To say that I’ve taken the news that Rick & Morty hasn’t been automatically renewed for another season badly is an understatement. It is easily my favourite animated show of recent years, blending great comedic story-telling with deep characters, without ever once insulting its audience’s intelligence.
If you’re not aware, Rick & Morty developed a cult-like following over only two seasons. How then, does a show like Rick & Morty — not only fail to get an instant renewal for another season— but doesn’t already have several seasons negotiated in advance?
Obviously, I don’t personally know any of the internal politics that must occur in industries like TV, but if these companies are serious about catering to the needs of their audiences, or even just serious about making money off of us, then surely renewing a hit-show, still very much in it’s prime, makes good sense on every level.
I can’t help shrug the feeling that if Rick & Morty wasn’t Science Fiction a hit show that popular would have been renewed already. Long gone are the substantial seasons of Sci-Fi shows like Star Trek of the pre-2000 days. In comparison: Firefly, a show that ran in 2002–2003 and which acted as a brilliant subversion of the tropes that Star Trek relied on, was cancelled painfully prematurely despite being hugely popular.
Sci-Fi shows just seem to get cancelled a lot quicker than other genres regardless of their popularity, quality, or merit.
There may be a reason for this:
In a paper published in the journal Scientific Study of Literature, Washington and Lee University professors Chris Gavaler and Dan Johnson set out to measure how identifying a text as Science Fiction makes readers automatically assume it is less worthwhile, in a literary sense, and thus devote less effort to reading it.
“Converting the text’s world to Science Fiction dramatically reduced perceptions of literary quality, despite the fact participants were reading the same story in terms of plot and character relationships.”
Although this research applies to literature, I believe it applies to other forms of fiction too.
In comparing The Simpsons and Futurama we have the best like-to-like comparison of a TV show set in a contemporary setting to a show set in a Sci-Fi setting that I can find. The shows share a creator (Matt Groening), their animation, and other similarities in writing, tone, and characterisation. Yet, the Fox Broadcasting Company cancelled Futurama after four engaging seasons but has let the once superlative Simpsons marathon into an excruciating level of mediocrity over the course of twenty-nine (plus?) seasons. Why would two shows, so alike in quality, be treated so differently?
I believe the reason for that is because a Sci-Fi bias exists.
Science Fiction is assumed to be sh*t before it proves that it’s good. Everything else is assumed to be good before it proves otherwise. The genre is not treated equally in the realm of television, or other forms of fiction.
But it should be.
Like Fantasy, Sci-Fi can do something contemporary fiction just can’t do quite so well. Sci-Fi puts ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, locations and settings. The tendency of fiction based in a contemporary setting is to put extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances. For me this will just never be as satisfying a way of exploring the human condition through storytelling.
Science Fiction definitely does one thing better than any other genre, which is to hold up a mirror to trends in the present to see where the choices we make today might lead. This is truly invaluable.
So although with Sci-Fi you may have to suspend your disbelief more than you anticipated and its fans at Comi-Con may seem a little strange, don’t underestimate the value works of Sci-Fi can offer.
And if you could stop cancelling my favourite shows — that’d be great too!