Solar Opposites

4 out of 5

Created by: Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan 

covers season 1

It took me a season to come around on Rick and Morty, a show which can’t be avoided in mention when discussing Solar Opposites, R & M co-creator Justin Roiland’s new show, alongside non-Rick and Morty co-creator Mike McMahan.  I’d loved Roiland (and Dan Harmon, the other co-on R &M) from his Channel 101 work, and was overjoyed that he was involved with an animation project, but his style was admittedly – initially – a stretch for 30 minutes, even tempered by Harmon’s structural / character influences, and I think the show backed itself into some tonal choices from the get-go that didn’t quite gel with me.  But as it gained more of an identity beyond a series of gags, repeat viewings of the first season (and those beyond) would become infinitely more enjoyable.

Rick and Morty has gained quite a following, and along with that has come some expectations regarding the level of its humor and plot complexities.  So with ‘Solar Opposites’ – in which an alien “family” escapes their exploding planet, Superman style, to live on Earth and raise their will-one-day-terraform-the-world pupa – there does seem to be a clear intention to go back to basics.  That said, Roiland has learned from R & M, and likely from Harmon, grounding Opposites with an appreciative sense of linearity and character building from the start.  It is wholly silly, of course – it’s purposefully structured as something of a send-up of family sitcoms, except the episodic hijinks involve otherworldly inventions that frequently raze and destroy properties and peoples – but it has a more accessible “heart” to it than Rick and Morty, and is instantly begging of rewatches in a way that that show, in its comparative exhaustive excesses, isn’t.

That Opposites premiers on streaming channel Hulu, all episodes at once, also affects this: I don’t have a week to marinate on what I just watched and let it cast impressions across next week’s show; I can take it at my own pace, and pause and rewind easily, and there also seems to be a willful inclusion of repeated gags – not to mention some excellent slowburn payoffs – that are incredibly funny and worthwhile in a bingeable format.

The joke’s don’t always land, of course, and the “keep it simple” mandate means we sometimes veer more toward stupid and / or crass than anything else.  The un-filtering of Hulu also means that Roiland and his fellow voice actors (Thomas Middleditch, Sean Giambrone, Mary Mack) can be as foul-mouthed as they please, which is occasionally (maybe often) to the extent of detracting from some smarter jokes and setups.

But as has proven the case with Roiland’s style in general, it’s so rapid fire that when jokes don’t land, they’re quickly beaten senseless by many that do.  And the odds are stacked in his favor with the rest of the talented cast and a group of very capable writers and directors who keep things moving along at a “…just one more episode…” pace.  Solar Opposites may be the “dumb” cousin of Roiland’s breakout show, but those lowered expectations allow it to rocket forward out of the gate with a giant ass smile.