Dec 5, 2013

[TV] The Venture Bros: Season 1

For one reason or another, we don't get full Adult Swim programming here in Asia despite having a full Cartoon Network affiliate. I guess there's that weird challenge of "Asian sensibilities" when it comes to what is appropriate for television, especially on a cable network that is primarily marketed towards children. And while in the past we have gotten shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, I haven't seen much else since then.

And thus I'm very late to The Venture Bros. game given I don't think it has ever officially aired locally whether on Cartoon Network or any other Philippine channel. Then again, the humor of the show is very adult indeed and rather peculiar, to say the least.

But I have to admit, it tickles my geeky funny bone in a manner that many shows and movies don't. And thus I've been thonning the show steadily over the past few weeks. With the fifth season already in-progress, I have a bit of a ways to go.

Synopsis: The Venture Bros. is an animated television series created by Jackson Publick (Christopher McCulloch) and Doc Hammer and airs on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block of programming. It goes without saying that the Ventures are somewhat of a parody of Jonny Quest.

The Venture family consists of fraternal twins Hank (Christopher McCulloch) and Dean (Michael Sinterniklaas) Venture, their father Dr. Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture (James Urbaniak) and the family bodyguard Brock Samson (Patrick Warburton). Dr. Venture himself was once a Jonny Quest style child adventurer given his father, Dr. Jonas Venture (Paul Boocock), was a famous super scientist in his day and went on to inspire many others to follow in his footsteps. Thus Dr. Venture forever lives in his father's shadow while his own sons are constantly trying to be adventurers like their father was at their age.

Then there's the Monarch (Christopher McCulloch), who claims to be the arch nemesis of Dr. Venture and his family (although the reasons for this are hardly clear). His main partner in crime is Dr. Girlfriend (Doc Hammer), a rather voluptuous criminal with an oddly masculine voice. The Monarch pretty much devotes all of his resources and his scores of henchmen towards killing Dr. Venture - although he doesn't appear to be very good at it. There are other villains that appear on the show like Baron Werner Ünterbheit (T. Ryder Smith) and Phantom Limb (James Urbaniak), but the Monarch gets the most screen time.

The show has a lot of quirks that centuries primarily on how damaged all the characters appear to be in one way or another. Dr. Venture clearly has a major inferiority complex at work and his abilities as a scientist are rather questionable. His sons are similarly incompetent with Hank being more adventurous and idolizing Brock while Dean is timid and the only one with a chance of becoming somewhat of a scientist himself. Brock could in fact be a sociopath and he liberally uses his license to kill in defense of the Venture family. And those are just the good guys - the villains all have their own issues, hence the goal of dealing with the Venture Family doesn't quite materialize.

This first season includes a number of quirky developments like the Necromancer Doctor Byron Orpheus (Steven Rattazzi) and his daughter Triana (Lisa Hammer) moving into the Venture compound as tenants. Orpheus is part of a mystical team known as the Order of the Triad, which includes Jefferson Twilight (Charles Parneli), who hunts Blaculas, and The Alchemist (Dana Snyder), who is still searching for the philosopher's stone and a cure for AIDS.

Another major story involves Phantom Limb appearing frequently throughout the season. This eventually coincides with Dr. Girlfriend finally breaking it off with the Monarch and returning to her former lover Phantom Limb. More than just a break-up, it is later revealed that Phantom Limb has a much more complicated plan at work - but that's for Season 2, I have to admit.

The show involves rather crude humor including sexual references, constant swearing and very disturbing situations. And yet it doesn't quite cross the creepy line and I do find myself constantly laughing at everything going on. Plus there's the brilliant referencing of all adventure comics and cartoons like Jonny Quest that give the show a somewhat nostaligia vibe despite the modern setting around things.

The Venture Bros. may not be for everyone, I have to admit, given the rather black comedy tone to things. But it certainly has its appeal and if you get into it, then you'll get into it. Otherwise, I don't think there'll be any forcing you. This first season gets a respectable 3.5 failed plans set in motion by the Monarch out of a possible 5.

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