The CARTOON NETWORK Presents
The VENTURE BROS.
A NOODLESOUP Production
In extra-cooperation with ASTROBASE*GO!
The VENTURE BROS.
(various shots of maps, globes, planes and cars, dancing metal spiders and various mean-looking people, then finally)
The VENTURE BROS.
Oh wow. Oh wowie wow wow! This is freaking brilliant. This is freakishly brilliant! It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long, loooong time. Since the Tick
cartoon really, which stands to reason as creator and main writer "Jason Publick
" is really a pseudonym for Tick scribe Christopher McCullough
. Ben Edlund
himself has worked a bit on the show as well, co-writing the "Careers in Science" episode and supposedly has written an entire show later on.
Where to begin? How thrilled was I to see this, The VENTURE BROS!, in the middle of Adult Swim’s sea of poorly animated Flash cartoons with poor coherence and poorer reason? How did this gem get fashioned amidst the likes of Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law? Surrounded by so much forced wackiness, fifteen-minute chunks of animation produced for potheads by potheads, like a pearl nestled within a slimy oyster, yuck, is Venture Bros. And yea, it is indeed wonderful.
Simply put, Venture Bros. is a deadly parody of Jonny Quest. Not "The New, Lame, Almost Forgotten Adventures of Jonny Quest," but classic Quest. Good Quest. The Sixties Quest, of limited animation and kickin' theme music. Jonny and Hadji and Bandit, Dr. Quest and Race Bannon, circling the globe in the most messed-up road trips imaginable. It was the coolest of cartoon adventure shows. Who didn’t desperately wish his own family was like the Quests once upon a time? That they had a former secret agent bodyguard to pal around and toss hoops with? It was great. But, it was also extremely implausible.
Venture Bros., like Tick did over a decade ago with super heroes, works simply by taking the Quests and situating them in the real world, and it does it far better than those allegedly "Real Adventures" ever did. Dean and Hank Venture each play exactly like Jonny Quest himself did, naïve and dorky to extremes, except this show knows exactly how dorky they are. Their father, Dr. Thaddeus Venture, is like Dr. Quest in that he’s deeply involved in the nebulously-defined profession of "science," but unlike that bearded android dad he’s far from a perfect parent. When Dean’s asked why he’s never in school, he responds with, "I’m tutored in a box that Pop made. It gets awful lonely... in the box... that Pop made...." Shortly after, in response to random stimuli, he repeats automatically, "Penguins have an organ on their heads that converts sea water into fresh water."
You see, Dr. Venture had a childhood more exactly in line with Jonny Quest’s. His father, Dr. Julius Venture, was probably the greatest scientist in the world, went off of globe-spanning adventures, fought off spies and pterodactyls in lost valleys, built space stations, and did everything else Dr. Quest did or dreamt of doing, and he always took his son Rusty along.
Really, how do you think Jonny Quest would have turned out, exposed to so much danger, and with such an impossibly brilliant act to follow?
Dr. Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture never actually finished his doctorate, and spends his days ignoring his kids and using "super science" of dubious morality to try to earn enough money to keep up his father’s company, Venture Industries, which still sports a giant statue of his father out front, his son on his shoulder. Which is not to say that his inventions don’t work, because they do. He’s unmatched in creating invincible killer robots and "metal cylinders of unearthly delight," and even his more benevolent projects tend to have weapon-like attributes.
Inexplicably assigned to him, as Race Bannon was inexplicably assigned to the Quest family, is Brock Samson, a muscle-bound secret agent man with long blond hair, a license to kill, and the voice of Patrick Warburton. Half the time Brock is a decent enough guy. He and the boys, especially Hank, tend to get along pretty well. He’s often in some sort of female company, sometimes that of "the only woman (he) ever loved," opposing secret agent Molotov Cocktease. And then there’s the other Brock Samson, who once killed dozens of henchmen armed only with his car and a twitchy-eyed rage. He’s described by The Monarch as Dr. Venture’s "walking Swedish murder machine." Often the funniest scenes come from Brock applying ludicrously unnecessary force to many situations.
The highlight of the show has to be the frequent appearances by Dr, Venture’s "arch-enemy." Dr. Quest : Dr. Zin :: Dr. Venture : The Monarch. While Dr. Venture barely knows he exists, when The Monarch is asked why he’s always bothering and trying to kill Dr. Venture he responds with a nebulous, yet emphatic, "He’s my nemesis! It’s what I do!" If anything The Monarch has more problems than Dr. Venture, but at least he has a girlfriend. Actually, what he has is Dr. Girlfriend, who has a voice deeper than most men, and the two of them seem to have an almost paternal relationship with their dozens of frequently-Brock-killed henchmen.
Another Venture nemesis, only seen once so far, is the Doctor Doom-ish Baron Underbhite, who rules over his pocket nation with both an iron fist and jaw, and who seems to have a propensity for hiring unlikely villain types who’d give The Tick’s rogue’s gallery a run for their money; his first episode shows him, in five minutes, reviewing then killing Catclops, Girl Hitler, and Manic Eight Ball, who communicates solely by means of messages communicated through a clear plastic window in his chest: "Outlook Good," and "Signs Point to Yes."
Predictably, and as is the case with most of the shows I really, really like, Venture Bros. has poor ratings, despite the fact that commercials for it air very frequently on Adult Swim. May the audience is too used to seeing over-wacky, tragically-hip, ultra-random limited animation. I don’t know. Its ratings have started low, and while they’re improving over time, all I can say about the possibility for a second season is "Outlook Bad."
Which is a real shame. This is the funniest show on Cartoon Network, and one of the best anywhere. The writing is sharp and hilarious, the parody is dead-on, and they didn’t either skimp on the best thing about the original Jonny Quest: the music’s really, really good. See it now before you have to shell out $30 bucks to watch it on DVD.
PRESENTED IN GLORIOUS EXTRA C O L O R