The Venture Bros. – Season Two – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Created by
Christopher McCulloch

Cast:
James Urbaniak … Dr. Venture
Patrick Warburton … Brock Samson
Michael Sinterniklaas … Dean Venture
Christopher McCulloch … Hank Venture
Doc Hammer … Dr. Girlfriend
Steven Rattazzi … Dr. Orpheus
Lisa Hammer … Triana Orpheus
Paul Boocock … Dr. Jonas Venture
Mia Barron … Molotov Cocktease


The Show

“Say goodbye to your precious indifference, for a world of uncommon enchantment lives inside the box you now hold in your sweaty little hands! Welcome to your better life!”
– The back cover for Venture Bros. – Season Two

It saddens me to look at the state of animated series on Television at the moment. Saturday mornings are a wasteland, and Fox’s Sunday night lineup just doesn’t supply the laughs it used to. Even the mighty Simpsons only really manages to entertain nowadays and not much more. It seems as if the last bastion for really witty animated series is Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, with series like Boondocks and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law bringing the funny at a rate that can match any other series on TV. The top of the heap though, and the best show that has ever been on Cartoon Network, is a show that has astonished with its wit and charm in its first two seasons; The Venture Bros. .

While the idea of a show that satirizes 1960’s animated adventure series such as Johnny Quest may not seem like a gold mine of humor, by brilliantly utilizing all sorts of pop culture references and somehow making these characters ones that you generally care about, this show puts series such as Family Guy and American Dad to utter shame. This isn’t just a formula show where the characters simply act out sequences from popular movies or TV shows. Instead of easy jokes, The Venture Bros. weaves parodies organically into the fabric of its storytelling, making its impact unexpected and built for maximum merriment.

In its second season, the show manages to throw in references and homage to not only easy fanboy subjects like Star Wars and Die Hard, but also more obscure references like side-splitting nods to Family Double Dare and Turk 182! Hannah-Barbera series, such as Johnny Quest and Scooby Doo are also blessed with amazing send-ups, especially a pseudo-Mystery Gang in the episode “¡Viva los muertos!” who stumbles upon Dr. Venture trying to resurrect corpses for profit, but are having problems with their own team dynamic as Thelma is a man-hating lesbian and Shaggy and Scooby now have a relationship similar to the Son of Sam and his dog.

On top of the great references and in-jokes though, there’s also an inherent sadness with the show, which seems to add a weight to it in a way I haven’t seen since The Simpsons’ heyday. In a recent interview with the show’s creator, Christopher McCulloch (AKA: Jackson Publick) he talked about how one of the undercurrent themes of the show is about the failure of the baby boom generation. The people that took us to the moon were supposed to change the world, only to stumble when they were supposed to stand proudly on the shoulders of their elders.

The show’s main character, Doctor Thaddeus Venture (James Urbaniak), is at the heart of this sadness. A super genius on paper, Venture is a life long screw up who has never really reached his full potential and has always lived off the brilliance of his father. He was a boy adventurer who was the hero to millions, but has always been too lazy to earn that same fame as an adult. The only great thing he has ever produced are his twin sons, Hank and Dean (Christopher McCulloch and Michael Sinterniklaas); The Venture Brothers. Together, along with Venture Compound tenant, Necromancer Dr. Byron Orpheus (Steven Rattazzi), and Venture body guard and part time Secret Agent, Brock Samson(the awesome Patrick Warburton), Team Venture has some of the most ridiculous and well constructed adventures I’ve ever seen on TV ever.

This is not to say that the show’s theme of failure makes this series a downer in any way, shape, or form. This is a show with wall to wall laughs and an inventiveness that I’ve never seen in an animated series before. To tell you the truth, the biggest problem with The Venture Bros.’ second season is deciding which of its 13 episodes is the best.

One of the front runners would have to be “Escape to the House of Mummies Part II”, which is the second part of a three part episode in which the first and third parts are non-existent. The episode is broken up into two storylines as Brock and the boys fight alongside Edgar Allan Poe, Isaac Newton, and other historical figures against the Egyptian Cult of Osiris while Doctor Venture has a contest with Orpheus as to whether science or magic is more powerful. The laughs basically just don’t stop throughout the installment and a post credits joke is the best Empire Strikes Back reference I’ve seen since Homer spoiled the ending for all those theater patrons.

“¡Viva los muertos!” also has inspired bits of comedy, with its warped version of the mystery gang, a stunning opening from the point of view of a doomed henchman, and Brock having a crisis of faith which ends up taking him on a mystical journey involving dolphins and Hunter S. Thompson. “Assassinanny 911” has the best final two minutes of any Venture Bros. episode ever, involving Hank on a drug induced Apocalypse Now-style rampage. Even lesser episodes like “Love-Bheits” and “Victor. Echo. November” are chocked full of hilarity.

Then there’s the two part finale, “Showdown at Cremation Creek”. This hour of TV is exasperating in its wonderment and joy. Featuring a wedding, huge battles, David Bowie, a magic ring, the dragon from The Neverending Story, and Lando’s pilot from Return of the Jedi, you’re almost out of breath and dying for the next season to begin. If Season Three is even half as good as Season two was, then it’ll still be funnier than anything else on TV.

The Venture Bros. – Season Two is a roller coaster of laughs and action. The series is the best thing that Cartoon Network has ever produced and hopefully will continue at this same high level for seasons to come. The back of the DVD cover for Season Two promises you a better life, and after watching these 13 episodes it’s hard to argue with.


The DVD:

The Video
The Venture Bros. looks great on this DVD, with the colors popping, especially in the sequences that are supposed to be pseudo cinematic. I’d say this looks even better here that is does on TV. The Show is presented in Fullscreen in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and also sounds great; getting every terrific queue that comes up on the series’ soundtrack. There are no balancing issues with dialogue, even amongst the show’s action scenes, which are actually pretty numerous.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Featurette

Audio Commentary – This commentary features Series Writers Christopher McCulloch and Doc Hammer as well as other members of the cast and crew. The track is just as irreverent as you would expect, with often times the guys running off the rails and not even discussing the episodes at hand. James Urbaniak and Michael Sinterniklaas both get very funny bits throughout the track, including one where Urbaniak goes through the many variations he had to go through to get Dr. Venture’s voice right, and another where Sinterniklaas talks about the racist ninja he had to play in the show’s pilot.

Deleted Scenes – I often don’t care for deleted scenes on animation series, because they’re often just storyboards with voices. While most of these scenes are indeed just that, the scenes themselves are so funny; it’s easy to overlook how crude they are. You get about 20 minutes worth here, and most are really hilarious.

Tour of Astro-Base Go – Astro-Base Go is actually two things. It’s the actual studio where Writers Christopher McCulloch and Doc Hammer create The Venture Brothers. It’s also the fictional Moon base of this creative team where the magic of the Venture Brothers’ adventures are created. This 15 minute Featurette is a look at the latter. This is really goofy, but still pretty funny completely ridiculous.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for The Venture Bros. – Season Two
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

10
THE VIDEO

9
THE AUDIO

8.5
THE EXTRAS

5.5
REPLAY VALUE

10
OVERALL
9
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

The Inside Pulse
The Venture Bros. is the best animated series on TV right now and in my opinion one of the 5 best shows period. This disc set doesn’t have the extras that Season one did, but the episodes are so good, it hardly matters.