'The Venture Bros.' on an Adolescent Growth Spurt

The latest DVD installment of The Venture Bros. shows all the signs of an aging series, both sophisticated and awkward.

The Venture Bros. Season 4: Volume 2

Distributor: Warner
Cast: James Urbaniak, Patrick Warburton, Michael Sinterniklaas, Christopher McCulloch, Doc Hammer
Network: Cartoon Network
Release Date: 2011-03-22

In as eclectic of a lineup as Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim is, it figures that the shows that compose of it are similarly diverse. Cult classic castoffs and original programming alike find harbor in this late-late night block, and The Venture Bros. is to Adult Swim what South Park is to Comedy Central: one of its earliest and successful mainstays.

Though The Venture Bros. is entering its eighth active year, 2010 saw the end of just its fourth season, and as with most serialized television programs, four seasons is enough to become incredibly convoluted. But The Venture Bros. is no ordinary serial program – the hyperactive action-adventure-fantasy-comedy animation makes the narrative worlds of the average serialized dramas look tame. As such, the eight episodes included in The Venture Bros. Season Four, Volume Two are the pinnacle of this narrative complexity.

Take the episode “Every Which Way But Zeus”, for example. A mysterious force manages to collect every hero and henchmen in the Venture universe, and force them to work for him. Around a massive circular table in a high-tech conference room, familiar leads from the entire chronology are gathered, and while small-talking, Brock Samson (Patrick Warburton) gets in an argument with Tiger Shark, a minor villain from seasons past. In a moment of self-referential wit, Brock laughs as Tiger Shark has to remind him of their previous conflict, like many of the ensemble who only a devoted fan with a rolodex could keep track of.

In the same episode, the benefits of massive character accumulation are accompanied with its faults. The C-plot follows important, but periphery roles, and when these half-hour episodes are primarily devoted to the main characters, the couple of minutes of screen time devoted to this side plot falls to the wayside as unimportant and frivolous. Meanwhile, Brock and the other heroes start to doze off as the super villain rattles on, and Brock echoes the sentiment of the audience when he is awoken and mutters, “What, are we still doing this?” The plots are too random and scattered for casual viewers, and fans of the show know that the plots are only devices for delivering character-based comedy, which can be hilarious given you can keep track of them all.

One of the most charming parts of the aging of The Venture Bros., however, is the literal aging of the Venture brothers, Dean and Hank. Unlike most animated shows, where the frozen time is a logistical advantage compared to the aging actors in live-action shows, The Venture Bros. opted instead to account for aging to derive character development. In Season Four, Volume Two, the Venture boys are confronted with various coming-of-age challenges, such as Dean searching for colleges and getting an internship, and Hank losing his virginity. Even just visually, this growth is exceptional, as Hank continues to grow into a physically mature, but increasingly dense teen, while Dean grows intellectually, yet looks straggly and awkward with a peach fuzz mustache.

The ageless style of The Venture Bros. is evident in both the most intricately animated episodes as well as the DVD’s extras. The box’s cover art attempts to bring out more of the edgy, dark, and dramatic elements of the animated comedy, but the '50s retro script, glam music, and the overlapping color tones of the menus reflect the nostalgic fashion of the show. The special features are little more than the usual assortment of odds and ends, though of understated value to loyal fans are the show’s promos, which are included. Beyond that, the episode commentaries are rambling and unnecessary, and the deleted scenes are as average as the rest of the scraps on the cutting room floor.

In all, the content included in Season Four, Volume Two is enjoyable. The narrative of The Venture Bros. has snowballed through years of development, which has resulted in a swelling and convoluted world. The aging of the eponymous pair is inventive and intriguing, but this feature might be better spent condensing this world than expanding it. This DVD installment of The Venture Bros. has the same qualities as the half-season of episodes that are contained on it: a proper extension of The Venture Bros. chronology, yet only sufficiently enjoyable for the loyal fan.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.