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Not really much to say that other reviewers haven't said: this is one of the best-written "adult animation" comedy shows out there, and the best way to dip into the pool. If you like this show, you WILL LOVE this show, but if you find the gags too tasteless and the protagonists too horrible, then you're better off not approaching this genre because, as I mentioned, THIS is one of the more high-quality examples.
A cynical dismissal of adult Western Animation is that its just a bunch of shows filled with dick jokes. The Venture Brothers, existed to defy that notion by being show filled with dick jokes, but actually having a larger overall plot. It's a show that is a satire, but its a satire that explores our inner desires for escapism and contrasts them to mundane, and at times bleak reality. Rusty isn't just an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist, he is a tragedy and a horror story. He's what we fear of becoming when we wake up in the morning, someone so afraid of feeling anything that as a self-defense mechanism, he detaches himself from everything.
Venture Bros primary satire involves the exploration of a Johnny Quest expy's life when all of the romanticism is stripped away. He's involved in horrible dangers as a kid, because his father sees him as an ornament, rather than a son. He's impatient and anti-social because he's been surrounded by adult men that are more interested in the fame of being a superhero than wondering if a kid is suited for the harsh conditions of their lives. He is perceived to have peaked at a young age, when he was only appreciated by the masses as a Kid Appeal character not through any accomplishment he achieved himself.
Venture Bros asks the difficult question, that if you are unhappy with your life, and you want to start over, how can you move on from the way that life molded you? The question is explored many times throughout the series, and never gets an entirely spelled out answer. The primary guinea pigs throughout the series is Hank and Dean, the titicular Venture Bros. Initially, dumb and naive, the various bizarre and strange events, make them start to realize that they need to find their own identities or risk becoming like Rusty. Other characters like Quizboy and Brock Sampson, explore the aspects of their lives that turn them to such extremes, before rebuilding them in ways where they are not entirely living up to their ideal, but are starting to make steps in realizing who they are.
The show is also absurdly funny. Supervillains with incredible resources make mundane mistakes like confusing addresses resulting in an unexpectedly brutal raid of a standard office setting, culminating in the villain offering a small but sincere apology to the dead and traumatised people around him. A villain challenges two of the protagonists to the world's most dangerous game, lawn darts. A Wham Episode about the Hank and Dean, is followed by one of the most darkly hilarious montages broadcast in television. Then, of course, are the tendency for characters to deflate tension with Seinfeldian Conversation, like an Italian mafioso being revealed that he is faking being italian, Brock torturing a mook with a groin attack before realizing he has prostate cancer and discussing medical options with him, or two characters playing celebrity guessing games, before realizing they are heading for certain doom, before lapsing back into the game.
Unfortunately, the latest seasons have been less than stellar. Most of Season 5 is either filler or more interested in opening new plot points than closing others. Season 6 is better, but padded out to the extent that important plot points have to bleed into Season 7. Season 7 feels like it should have taken its characters in more definitive directions, and goes as far to have one of the brothers (emotionally) stab the other in the back with little to no build up. The show is still good, but it feels like its paced to be a long-runner rather than paced in a way that convinces me that the new directions are natural. The show has been on for a decade and a half, it really should be preparing its characters for the final incarnations that are going to depart the show, rather than wring its hands so it can produce more episodes.
Venture Bros really did break new ground for adult animated comedies. Rusty's comedic sociopathic applications of science opened the door for Rick and Morty. Brock's extreme violence contrasted by mundane situations opened the way for Archer. Bojack Horseman carried on the show's central theme of characters that never lived up to the romanticism their lives initially projected. Maybe someday, western animation creators will finally be able to release content that doesn't involve dick jokes. Until then, Venture Bros. strives to make you cry as well as laugh at the dysfunctional lives of its characters.
I have recently sat down and watched Seasons 1 - 6 of 'The Venture Brothers' having only heard about it from browsing forums and TV Tropes itself. Having now watched all of it (excluding Holiday specials), I think the best word to describe how I felt after watching it is 'satisfied'.
Each episode kept me engaged till the end, making me want more from the characters they introduced; plot lines and subtle foreshadowing kept me saying 'just one more episode' and then finishing the whole of a season in one night. Never did a episode feel like filler, each episode had a clever premise, For a show with six seasons I assumed from the start that it would have some flops but to my surprise, the writing was consistent and fantastic, leading to the characters to feel fleshed out as they developed through out the series.
On the topic of writing, the humor and dialog is amazing, I'd call it some of the best humor this side of Rick and Morty and Futurama. While it may date it self with references to things of the time of writing, it still has a very timeless feel to it thanks to its theme.
The soundtrack by J.G. Thirlwell is worth a mention. Alot of people comment on it sounding like Valve's 'Team Fortress 2's soundtrack' which in my opinion is a complement. The soundtrack fits the situation for what the characters get themselves into and is worth a purchase in my opinion, It goes from smooth jazz pieces to energetic bloodlusting manic tracks.
I cant honestly think of anything negative to say about the series as a whole, As a whole season 5 in comparison to the rest does feel like a step down from the previous seasons, but even now, that is the only thing I can harp on about.
Compared to the rest of the adult oriented animation on air at the moment, I feel that Venture Brothers is among some of the best out there. A great sync of Story and Humor with a colourful cast of characters. I cant recommend it enough.
Unwilling to take the easy road as a mere shallow parody of Jonny Quest, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer have instead shaped the complex Venture universe into the best show on television. The Venture Bros operates on the concept of a mix-and-match world of differing fictional universes and genres. In this universe the real world interacts bizarrely with the fantastic, creating what can only be described as a surreal reality. Here we find real characters behind the grotesque masks of Super-heroism and villainy. They didn't choose this world, it chose them. And in their incompetence and failure hilarity ensues.
Failure is the stated theme of the show, Doctor Venture is a mediocre scientist, The Monarch is an ineffectual costumed menace, even Brock, the show's most formidable character, is trapped in a job he's vastly overqualified for. The complex characterization that emerges from the early episodes blossoms into a world of mundane personal problems dressed up in the guise of fantastic adventure. Add onto this Jackson and Doc's esoteric pop-culture references and faux-retro set design and you have a show both funny and beautiful.
And to discuss the characters is even greater. Brock is an inspired creation, the most macho, murderous man on the planet. And a devoted Zeppelin fan. Doc Venture is an effective opposite of Brock, short, weak, and oozing with a creepy sexuality. The titular Venture Bros present a view of isolated adolescence, somehow becoming more awkward than you could ever have imagined being. Doctor Orpheus is just one of many Captain Ersatz characters (in this case Dr. Strange) in the pan-fictional Venture universe, not to mention one of the funniest. And, of course, #21 and #24 are the funniest duo in the history of anything.
What The Venture Bros. presents is a funny, well written, pseudo-realistic, identifiable Television Program. The best on Adult Swim. The best on late night. The best on cable. The best on television.
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