Before we start this post, I want to apologize to our dear readers for my spotty posting lately. There is still a lot going on between the house and the new-to-me job and I’m still trying to find a good reading/writing routine. Doesn’t excuse of course, but I hope it explains. I hope to be posting normally again within the next few weeks. Now, on to the post!
My husband is quite proud of himself for finally getting me to watch this show. I go so far as to say it’s probably his greatest achievements yet =P The Venture Bros. is one of his favorite shows, but try as he might, I couldn’t get into it due to the dumb humor (more below). Just as he kept telling me, it got better after Season 2, and oh boy was he right. Season 3 hits and it goes from 0-100 real quick.
What started as an episodic satire of boy adventure shows of the 1960s-70s with adult humor quickly turns into a story of characters breaking the molds of who they think they’re supposed to be. Take a few of the main characters, for instance (as spoiler-free as it can be):
- Hank and Dean (fraternal twins and the titular Venture brothers) are heirs to the boy-adventuring, super-sciencing Venture legacy started by their grandfather and continued by their father… but is it who they really are, and more important, do they even want it?
- Dr. Venture (Hank and Dean’s father) is a former boy adventurer and classic super-scientist… but how can he possibly carry on the Venture name when his father did everything perfectly?
- The Monarch is a self-proclaimed villain and Venture’s arch nemesis… but can he become more than his self-inflicted hate?
- Dr. Girlfriend is The Monarch’s significant other… does that mean she’s just a villain’s girlfriend, or a villain in her own right?
- Henchman #21 is a henchman in The Monarch’s ranks… is he just a henchman, or can he step out of his villain’s shadow and hold his own? (OMG my fave actually as far as character development)
- … And so on
The more the show goes on, the more all of these characters break out of the molds and classic tropes that Seasons 1-2 put them in. Not only from a writing standpoint, but a character standpoint. At some point, each character questions their identity, legacy, and motivations, and wonders if it’s who they really are and/or want to be.
Speaking of motivations, this show is MADDENINGLY VAGUE about the motivations of some characters and questions the audience have of them… which the writers know full well and poke fun at from time to time. After a while I kept watching, and wanted to keep watching, because I had questions that needed answering!
Going back to humor: Seasons 1-2 were so hard for me to get past because they mostly rely on the “so stupid it’s funny” type of humor. Which I hate. But Husband loves (This is why we make a good couple). He’s more into slapstick and satire, whereas I’m more into irony and sarcasm. Some of the “so stupid it’s funny” humor still remains, but it’s less prevalent after Season 3 when the story deepens and spreads out over individual seasons and between seasons… Which made it much more bearable for me.
Much of the humor also comes from references to old media show is based on (like Jonny Quest, Hardy Boys, etc.) and obscure and/or nerdy media. Superhero references become more common as the show goes on and it finds it’s niche in poking holes in these tropes specifically. They even get some famous superhero VAs in for some cameos and/or recurring characters in later seasons 😉
In finishing Season 7 over the weekend, I understand why Husband was so upset about it’s cancellation last year. Long gaps were common between seasons because of the animation style and workflow. But to have the show cancelled as Season 8 was being written and with Season 7 ending on such a heartbreaking cliffhanger, so many questions still unanswered… it had to have been a gut punch.
Shortly after cancellation, HBO announced that they would pick up The Venture Bros. for a final movie that will wrap up the show. Husband got HBO Max (mostly) for this reason.
In researching for this post, I found a commonly cited interview where the creators have said the show is about failure. I can definitely see that being the case, but that’s not all. I think it’s more about learning to be who you are despite the expectations that other have of you, despite who you – and everyone else – think you are supposed to be.
If you’re having a hard time getting past Seasons 1-2 for the humor – I promise, it gets better with Season 3 onwards. The writing ramps up and it morphs into an extraordinary character study set in a world built for and by organized heroics and villainy. Husband is looking forward to the movie for a satisfying ending to the series, and now I am too.
Publick, Jackson (creator). The Venture Bros. 2003-2018.