It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these segments, but, as the recent and ongoing ‘fake geek girl’ nonsense continues to illustrate, there still seems to be some sort of ‘required reading’ list that you have to complete before you can call yourself a nerd. As a quick refresher, in this series I watch/read/participate in these things for you, and let you know if they’re actually worth your time.
So without further ado, on to The Venture Bros.!
The Venture Bros. has been on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block on and off again since I was in high school, but it’s not something I ever thought I’d enjoy watching. The commercials seemed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of dick jokes, and although I’ve done my fair share of laughing at dick jokes, I feel like a show needs more than that to survive. Well, it turns out that The Venture Bros. does have more than that after all.
The Venture Bros. is, most simply, a parody of Johnny Quest. It follows Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture, the washed-up son of a Dr. Quest-esque adventurer-cum-superscientist, his two sons, the not-the-brightest-bulbs, horrifically accident-prone Hank and Dean Venture, and their super-buff, super-masculine bodyguard Brock Samson as Dr. Venture tries (and constantly fails) to live up to his father’s legacy.
However, just calling it a parody of Johnny Quest is a gross oversimplification. Its creators, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, are incredibly genre-savvy and leave no geek property’s stone unturned when it comes to lampooning something mockable. There’s Mr. Impossible and his family, who are basically the Fantastic Four gone horribly awry; Molotov Cocktease, a sexy, super-capable Russian secret agent who’s a shout out to both Black Widow and cornily-named Bond girls; any number of secret societies and organizations (many of which have silly acronym names a la SPECTRE or S.H.I.E.L.D.; references to Star Wars, Rocky Horror, Scooby Doo, and much more. It also pokes fun at the really awful way that old-school adventure stories and geeky shows and movies treated people from minority groups.
One of my favorite things about the show is the way it addresses super villainy. Bad guys have their own guild, essentially; you have to apply to be a good guy’s arch nemesis; and ‘henching’ (i.e. becoming a henchman) is a legitimate fallback career option. Another really cool thing is that (unlike a lot of animated shows or half-hour American shows in general) the plot of The Venture Bros. is serial, so the story evolves and progresses as the seasons do instead of just consisting of four seasons of standalone episodes.
Whereas the humor of other ostensibly parodic animated shows like Family Guy often tends to fall flat or seem lazy, The Venture Bros. is (almost) always really clever and smart (even though, yes, it’s rife with dick jokes). Some of the humor is pretty crass and so it isn’t for everyone, but nine times out of ten I find myself laughing.
If you haven’t watched The Venture Bros., I highly recommend you check it out. It’s especially funny for nerds (who will understand more of the jokes) and, outside of just giving you some lulz, will give you a lot of great cosplay options if you’re into that sort of thing.