no shame in wanting to find other creations with similar comedic beats and comparably zany cosmic adventures to enjoy without worrying that you’re becoming the sort of person who still demands Szechuan sauce at your local McDonald’s.
Thanks to its immediate impact and influence, many studios now seem to be attempting to produce shows like Rick and Morty in order to take advantage of the path forged in its wake, meaning that there’ll like be many imitators in the future bearing more than a passing resemblance to Adult Swim’s most successful original creation.
From those shows that were influenced by Rick and Morty to those it clearly owes a creative debt, this list is the perfect place to further satisfy your craving for sci-fi, adventure and just a touch of misanthropic nihilism.
Shows Like Rick and Morty
10. The Oblongs
Even by 2001, the idea of parodying the American family seemed somewhat old hat. The Flintstones and the Jeffersons had already played with subverting the typical domestic unit through wacky locales and situations before The Simpsons came along and pretty much created the blueprint for dysfunctional families muddling through life in lower-middle America. Two years before The Oblongs debuted, Family Guy had also poked its head from its own particular hole to take the format in zany new directions.
The Oblongs was yet another show to piggyback on the format, focusing on the misadventures of a zany family but with the striking twist of having its protagonists be deformed to varying degrees thanks to the effects of corrosive toxic waste. Outlandish and strange, The Oblongs often found themselves overshadowed by more established rival TV families, a handicap that saw the show cancelled after just two seasons.
As time has gone on, The Oblongs has continued to polarize opinion among those who actually remember it, some seeing it as a clever commentary on class and social stratification in contrast to those who view it as a cheap Simpsons knock-off that uses physical deformation as a way of distinguishing itself from the cartoon grandaddy. If you’re keen on shows like Rick and Morty, however, The Oblongs is well worth an investigation so that you see for yourself.
9. The Orville
Family Guy and American Dad co-creator Seth MacFarlane has never made much of a secret of his adoration of all things Star Trek. Both of the aforementioned cartoons are positively littered with references to Gene Rodenberry’s colossally influential interstellar saga, from Patrick Stewart’s frequent appearances in both projects to an entire episode predicated on Stewie becoming de facto custodian to the entire cast of The Next Generation, much to his increasing chagrin.
The culmination of this obsession has resulted in The Orville, MacFarlane’s own sci-fi pet project that aired originally in 2017 on Fox. Initially a more throwaway, parodic affair, The Orville’s second season dropped the comedic, side-eyed perspective for a more sincere, down-the-middle take on space travel, often feeling like a broadcast of Star Trek beamed in from an alternate dimension.
It’s ended up all the better for it, however, replicating the sorts of ethical quandaries, big social ideas and gripping cosmic adventures that made Rodenberry’s original creation such a revered and influential piece of work. Season 1 is missable, but 2 and 3 (also known as New Horizons) are worthy to forge their own path among the stars.
8. The Venture Bros.
Rick and Morty is often cited as Adult Swim’s “cleverest show,” but that title could quite easily go to Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer’s warped, intricate tribute to idealised adventure shows of the 60s, in particular, Jonny Quest.
It might not appear to be as cerebral as Rick and Morty on the surface, but The Venture Bros is a genuinely clever show made by some hugely talented people. A superficial pastiche of the razmataz-fuelled adventures of its romanticised fictional influences, closer inspection reveals an always developing critique of the jingoistic American self-image, an exploration of dynastic trauma and the ultimately inevitable failures we all must face as we grow older and more jaded.
It’s also one of Adult Swim’s most lavish productions, looking better and better the longer it went on, always bolstered by its superb voice cast and rich, immediately likeable characters. Before he was Joe Swanson, Patrick Warburton was peerless as the implacable, ultra-masculine Brock Samson, a hunk so manly that “men write him love letters, and women name their vibrators after him.”
The revered animated series follows the misadventures of Zim, a psychotic alien from the planet Irk hellbent on conquering Earth and bending its inhabitants to his despotic will, only to be constantly thwarted by a paranormal investigator named Dib who knows of Zim’s true intentions and will stop at nothing to prevent him from taking over the planet.
Created by Jhonen Vasquez and airing on Cartoon Network, Invader Zim is superficially a far lighter affair than shows like Rick and Morty and their cynical, nihilistic proclivities. That being said, for a cartoon aimed predominantly at kids, Invader Zim has managed to push the boundaries for what was acceptable for a children’s show, a sensibility that only endeared it further to the youngsters it was supposedly corrupting.
Time has been kind to Invader Zim, with many now regarding it as one of the best cartoons ever made. Rebellious child or nostalgic adult, everyone should dig out Jhonen Vasquez’s sci-fi farce regardless of their age.
6. Star Trek: The Lower Decks
Birthed by Mike McMahan, the co-creator of Solar Opposites and a frequent writer for Rick and Morty (especially in the earlier seasons), The Lower Decks takes us out of the glamorous spotlight of the holodeck or the ship’s bridge to instead focus on the lives of the less acclaimed but certainly no less valuable crew members of the USS Cerritos.
It’s a premise that shows immediately that The Lower Decks’ creators understand what most really decent comedy is all about: frustration, hierarchies and unfilled aspirations. Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville has proven that there’s still mirth to be found within the upper echelons of the interstellar pecking order, but there’s equally so much to be gained from sticking protagonists at the bottom of the pile and making them wish they were at the top.
Ambitious shows like Rick and Morty often take time to evolve. Season 1 of The Lower Decks was still finding its feet, but a far stronger second outing showed that members of the USS Cerritos can really flourish when shown a little faith.
5. Inside Job
Not every show like Rick and Morty has to be set in the cosmos. Inside Job never goes full galactic, but its premise that all of your favorite conspiracy theories are true, from lizard people to alien coverups, makes for the next best thing. Netflix’s animated project teases and pokes holes in some of the more ridiculous theories mankind has concocted over the years, all while fully engaging with the premise that there really is a shadowy organisation lurking in the background having to keep it all in check.
Inside Job’s influences are everywhere, for better or for worse, sometimes feeling like an amalgam of Archer, Futurama, Rick and Morty, and maybe a bit of Fringe all shoved into a blender and then reformed with a familiar art style designed to ensnare viewers who liked the other shows that bore a similar design.
When it’s at its best, however, Inside Job manages to be funny, bizarre and parodic in all of the right ways, excelling when it really delivers jokes rather than simply stringing together a series of references. Season 1 was something of a patchy affair, but opening efforts are often improved upon the second time around, so look out for Inside Job’s sophomore showing to see if the conspiratorial caper can really hit its straps.
Rick and Morty might have taken the genre to strange and sometimes disturbing new places, but there’s always been one true master when it comes to animated sci-fi adventures in space. As far as space cartoons go, Futurama has never been topped.
Like it or not, Rick and Morty owes a tremendous debt to Futurama, the creative influence that Harmon and Roiland surely took from Matt Groening’s creation seeping from every high-concept setup and intergalactic farce on some newly discovered planet. Whatever Rick and Morty has done, Futurama likely did it first, often with a great deal more heart to boot, be it proving mathematical theorems via body swap farces or making interdimensional travel possible via the housing of a universe inside a cardboard box.
In fact, that’s probably where the two shows take their greatest departure from one another. While Rick and Morty has often been characterised by angst and nihilism, Futurama always felt hopeful, full of Star Trek-inspired wonder that the future was full of infinite possibilities, even if many of the people inhabiting it had grown rather accustomed to its obvious wonders.
3. The Midnight Gospel
If you thought the idea of a Cronenberg universe or a dimension where hamsters live inside human butts was trippy, they’ve got absolutely nothing on the strange cosmic landscapes housed within The Midnight Gospel.
Crafted from the minds of comedian Duncan Trussell and Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, The Midnight Gospel focuses on Clancy Gilroy, a so-called “spacecaster” who travels around planets and universes using a sort of space simulator, interviewing guests from various worlds for his space cast. What makes The Midnight Gospel unique, apart from its spectacular visuals, is that Gilroy’s interviews are all based on genuine audio taken from The Duncan Trussell Family Hour, Trussell’s real-life podcast.
If you think that sounds bizarre, it is. The Guardian’s assessment that The Midnight Gospel is essentially a trippy Mr. Benn for adults is apt, but Ward and Trussell’s animated mind-melter is such a feast for the eyes and senses that there’s never any danger of it feeling derivative. While there are visual and thematic similarities with shows like Rick and Morty, the eight solitary episodes of The Midnight Gospel feel like a very unique trip.
For better or for worse, Solar Opposites never really ditched the many tricks and sensibilities that made Rick and Morty such a massive hit. There are obvious parallels to point out, such as sharing the same co-creator and an identical art style, but Solar Opposites borrows far more than the purely superficial.
Family patriarch Korvo, an alien with a superior scientific brain but a lack of empathy for human behavior, bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain mad scientist. Meanwhile, the show’s propensity for hyper-violence intermingled with the occasional piece of off-the-wall silliness (the Solar Opposites are called Shlorpians and in one episode create a furry character called “Funbucket”) evidences the obvious debt.
That isn’t to say Solar Opposites doesn’t have enough to recommend it on its own, with the show only growing into itself following a hit-and-miss first season. While it might not quite have the depth of its bigger brother, a more throwaway feel gives proceedings greater creative freedom, while the parallel ‘B’ story of “The Wall” follows the trials of a group of shrunken humans forced to live inside an alien child’s bedroom wall, acting as a gripping sub-narrative.
1. Final Space
It’s often felt as though Rick and Morty has sailed effortlessly through the metaphorical cosmos, loved, acclaimed and consistently pulling in a decent viewership throughout its five seasons thus far. Final Space, meanwhile, endured a far more turbulent journey in the struggle for mainstream acceptance.
First debuting on TBS in 2018, Final Space was developed from a concept birthed by YouTuber Olan Rogers, an idea that Conan O’Brien helped get off the ground when he invited Rogers to pitch the series to the network. Following lone astronaut Gary and his powerful alien friend Mooncake as they are pursued across the cosmos by the evil Lord Commander, the show is committedly a space opera in tone and scale, even if its comic sensibilities are decidedly broad.
O’Brien would go on to star in all three seasons of Final Space, alongside a host of stellar animated regulars including Keith David, Tom Kenny and Alan Tudyk. For all the talent it was able to boast, however, Final Space could never quite soar in the same way that shows like Rick and Morty or Futurama have been able to over an extended period of time.
Despite steadily improving upon each preceding season, culminating in a darker final run in 2021, the show’s future is looking increasingly bleak. After three seasons and quite a few scheduling rearrangements, Final Space looks to have endured a premature swansong.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.