The Venture Bros. may very well be the greatest show currently appearing on television, and certainly the best thing ever produced by Adult Swim’s offbeat and often fabulous programming line-up. That’s the first thing you need to know, and if you disagree, that’s fine—but I will fight you.
(Seriously. Be at the dueling grounds at daybreak. I demand satisfaction.)
Following the less-than-glamorous exploits of aging “Boy Adventurer” Rusty Venture, along with his extended family and assorted nemeses, the first three seasons of the series have been nothing short of superb, as the narrative has evolved from a zany but utterly inspired spoof of Johnny Quest-type classic cartoons into an intricately plotted comedy goldmine of hilariously neurotic characters and bizarre, labyrinthian back-stories. As my fellow blogger Rajan Khanna has pointed out in his overview of the show, The Venture Bros. practically begs for repeat viewings—I’ve rewatched all three seasons multiple times, and am still consistently surprised by how adeptly the earlier episodes set up later developments, as well as catching new in-jokes and references each time around. There are just so many layers of humor—sight gags, plot points, punchlines, throwaway jokes—built into each episode that it’s nearly impossible to catch everything on a first viewing.
Furthermore, co-creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer are, hands down, two of the most brilliantly original creative minds working in television today, weaving an astounding array of pop culture references into a tapestry of glittering ’70s and ’80s awesomeness while completely eschewing any hint of the familiar hipster penchant for engaging in irony for irony’s sake. Publick and Hammer are geeks and fanboys of the first water who clearly can’t help trying to work all of their best-loved fixations and obscure objects of nostalgia into the world they’ve created—you only have to listen to the DVD commentary of previous seasons to get a sense of the sincere affection and genuine glee that goes into the creation of their material and characters. The Venture Bros. wholeheartedly celebrates a rapturously geeky eclecticism and a kind of exhilarating randomness that sometimes feels a tiny bit like maybe Joss Whedon’s evil, anarchist twin popped a handful of trucker pills and just let loose with the crazy—and I mean that, of course, in the best possible way.
Within the show itself, the characters are almost all absurdly flawed, generally ridiculous, mostly clueless, and often insanely petty, and yet even at their worst—especially at their worst, in fact—it’s impossible not to relate to them. The greatest appeal of the show lies in the sick, twisted, but strangely touching relationships that underlie all of the over-the-top dialogue, geeky banter, diabolical machinations, and general outrageousness of the Venture universe. Admittedly, you probably won’t get a lot of that from the following trailer for the upcoming fourth season, but if you’ve never seen the show: come for the explosions, the egregious violence, and the total hilarity; stay for the most superbly plotted, ingeniously scripted cartoon ever spawned from the seething and warped cauldron of comedic genius.
(And also? David Bowie as a supervillain…Best. Show. Ever.)