DVD review by Bill Hunt, Editor of The Digital Bits
|The Venture Bros.: Season One
2003-2004 (2006) - Cartoon Network/Adult Swim (Warner Bros.)
Released on DVD on May 30th, 2006.
The Venture Bros.: Season Two
2006 (2007) - Cartoon Network/Adult Swim (Warner Bros.)
Released on DVD on April 17th, 2007.
Program Rating (Both): A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B-
Dr. Venture: "You don't know when to stop with all this, do you? You just keep pushing my buttons!"
The Monarch: "You're my arch-enemy! That's what I do! That's my thing!"
Imagine if Jonny Quest had grown up, had two sons and completely failed to step out of his father's shadow. Now imagine that he'd grown bitter about it, needed a bodyguard to protect him from himself, and made a meager living by selling many of the futuristic gadgets his father left behind. Toss in a former college rival turned arch-enemy dressed in a butterfly costume, and that's The Venture Bros. in a nutshell. Created by Jackson Publick (a.k.a. Christopher McCulloch, one of the writers for both the animated and live action versions of The Tick), The Venture Bros. is easily one of the funniest and savviest animated shows on television today. In my opinion, it deserves to be counted highly amid the ranks of such contemporaries as The Simpsons, South Park and Futurama.
The series follows the misadventures of Dr. Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture, a bumbling scientist who struggles vainly to live up to his family's legacy of super-genuisness, and to deal with the nagging fear that his best days are already behind him. (His father, Jonas, was a brilliant inventor and Rusty himself was the boy star of a Jonny Quest-like TV series.) His efforts are constantly undermined by the evil designs (and henchmen) of an equally incompetent nemesis, known as The Monarch, and The Monarch's deadly paramour, Dr. Girlfriend. Venture's own sons, Hank and Dean, are a pair of relative numbnuts and are therefore of little help or use to him. It's only Venture's muscle-bound bodyguard, a former O.S.I. agent and lifelong Zeppelin aficionado named Brock Sampson (voiced perfectly by Patrick Warburton), who manages to keep them all one step ahead of trouble. Over the course of three seasons now, Team Venture has stumbled into one misadventure after another, encountering all manner of thugs, baddies and weirdoes in costumes, among them Dr. Henry Killinger (think Kissinger), Baron Ünderbheit, Col. Hunter Gathers (an obvious Hunter S. Thompson reference), Phantom Limb, Sergeant Hatred, Professor Impossible (voiced by Stephen Colbert) and even (gasp!) David Bowie. It's not all Evil Spiders from Mars, though. You see, the Ventures have unlikely allies as well, including Pete White, Master Billy Quizboy and the loyal members of The Order of the Triad (one of whom is a necromancer that rents quarters in the Venture Compound for himself and his goth-ish daughter). With such an eclectic mix of characters, conflict (and humor) naturally abounds. All the while, the series manages to reference and ridicule everything from classic 70s animated shows like Jonny Quest and Scooby-Doo, to superheroes, pop music and even Star Wars. In fact, if there's ANYTHING you Gen-Xers really loved as kids, chances are this show riffs on it!
Teams Quest (left) and Venture (right). You get the idea.
Both Seasons One and Two are available as 2-disc DVD releases from Warner Home Video and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. Each offers 13 episodes in their original full frame format, with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio. Extras on Season One include the series' original pilot episode, The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay, along with multiple audio commentaries with the cast and crew, deleted scenes and a special bonus episode: A Very Venture Christmas. (And here you were, wondering how these titles could possibly be included in our Bits-Mas line-up!) Season Two boasts more commentaries and deleted scenes, as well as a special video tour of the series' top secret Astro-Base Go production facility! It's not a lot of material to be sure, but its all good stuff, and it will definitely leave you wanting more.
Fortunately, you haven't long to wait. Adult Swim and Warner Home Video recently announced that The Venture Bros.: Season Three will be released on March 24th, 2009, on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats (pictured above, in faux Atari 2600 game packaging). As it happens, Season Three was the show's first to be fully produced in high-definition, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. This is just a great, great animated series, folks. Packed with smarts, laughs and a sharply edgy sensibility, The Venture Bros. delivers. If you're even remotely interested after reading this review, do yourself a favor and give it a try. We bet you'll be glad you did. Highly recommend.