Break out the Szechuan McNugget sauce: Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty is now 2017’s No. 1 TV comedy among millennials. Per Nielsen and Adult Swim’s research department, Dan Harmon’s Sunday night comedy is averaging 2.5 million adult viewers under 35 this year, putting the show ahead of small-screen staples The Big Bang Theory (1.8 million) and Modern Family (1.6 million) for the first time ever. While Adult Swim has long been cable’s top network in the millennial demographic, the network has never before boasted the top-rated comedy series among both broadcast and cable channels. But with Nielsen now counting online streams in its so-called “live plus seven” ratings, the combination of delayed DVR and digital viewing helped push the just-completed third season of Rick and Morty to record numbers. (Adult Swim’s No. 1 claim is based on live and delayed viewing of all first-run episodes of TV comedies airing through mid-September of this year.) Much the same way The Walking Dead redefined what a drama hit could be on cable, Harmon’s twisted ’toon has established a new high-water mark for cable comedy. As Adult Swim/Cartoon Network chief Christina Miller put it in a press release touting the ratings record, “Rick and Morty is truly what a modern day hit looks like across multiple screens and multiple touchpoints.”
But as astounding as the show’s success with the under-35 crowd has been, and as much as it’s been boosted by digital viewing, the show actually does damn well even by more traditional metrics. Sunday’s finale — not yet counted in the aforementioned “live plus seven” numbers — notched a 1.5 same-day rating in the broader adults-under-50 demo, beating every other scripted series on cable or broadcast for the night. In terms of overall audience, i.e. people of all ages, Rick and Morty has averaged 5 million viewers each week since its new season officially began in July. And a livestream of a special April Fool’s Day episode drew 3 million unique users to Adult Swim’s website, despite no advance publicity. Adult Swim hasn’t officially announced a fourth season of Rick and Morty, but given these numbers, the only thing holding up a renewal is finding a Brinks truck big enough to back up into Harmon’s driveway.