|Posted by Fluffyman on August 9, 2012 at 8:10 AM|
Originally Posted: October 15th, 2009
Author's Notes: If you can notice by the date this was posted before the premiere of the first half of the Fourth Season, which I covered in a later blog, though not the second half which I might get to eventually before the Halloween special this year. I'm reposting because I've been on a re-watch spree of The Venture Bros., and feel inspired to share my opinions of the show with the Manic Expression community. Enough set-up, now to the blog proper:
Back when I was vacationing around Washington D.C. back in 2004, me and a couple of my family members decided to check out “Adult Swim” and see what they had on late-at-night television and we mainly just wanted to watch an episode of The Brak Show which was of course a spin-off of Cartoon Planet and Space Ghost Coast-To-Coast based upon one of my favorite characters of those shows. Then there was an odd show that was airing directly afterward which we saw an ad for and thought it looked good to check out. It was our first introduction to The Venture Bros. and the episode was “The Incredible Mr. Brisby” which was a take on Walt Disney, all of his urban legends, and somewhat overzealous cults. It was something so bizarre yet so strangely funny we didn’t know what to make of it.
I didn’t follow up on any of it until two years later, around when the first season of the show was releasing on DVD and the second season was about to begin on Cartoon Network. It was then that I decided to check out the show even if I caught the last two episodes of season one (“The Trial of the Monarch” and “Return to Spider-Skull Island”) before saying “I’m buying the DVD.” That was when my fandom began:
Image Created by: Adult Swim
Courtesy of: AdultSwim.com (Was a wallpaper)
The show was developed from the mind of Christopher McCulloch or as he’s most known to Venture fans under his pseudonym Jackson Publick. He’s a comic-book writer and contributed to The Tick animated and live-action series, and pretty much a majority of the voices in The Venture Bros. Another important figure is writer/editor/artist/musician/voice-actor Doc Hammer, who is recognizable by his two-toned hair (He has vtiligo on his scalp) and was friend of McCulloch’s before the show even began. Anyway, it was around 2000 in which it was conceived and it took four years for Chris to finally land it on Cartoon Network and on their Adult Swim block. The rest as they say is history.
Well not really, but it is probably currently one of the best written and most entertaining animated shows I’ve seen in recent memory. Here are the reasons why I love the show:
-Brock F*cking Sampson
There are just too many moments of awesome with this character, he is one big walking talking killing machine. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty if it means protecting Dr. Venture (Bit actor James Urbaniak) or his children Hank (Christopher McCulloch) and Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas a.k.a. Leonardo from the latest “Turtles” series) the titular “Venture Bros.”, and at times has a sadistic glee when doing it, even doing it in the nude (“To prey on their fear, move like an animal, to feel the kill.”). Even his voice oozes awesome courtesy of Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld, The live Action Tick), when he speaks in a murderous rage (“They hit me with a truck.”), you believe it. He also has the tendency to just about bang just about every woman he comes across, with only a few exceptions including Doctor Girlfriend (With raspy voice courtesy of Doc Hammer) and Molotov Cocktease (Mia Barron) who he can only go to second base with (“It’s always cold in Siberia.”). While Brock wasn’t really active in Season Three, he still had his moments of insight, though his brutality in Part One of the season finale makes up for it.
-The Twisted Pop Culture Satire:
Johnny Quest is probably the most obvious influence on this show, as there is a shot of in pilot (Also seen in the first season intro) that replicates a moment from the intro when they are sitting in the X-1 Jet, as well as a full fledged intro parody with “The Rusty Venture Show” (“Brought to you by Smoking.”) in the episode “ORB.” They even have Race Bannon (By name and appearance) come in for an episode, only for him to die, and later their parody of Johnny himself as a strewn out drug addict in “Twenty Years to Midnight” as well as later appearances by characters representing Hadji and Dr. Zin. This just scratches the surface, as there are references and parodies from the obvious (About every Star Wars reference, The OSI homage to G.I. Joe) to the really obscure (A “Babes In Toyland” reference in the Season Three finale?). Then there are character parodies like the Impossibles, who are a more miserable version of the Fantastic Four with Richard (Stephen Colbert, then McCulloch in the third, now it’s Bill Hader), Dr. Bryon Orpheus (Steve Rattazzi) who evokes Doctor Strange, Baron Underbheit (T. Ryder Smith) who even is described in the first episode as a “dime store Doctor Doom”, Doctor Henry Killinger (and his magic murder bag, played by McCulloch again) as an sort of odd pastiche of Henry Kissinger and Mary Poppins, the aforementioned Brisby like Walt Disney, a Scooby-Doo gang based upon famous psychopaths like Ted Bundy and the Son of Sam (“And this dog fucking talks.”), and… well I can just go on.
That being said, it isn’t just a series of random pop culture with twisted and dark humor (Robot Chicken fills that void), Doc and Jackson actually make a cohesive universe and plotline out of it. There are episodes that have relevance to the overall series and understanding of the world these characters live in. Things like the Guild of Calamitous Intent, which is an organization that specializes in giving people arch-nemesis’, have minor reference at the start and you get a better understanding of what it’s about as the show goes on. There are also plot threads that get set up near the start of the season to get resolved near the end like Rusty’s bizarre dreams in the first season, Monarch’s pursuit of Dr. Girlfriend in the second, and Monarch’s need to arch Rusty in the third season. A couple of threads haven’t been resolved as of yet, like if the titular Venture Bros. mother will ever be revealed (Ex-bodyguard Myra is the closest but in spite of Rusty admittedly screwing her, it’s not all clear), and several left at the end of Season Three, who knows considering the Fourth might be last, all might be revealed. Some have said (Like IGN.com and a reviewer at Toonzone) Season Three went overkill with back-story, in turn not generating as much laughter as previous seasons, I don’t quite see it as a deterrent, Jackson and Co. decided to give the universe a bit more weight, and I respect that, it still made for some enjoyable episodes in my opinion.
-Fleshed out (and hilarious) cast of characters:
Thing is about many of these characters is that they aren’t just parodies of old archetypes, almost all of them have their own back-story, motivation and personality that makes them compelling, and not just one-note characters (I’m looking at you right now “Titan Maximum”). You could write an essay about how messed up Rusty is, with childhood trauma from being a boy adventurer, sexually frustrated, has absolutely no moral standards (“AN ORPHAN!”) even to his own children (Something made all the more clear in the Season Two premiere) and living under the huge shadow his father Jonas has. “The Doctor Is Sin” is essentially a deconstruction of his whole character and whether or not he truly is a good guy at the end of it all. About all the other cast members have varying degrees of misery, quirks and failure which is the common theme of the show. Brock Sampson is badass incarnate but that doesn’t mean he has his flaws, including a traumatic experience he had, and his state of mind in “¡Viva los Muertos!.” Dean and Hank, have been isolated for most of their lives educated through a box their pop made (“It’s very lonely in the box my pop made.”), and they take it different ways whether it’s Dean’s awkward and shrill damsel nature or Hank trying to take after Brock and Batman (“I am the Bat.”), both aspire to be adventurers like their dad. Even the villain is miserable yet sympathetic, the Monarch may be Dr. Venture’s nemesis, he has relatable qualities including his pining for Dr. Girlfriend and a hatred for Rusty that goes beyond just being a pain in his ass. One unexpected dramatic turn comes from Billy Quizboy (Hammer) whose loss of an eye and hand goes relatively unexplained until “The Invisible Hand of Fate” and also explains Phantom Limb’s (Urbaniak) infamous appendages, in a fashion that fits. Oh and a lot of the characters including Venture and Pete White (McCulloch) went to college together.
That is not to say the characters aren’t hilarious as well, what drives the show is a lot of the gags involved around them, whether it is Dr. Venture finding new “personal lows”, Dean or Hank showing their lack of knowledge (“Where is Africa-America anyway?”) Dr. Orpheus’ OVER-DRAMATIC SHOUTING (“Fetch me my BLUE WINDBREAKER!”), Henchman 21 (Hammer) and 24’s (McCulloch again) genre-savy nature and nerdish debates like how Smurf’s reproduce. There is also great notable guest characters like the former Ghost Pirate Captain, Prof. Impossible, Dr. Henry Killinger and his magic murder bag, Orpheus’ friends Blackula hunter Jefferson Twilight and the Alchemist (Dana “Master Shake” Snyder, “Butter me up I’m on a roll.”) The Grand Galactic Inquisitor (“IGNORE ME!”), and Colonel Hunter Gathers, Brock’s mentor. Occasionally there will be characters like the Murderous Moppets (“Fucking Knife!”), Colonel Bud Manstrong, Ghost Lincoln or Dermott that don’t work quite as well or not as funny, but for I do see why they were made, I’d think Doc and Jackson deliberately want fans to hate the Moppets guts (Especially at recent Comic-Cons). There are also a few relatively down-to-earth characters like Triana Orpheus (Lisa Hammer, an ex of Doc’s) who is the object of Dean’s affection, but has yet to mature into more than a crush, “Buddy System” being the last episode brought up and probably contains Dean’s sole “Crowning Moment of Awesome” thus far.
-The Music and soundtrack:
What can contribute to the mood of a show is a great soundtrack, and J.G. Thirlwell provides in spades. “No Vacancy” the theme of Venture Bros. is probably one of my favorite television theme songs to come out of this decade, it evokes the feeling of Hoyt Curtin’s score of “Jonny Quest” as well as many 60’s action/spy themes, Venture’s target. His score even makes watching the end credits exciting; not just because there is something after them each episode but it’s really a damn good score (I’m really glad Adult Swim doesn’t squish credits like their parent network). The sort of scores he produces on the show meets the manic and retro sort of personality the show has. Not to mention the various theme motifs he gives like whenever the Monarch tries to be threatening or when Dr. Orpheus goes all dramatic, fits their characters perfectly.
Thirlwell isn’t the only music part that this show does well; there is also their choice in songs to add a mood to a particular scene. Moments that stand out perfectly is the song “Look Away” by Nick DeMayo in the Season One finale, and especially a remix of “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Rozalla in the premiere that stands out as one of my favorite and most emotional moments in the show. Another cool moment is Henchman 21 and 24 reciting “Mars Bringer of War” that has to be seen to believed.
-A couple of my favorite moments and quotes in no particular order (Other than one’s mentioned in the rant):
WARNING: Below contains spoilers for the first three seasons
*Dean’s first (incredibly awkward) talk with Triana. “Penguins have a gland above their eyes that converts seawater to freshwater.”
*The opening of “Ghosts of Sargasso” reciting “Major Tom.”
*Brock literally using his ass to help subdue some fake ghost pirates.
*21 trying (And failing) to use a lightsaber like sword on Brock. “I’ve been gypped.”
*The appearance and subsequent demise of Race Bannon.
*Monarch’s “really cold diarrhea in a dixie cup” speech.
*The Venture Bros. death montage. “Look, if you have a clumsy child, you make him wear a helmet. If you have death-prone children, you keep a few clones of them in your lab.”
*Brock getting Edgar Allen Poe in a headlock. “That thing is like a pumpkin.”
*”Hank no! It’s suicide!” “Then I’ll see you in heck!”
*The Order of the Triad’s talk about a little Rochambeau
*Brock smashing through the windshield of his charger to subdue Myra.
*Brock’s “YOU ARE MURDER-FLIES” speech and the following action sequence.
*Killinger showing his “magic murder bag.”
We fight for freedom and the little guy
We’ll tear a new hole in your sky.
*Don’t look away from… THE NOZZLE.
*Monarch’s deception in order to be able to arch Venture.
I’m getting a little overboard but it has a lot of great moments.
Expectations for the Fourth Season:
It would be an understatement to say that I’m very excited for the oncoming fourth season which premieres this Sunday at Midnight, and I’m really glad that it came sooner than the previous seasons. They have released a lot of promising info, instead of 13 episodes; it will be 16, eight starting this Sunday with the other eight coming the Summer of 2010. While they have had few big names voiced on the show (Stephen Colbert probably one of the most notable), this season promises guest stars such as Kevin Conroy, Patton Oswalt, Bill Hader and Seth Green.
As far as the story, the major change-ups at the end of Season Three, Brock quitting O.S.I. and being the Venture’s bodyguard, the deaths of the clones, H.E.L.P.e.R, and 24, who killed the latter two, any repercussions Monarch could suffer from defying the Guild, Moltov and Col. Hunter Gathers revealed to be behind a lot of the crap Brock went through. Also the fact Phantom Limb is still around, while he hadn’t been seen (Present Day that is) since the epilogue of “Shadowman 9” offing Manotaur, it probably won’t be the last.
What Jackson and Doc have promised is that the clones won’t be coming back so the boys will get a little older, something might happen between Dean and Triana, we’ll be seeing more of the Murderous Moppets whether fans like to or not, and 24 will stay dead (Doesn’t keep fans from speculating ways to bring him back though). Then there is the trailer released at Comic-Con (Which you can see in the previous rant I’ve made) which will be interesting to see how a lot of the clips are going to fit in context like when Dean says he loves Hitler and Hitler loves him.
I really hope though that Adult Swim and Cartoon Network doesn’t muck up the broadcasting for those that own HD televisions like me, the last couple of times I’ve tried to watch it on their channel has been problematic, the first time the music was drowning out the dialogue while the second time the audio kept skipping. The former I could deal with, but if the latter occurs it would be just better to change to the non-HD channel and it wouldn’t look as good.
Well that’s why I love The Venture Bros., and hopefully the fourth season will be as promising as it sounds. Oh and…
“GO TEAM VENTURE!”
End of Rant
“I’m you from the future! We have to finish our time machine before the Angels of Destruction find the portal!” – Future Rusty’s warning to Present Rusty. That’d be REALLY interesting to see in context.
(SPOILERS from the future: That was actually David Bowie dicking around)