I’ve spent some time over the past week or so watching two television shows, Person of Interest and Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty.
I mentioned the former here a week ago, and noted then that I found the premise “unintentionally creepy.” I got quite a bit of pushback from others who were further along in the series, but I have to say midway through the third season (there are only four to this point) I stand by my original assessment. Indeed, I think that the entire premise of the show is sort of staple of conservative talk radio talking points: “Living in a surveillance state is terrible and evil, unless those who do the surveillance are the Good Guys, in which case it is totally awesome.”
Every episode of Person of Interest is chock full of the protagonists spying on ordinary citizens throughout every aspect of their lives, including those moments most private and intimate. Further, these protagonists are a small group of men and women who believe strongly that their own personal lives should be shielded from any and all inspection or oversight from anyone else. It may well be that this vibe changes at some point in the last half of Season Three or in Season Four, but so far the show seems to telegraph very loudly the message that we should cheer the illegal actions of the protagonists, and that we should further root for them not to ever have to face outside oversight or accountability, because they are the Good Guys and they are doing these things for the Right Reasons. If there is a big twist coming from the writers that is supposed to make the viewer say, “Good Lord, these protagonists are terrible people doing awful things,” I confess I am not seeing it on the horizon. And so to date, I continue to find the show unintentionally creepy.
It’s also a hoot, and I am loving it.
I am also loving Rick and Morty.
If you have yet to come across it, Rick and Morty is a cartoon about a mad scientist who travels through both space and multiple dimensions with his grandson. Though the premise is very 1970s Saturday morning cartoon, the show is definitely adult and NSFW. Think of it as the surprise lovechild born of a drunken, hedonistic hookup between Futurama and The Venture Bros at an Amarillo, Motel 6. Rick and Morty was created by Dan Harmon, and in the style of Harmon’s Community it treats each episode as an excuse to do a sendup of a classic sci-fi trope.
My favorite thing about Rick and Morty? Like Venture Bros., the show’s cast is full of are twisted pastiches on old and often obscure bad TV and B-movie sci-fi characters. Included in this list of homages are Bizarro-world versions of Hawk from the Gil Gerard version of Buck Rogers, the Thundercats’ Snarf, and Leland Guant from Needful Things. It is also, I believe, the first television show in history to feature a character named Mr. Poopybutthole.
As for reading, I am working my way though the latest volume of Micheal Palin’s published diaries, and for professional reasons rereading Summer for the Gods, Inherit the Wind, and Michael Kazin’s William Jennings Bryan biography, A Godly Hero.
And y’all? What are you watching and reading?