Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Now Playing: The Venture Bros. Season 1

This is a cartoon series that first aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block a few years back and was meant to spoof the old "Johnny Quest" and "Scooby-Doo" franchises. But what it really does is so much better. It provided Yours Truly with at least a half dozen laugh-out-loud moments per episode and with 13 episodes total... well, you can do the math.

In short, The Venture Bros. Season 1 is a laugh riot especially if you don't mind a healthy dose of bodily humor. The series somehow picks the oddest moments to change from overt gross humor to implied gross humor, so you never quite know what you're going to get each time.

What never changes is that glorious he-man masculinity personified Brock Sampson (brilliantly voiced by Patrick Warburton) will swing in and save the day as the two Venture Brothers, Dean and Hank Venture, and their brilliant but narcissistic failure of a father Dr. Rusty Venture, all get themselves into one hot spot after another. It seems that Dr. Venture has racked up quite the collection of mortal enemies in his time, a lot of which was inadvertent, and they all want to see the Venture dynasty brought to its knees. Dr. Venture himself, meanwhile, tries and fails miserably to live up to his world-changing father's lofty status, but since he's completely unable to do so, and his children are both idiots, he consoles himself by popping "diet pills" and berating everyone he sees.

You're either going to love this stuff or hate it but if you're laughing through the first episode then you're good to go for the rest of the season. Because it only gets better/worse from there.

The characters are wildly varied though clearly draw their inspiration from previous trailblazers like The Tick. My favorite, other than Brock Sampson, wound up being a toss-up between Dr. Girlfriend, significant other of Dr. Venture's "arch-nemesis" The Monarch, and Dr. Orpheus, a necromancer who boards in the Venture Compound with his daughter Triana. Dr. Girlfriend's combination of personal neurosis and jaw-dropping beauty are wonderfully off-set by her somewhat "throaty" voice. Dr. Orpheus is hilariously over-the-top as a magician who constantly tries to wow the crowd with spectacle even when it's just him in the room. A close third would be H.E.L.P.R. who for whatever reason kept cracking me up, especially in the episode where the Venture clan goes to the space station.

About the only thing truly "off" with the series would be the endings. Almost without fail, the episodes just end as they seem to build to either a crescendo or punch line. I think only one or two actually had an ending that left me satisfied or laughing whereas the others didn't even have the good grace to build to a solid cliff-hanger. So if you go in accepting this flaw, which reportedly has been corrected with season two, then there isn't much else to complain about.

Even the animation is pretty solid and certainly looks better than the average Saturday morning cartoon. The Venture Bros. adventures span high and low around the globe and when the finale manages to spoof both Perry Mason and Total Recall in the same 22 minutes it makes me angry that the second season isn't on disc yet. It's far too soon to throw out the "classic" label just yet but this is hilariously inspired comedy that hits so many buttons so frequently that it's well worth checking out.

Oh, and stay through the credits as each episode has a moment at the end. Also, the Christmas "bonus" episode alone makes the series worth watching but save this until you've seen everything else.

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