The writing team behind Rick and Morty might be taking a different approach when it comes to developing the show’s stories for the fourth season. It’s cause for excitement because something akin to this method has led to some of the show’s greatest episodes ever. By leaning into absurdity and avoiding predictable structure, Rick and Morty can keep the jokes coming.
In a July profile of Rick and Morty, co-creator Dan Harmon from Emmy magazine, Harmon revealed what sounds like a slightly novel approach to crafting stories for the show as he and his team work on the 70 upcoming episodes ordered by Adult Swim. The new method might lightly eschew the beloved “Story Circle” in favor of something more holistic in nature.
“The last thing I want is to be the guy who makes Rick and Morty sterile,” Harmon said. “We need to keep it fresh and continue to innovate.” According to Emmy magazine, Harmon plans “to shake things up with a more anarchic writing style.”
Rather than trying to force a singular story premise on any given episode (which caused episodes like “Anatomy Park” and “Get Schwifty” to suffer), the writing team will instead cultivate the ideas, jokes, moments etc. that they find funny. Finagling a story and formulating cohesive episodes will, apparently, be the last step of the process. “Moments first, structure second” sounds like the new mantra.
That might sound counterintuitive, bucking the trend of traditional TV story writing, but extrapolating stories out of jokes has worked for Rick and Morty before.
Think of the best episodes and jokes from the show’s 31-episode run, and you’ll get confirmation of this. Both interdimensional cable episodes remain some of the best, largely because they let co-creator Justin Roiland improvise ridiculous jokes like “Lil’ Bits” or “The Adventures of Stealy.” The same could be said about “Total Rickall,” or even one-off jokes like “Roy: A Life Well-Lived.” And let’s not forget the excellent “Morty’s Mind Blowers” from Season 3, which functioned like a series of Rick and Morty mini-episodes where Rick messed up.
When Rick and Morty focuses on better jokes rather than obsessing over a serialized continuity, the show’s elevated to a place of brilliance.
Perhaps the greatest example of this approach came with the Emmy-nominated episode “Pickle Rick,” which Harmon revealed in a video interview with GQ started with someone randomly saying, “Rick turns himself into a pickle.” Rather than dismiss what was probably a late-night goof during a brainstorm session, Harmon and the rest of the team instead latched onto an idea that everyone found funny. The episode evolved from that point.
This overall approach is, in a huge way, also representative of the show’s real origin.
By now most people know that Rick and Morty began as a Back to the Future spoof, but Harmon clarified the real deep cut origin of the show was a silly, random joke from Roiland.
“In the case of Rick and Morty, it started with these two voices that Justin really likes doing,” Harmon revealed. “That’s the hard part to generate, people’s bliss. People’s joy.”
People’s bliss. People’s joy. That’s the kind of rabbit that Harmon, Roiland, and the rest of their writers are chasing with the stories in Season 4. Get ready for even more insane randomness.
We couldn’t be more excited to see the weird places this show goes.
Rick and Morty Season 4 has no confirmed premiere date, but the writers are fast at work on it.