The other night after getting much too high, I made two decisions — one terrible and one great. The bad one was reinstalling every dating app on my phone. The good one, though, was sitting down and finally starting The Venture Bros. And it turns out it’s absolutely as good as literally everyone on the planet has been telling me for the past 15 years.
For the unfamiliar, the show began as a parody of old boy adventurer cartoons like Jonny Quest back in 2004. That might be why I bounced off of it the first time around, having been burnt out on similar offerings of the time like Sealab 2020 and Harvey Birdman. But those comparisons do a disservice to The Venture Bros., which over the years has evolved beyond its peers to become a funny, engaging series that just happens to be based on an old cartoon format.
The show centers on Rusty Venture, a grown-up boy adventurer living in the shadow of his father. He has two sons of his own, Dean and Hank. And the family is protected by the wall-of-meat Race Bannon stand-in Brock Samson. A lesser series could have run in circles with the concept of a grown up and burnt out cartoon character — and in fact The Venture Bros. parodies that kind of parody with its manic, drug-addled Jonny Quest expy — but here the cast gets back story, grows, and changes over time.
Take Brock Samson, voiced by the wonderful Patrick Warburton. As the series progresses, we learn about his background working with the super-secret OSI, his relationship with his unconventional mentor, and his past encounters with Black Widow-esque Molotov Cocktease, who believes his talents are wasted protecting the Venture family. All of this is presented in ways that are very funny, but it doesn’t even need to be, because the dramatic and character writing could stand on its own if it had to.
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I’m into the third season of the show now, and things have already changed so much from the first. Dr. Venture’s old archnemesis The Monarch is now married and partnered with Dr. Mrs. The Monarch (née Dr. Girlfriend) and banned from arching him any further by the Guild of Calamitous Intent. In his place, the Guild has assigned Sergeant Hatred, who is getting back at the Monarch for having his henchmen steal his gear by “arching” Venture in such a way as to actually improve his life. In the midst of all this, Phantom Limb — after a failed coup attempt against the sovereign of the Guild, David Bowie — is hunting down his old enemies.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the Order of the Triad, a mystical hero team led by Venture’s tenant and Dr. Strange stand-in Doctor Orpheus, and filled out by Blackula-hunting Blade-esque Jefferson Twilight and The Alchemist (played by Dana Snyder, doing the exact same Master Shake voice). Stage actor Steven Rattazzi absolutely devours the scenery whenever he appears, and his antics are twice as amusing when you realize the character originated a decade before the modern interpretation of Doctor Strange.
I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but The Venture Bros. is great television. It has cleared my skin, made my crops healthy, and cured my depression. I’ve even deleted the dating apps, because I am now in a relationship with cartoon character Brock Samson. We are very happy, and you are invited to our wedding.