“Rick and Morty” co-creator Justin Roiland first conceived of “Solar Opposites” as a live-action, family-friendly alien version of “The Odd Couple” for Fox. But then it became animated and he partnered with “Rick and Morty” writer-producer Mike McMahan — and that’s when they went wild with comedy about a family of aliens forced to find a new home in middle America.
It’s outrageously different from “Rick and Morty.” The aliens are obsessed with pop culture, but they’re unable to fit in with human society no matter how hard they try, creating destruction and disorder as a result of the unintended consequences of their wacky experiments. Because the series landed on Hulu, they had the freedom to throw in lots of violence and some sex, too. But the biggest difference was that they serialized the conflicts, which made it perfect for binge viewing.
“The big thing for me was that this was an immigrant story,” Roiland said. “Four aliens that are dumb was really fun. And also the amount of death that we can get away with, because they’re so innocent and naive, you don’t hate them for accidentally killing people. I think if you did that with Rick, you’d hate him. And gender was interesting because the aliens were asexual and don’t understand differences between male and female.”
“The whole vibe behind ‘Solar’ was that we wanted to do a TV show for people that love TV shows,” added McMahan (whose “Star Trek: Lower Decks” animated comedy series premieres August 6 on CBS All Access). “On ‘Rick and Morty,’ we take complicated sci-fi and make it super digestible. But then on ‘Solar,’ we didn’t have to reinvent the sitcom or sci-fi stuff — we just had to put them together and never explain anything. It was like hanging out with good friends who like each other and get into crazy situations, which is good TV to me.”
Roiland drew all four of the thin, pickle-headed aliens quickly and there wasn’t much tinkering beyond that. There’s Earth-hating scientist Korvo (Roiland), dim-witted partner Terry (Thomas Middleditch), and Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone), and Jesse (Mary Mack), the teenage replicants of Korvo and Terry, respectively. “I like the head shape and no noses and it was good template with different variations,” he said. “It’s not mold-breaking, but it felt right seeing these aliens next to humans, and the humans have the same kind of look as on ‘Rick and Morty.'”
The A story consists of Korvo and Terry naively trying to assimilate into human society with one monstrous experiment after another, while, in the B story, Yumyulack and Jesse become obsessed with shrinking humans to study and storing them inside their bedroom wall, which develops into its own micro-society.
“One of my favorites,” Roiland said, “is the puberty episode (‘The Booster Manifold’), where the kids sprout little flowers on top of their heads, and they go to this big party and their pollen mix together and it sort of zombifies the other kids. The big lesson is that they are not going through puberty. The series keeps reinforcing that they are too comfortable on Earth and no matter how hard they try, they are not humans.”
But it’s the Wall episode (“Terry and Korvo Steal a Bear”) that has everyone buzzing, because the focus is turned on the fascinating micro-society of haves and have nots, which sparks a violent revolution. “People love what we did with the Wall story,” McMahan said. “To me, you can’t have the comedy side without the serious side. It’s like scraping the white stuff out of an Oreo.
“The true joy for me is that the Wall stuff only plays because the aliens are so stupid and funny on the other side of it,” added McMahan. “And you have this hot and cold going on at the same time. In Season 2, we take the Wall to a real interesting place, but we’re still watching the expansion of it. On top of that, what does it mean to be human and to be a good person? And what are the tropes of being human that the aliens are analyzing? It’s like watching ‘War of the Roses’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ battle in the Wall.”