News Column

San Francisco Chronicle David Wiegand column

November 26, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 26--There are second and even third acts in Hollywood, and next week, two talented guys who were canned from shows they nurtured are back on TV with new winning series.

Frank Darabont, the developer of AMC's huge critical and popular hit "The Walking Dead," was unceremoniously dumped by AMC two years ago, but comes back with a bang-bang next week as the executive producer of TNT's classy new noir series, "Mob City."

Dan Harmon, who created "Community," was dumped after three years as the show's executive producer. He's been asked back by Sony Pictures, and has accepted, but he hasn't been sitting around waiting for the phone to ring: He's been working with Justin Roiland on the new animated show "Rick and Morty," premiering Monday on Adult Swim.

There are shades of "Futurama," "South Park" and even "Beetlejuice" in the half-hour show, but at the same time, it has the right amount of edge and wackiness to feel entirely original.

The show's title, "Rick and Morty," sounds like the phrase "rigor mortis," which is what Morty's mad-scientist grandfather, Rick, seems perilously close to experiencing in how he's drawn: crazy pale blue hair, a matching blue unibrow sailing lazily across his gray skin. Did I mention he drools? And punctuates his guttural speech with belches?

Charming dude. And hella out of his mind, which worries Morty's parents, and for good reason.

In the pilot episode, Rick drags Morty into another dimension through a swirling portal to gather some powerful seeds from phallic-looking trees that grow in a kind of "Yellow Submarine" other world.

Morty is anything but an adventurous sort, though. He's neurotic, physically uncoordinated and not very bright. Somehow, he gets duped into being his crazy granddad's sidekick.

The show is voiced by Roiland as both Rick and Morty, with Sarah Chalke, Spencer Grammer and Chris Parnell voicing other main characters.

The humor is offbeat and occasionally coarse, but the take-away here is that it works. Harmon and Roiland take a stock situation of a kid and his lovable granddad, and turn it on its head, but not before spinning it around and around. The animation, overseen by art director James McDermott, is fresh, colorful and as wacky as the script.

David Wiegand is The San Francisco Chronicle's executive features editor and TV critic. E-mail: dwiegand@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @WaitWhat_TV

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(c)2013 the San Francisco Chronicle

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