In 2005, Seth MacFarlane followed up on the success of animated family sitcom Family Guy with a new yet familiar animated family sitcom American Dad! Critics and fans alike felt that the new series was little more than a carbon copy at the time, a port over of a successful formula that didn’t look to reinvent the wheel but rather add more bells and whistles to it. Some thought that the newcomer would fizzle out before it really got going while others posited that both series were destined for cancellation sooner than later. Cut to 2020 when Family Guy is prepping for its 19th season and American Dad! is enjoying its 15th; there’s a lot to be said for having a wildly imaginative creator spearheading the show and for taking that successful formula and running with it.
Enter Solar Opposites, the new animated comedy series (with a family-focused twist) from co-creators Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan. While both creatives have numerous titles under their belts, their names will forever be synonymous with Rick and Morty. It’s hard to separate that show’s ongoing success and legacy from their new title here. The differences are few and far between: Solar Opposites focuses on an alien family come to Earth where their hijinks have far more NSFW room to play in thanks to Hulu’s less-restrictive standards and practices, and gone are the at-times lengthy faux-philosophical rantings, a signature of Dan Harmon. However, what remains is a successful retread of Rick and Morty‘s core mechanics, a sci-fi story limited by only the imagination in which Roiland’s two-hander performance as both leads, Korvo and Terry, keeps the manic insanity flowing with hilarious results.
Much like the title stars of Rick and Morty, Korvo and Terry are your odd couple here: Korvo’s the smart, serious alien who wants to fix their ship while Terry’s the dim-witted party enthusiast who is supposed to be keeping an eye on Pupa, but would rather watch sitcoms instead. The episodic nature of Solar Opposites, of which there are currently eight installments in Season 1, loosely follows both Korvo and Terry’s attempts to achieve their goals, but honestly, the endpoints aren’t that interesting; their journeys to get there, however, are. That dynamic should feel very familiar to Rick and Morty fans.
Slightly more interesting than the older aliens’ plots are those of the younger generation, the vindictive and spiteful Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone) and the sweet and innocent Jesse (Mary Mack). These two are also diametrically opposed for the most part, occasionally coming together for a common goal when it suits the plot, and their dynamic is a nice counterpart to their older family members. They’re basically the kids of this family unit, so we get to see how they react to Earth’s school system, adolescence, etc., while Korvo and Terry are mostly free from such restrictions.
For my money, the best part of Solar Opposites is the wildcard character Pupa, whose part to play in the plot is revealed over time but is worth paying attention to throughout the season; the character’s antics are also pretty hard to miss. Additionally, and without giving away any major spoilers, a throwaway hobby of Yumyulack and Jesse leads to an epic side-story that plays out with dramatic effect in Season 1 (and will hopefully continue in Season 2 and beyond), something that’s on par with “Pickle Rick” and similar episodes of Rick and Morty. You’ll know it when you see it.
Solar Opposites is more Rick and Morty: More sci-fi, more blood and guts, more sexual content without any real reason for it to exist beyond needing a horned-up release for frustrated characters. It’s way more NSFW than even Adult Swim’s boundary-pushing series, so you have Hulu’s relatively lax censorship to thank for that. And while it may be missing Harmon’s signature oddities and asides, it’s still rife with Roiland’s particular brand of humor, fourth-wall breaking moments, very strange product placement, and as much pop culture awareness as you can take. It’s not necessarily the next culture-shattering title that Rick and Morty has managed to become, but when the cast, writing, and animation is this good, it doesn’t need to be.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good