Jose’s Top 5 TV Shows: #4 – THE VENTURE BROTHERS

The Venture Bros. (Adult Swim)

My fourth favorite show of all time is a little bit off the beaten path. First, because it’s a cartoon. Second, because it usually airs at 12:30 AM on Sunday nights. Lastly, because it’s the type of show that people love and follow or hate, in both cases with a passion. The show in question is THE VENTURE BROTHERS, which airs on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block.

What’s it about:

The Venture Brothers are Dean and Hank Venture, fraternal twin brothers who go on Johnny Quest style adventures with their father, Doctor Venture (who himself had similar adventures with his Dad), and their bodyguard Brock. Chasing them on these adventures there are a variety of villains, from the butterfly themed Monarch to the aptly named Invisible Limb (his limbs are invisible) and other members of The Guild of Calamitous Intent (a super villain association). It’s part Saturday Morning Cartoons, part fractured fairy tale, and part legalized insanity.

What I like about it:

I actually did not see the entire first season of the show because I didn’t think I would enjoy it and was having too much fun watching Harvey Birdman. Then one Sunday I caught the Season 2 premiere, Powerless in the Face of Death, and by the end was on Amazon trying to order the Season 1 DVDs. To me it’s all about the pop-culture references, both from today and from my childhood in the 80’s, and how they take them and either corrupt them (e.g. the Scooby gang appears and the Fred / Daphne dynamic is presented as almost a Patty Hearst situation) or take them to their next logical step (Johnny Quest is now an adult who is strung out on drugs with “daddy issues” of abandonment). The writing is very sharp, and, while the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, they keep a decent flow to the episodes and the storylines throughout the season.

Why I think you should watch it:

Like I mentioned earlier, people who watch this show for the first time tend to fall pretty hard into the love it/hate it camps, but you have to watch it to see which side you fall on. I dare you to watch an episode (I listed my Top 5 + 1 below) and not laugh out loud at a joke or how the writers treat an 80’s icon. The humor on this show is all over the place, whether it’s situational, topical or even dark, but does so without needed to revert to crass jokes (a la Family Guy). The best reason I can give you to watch The Venture Brothers is that it’s the kind of irresponsible TV show a responsible person should watch and enjoy. It is the cartoon show for those 20 and 30 somethings that don’t want to see a sponge that wears pants (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Top 5 Episodes

5. Return To Spider Skull Island – Dr. Venture finds out he has a tumor, but the boys think that he’s actually pregnant, and, thinking their new sibling would mean no attention from their dad, decide to run away from home. A run in with the law and a visit to a prison to scare them straight, and we are presented with an homage to Easy Rider as The Venture Brothers wraps up their first season.

4. Assassinanny 911 – Brock is pulled off his bodyguard assignment by the Office of Secret Intelligence to take part in a critical mission. But the Venture boys can’t be left alone, so he calls in a favor with an ex-KGB mercenary that is aptly named Molotov Cocktease. Fun episode all around, giving us background into Brock’s life before the Venture family.

3. TwentyYears to Midnight – Brock discovers a lost videotape from Jonas Venture Sr., which leads Team Venture on a search for parts of a hidden invention. At the same time they are being observed by the Grand Galactic Inquisitor (ignore him!) and having to deal with the Impossible Family (the Venture Universe equivalent to the Fantastic Four). Add in a side trip to meet drugged out Johnny Quest and Colonel Gentleman (who resembles a certain British spy the early 60’s), and you have comedy gold!

2. The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Parts 1 & 2) – In the Season 3 Finale, Brock has been terminated by the OSI, though its not clear if that means that he’s fired, he’s going to be killed or both. OSI sends deadly assasins after Brock, who in turn can not seem to get the Ventures far enough away for safety. It all comes ahead in a glorious confrontation at the Venture Compound involving the Monarch, the OSI, Brock, and nachos. Bonus points if you can identify call out to the The Last Starfighter.

1. Showdown at Cremation Creek (Parts 1 & 2) – At the end of Season 2, the wedding of the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend becomes the gala event for super-villainy. Unfortunately, the Venture family is brought into the ceremony in a less than ceremonious manner. On top of this, Dr. Girlfriend’s ex, Phantom Limb, isn’t ready to give her up yet. It leads to a huge battle in the Grand Canyon involving David Bowie, flying butterflies, and the Never Ending Story.

Honorable Mention – Escape to the House of Mummies Part II – This is one of my favorite episodes, but I can’t include it in my Top 5 because it doesn’t really follow the canon of the show. The episode is shown as the second part of a multi-part episode, but we have no idea what happened in the first episode except for the “Previously on…” highlights. As the Venture clan faces a grisly death, Dr. Venture escapes to get help to free the rest of his family from the clutches of an evil cult. Back at his compound, he becomes embroiled in a magic versus science contest with Dr. Orpheus, the necromancer. Meanwhile, Brock and the Venture kids work to find another way to escape with the help of historical figures. It is insane and hard to keep track of, but this episode has some of the best, quotable dialogue of the whole series.

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