If you're the kid of a baby boomer it's impossible not to remember Saturday or Sunday afternoon reruns of Johnny Quest on UHF TV. This cartoon, produced by Hanna Barbera, ran in the mid 1960's during prime time and was a straight up adventure drama where the audience spent 30 or so minutes with Dr. Benton Quest, his son Johnny, their body guard Race Bannon, and a little Indian Boy named Haji. Each week, for one season, the Quest family (as they were known) battled frogmen, mummies, Incan cannibals, walking electronic eyes, and all manner of beast, villain, and monster solely to advance the cause of Super Science. The show was redone and released again the 1990s too, but it never had the longevity of the original.
Cartoon Network's fantastically well put together Adult Swim, the lineup includes great shows like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Futurama (reruns), Family Guy (reruns) and Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law which also spoofed the Quest Family, introduced the second parody of Johnny Quest in the form of The Venture Brothers with a premier in late 2003.
The pilot aired once then vanished.
About a year later the first episodes of the regular season began their run, and since then there has been little on television as well written, smart, and laugh out loud funny.
Meet the Venture Family, Dr. Thaddeus Venture (AKA Rusty – for his childhood mop of auburn hair), Brock Samson (the bodyguard), and the boys Hank and Dean. They live in the Venture Industries compound and, like Dr. Benton Quest, pursue the goals of Super Science.
Well, sort of…
See, Rusty is an adult version of Johnny Quest forever trapped in the shadow of his late father, a globetrotting adventurer and inventor of such devices as the orbital space station Gargantua 1. After inheriting Venture Industries not long after college the business is circling the drain leaving Rusty to sell off his father's legacy to other Super Scientists, or wrangle government contracts for new weapons, vehicles, or teleportation machines. Dr. Venture is skinny, bald, meek, and hates his two sons.
Dean: Knock it off!
Dean: Knock it off!
Dr. Venture: Boys! for the last time, stop! Brock is trying to drive.
Brock Samson: I'm cool.
Hank/Dean He started it!
Dr. Venture: No, *I* started it years ago in a moment of passion, and I'll end it the same way, right here, in front of Brock, H.E.L.P.eR., and God!
Brock Samson (voice by the amazingly talented Patrick Warburton) works out of the Office of Secret Intelligence and is the sort of father figure the boys need. A womanizing former assassin with a hair trigger and a deep understanding of the shadowy organizations tied to, or meddling in, Super Science.
Hank and Dean are brothers, who don't know who donated the DNA on their mother's side. Dean is the smarter of the two, Hank is the dumber but more adventurous. Neither of the boys have any real connection to the outside world, much like Rusty's childhood, except their father is a failure.
Dean Venture: Good thinking, bro'a'mine. And I thought I was supposed to be the smart one
Hank Venture: Ma Venture didn't raise no fools
Dean Venture: W-We don't have a mom, Hank...
This is already enough stuff for a funny take on the old 60's cartoon staple. But Hammer and Publick take a different approach to the satire and manage to REALLY flesh out the universe in which these character live.
For example, Dr. Venture has an archenemy, The Monarch, who is assigned to "arch" the Venture Family by The Guild of Calamitous Intent. The Monarch is a trust-fund billionaire who after losing his parents in a small plane crash, was raised by Monarch Butterflies. The Monarch went to the same college as Dr. Venture too.
Dr. Girlfriend, The Monarch's second in command, and love interest, dresses like Jackie Onassis but talks with the gruff male voice of a New Jersey longshoreman. She was once known as Queen Etheria, and as Lady Au Pair (she led an army of "murderous moppets).
Baron Underbeiht, the prince of the land of Underbeiht (located somewhere in Michigan), was Rusty's lab partner/exchange student in college and blames Rusty for a lab accident that left him with a prosthetic lower jaw. He rules Underbeiht as a despot.
Baron ‹nderbheit: You have to give me this one. I've loathed Venture ever since college.
The Monarch: Oh, who hasn't, ‹nderpants? What makes your case so special?
[‹nderbheit groans, points to his metal jaw]
The Monarch: Wow, you mean he did that? How?
Baron ‹nderbheit: Where I come from, a lab partnership is a sacred trust. One is always suppose to look out for one's lab partner. Venture did not.
The Monarch: Fine, fine. But you have to understand you can't waltz into the middle of a delicate, high-stakes chess tournament and yell, "King me!" 'cause he bitched up your face.
Phantom Limb, the leader of The Guild, has invisible arms and legs and really good taste in kitchen cutlery.
Other characters rounding out the show include Dr. White, an albino, Billy Quizboy, a 30 year old man trapped in the body of a 35 year old man the size of the boy, Girl Hitler, one of Underbeiht's minions, Walt Brisby, the millionaire owner of Brisby-Land based on adventures of a cartoon bee and who suffered a paralyzing stroke after being trapped beneath an anamatronic Abraham Lincoln, and Dr. Orpheus, a single father and master of the macabre who rents space in the Venture compound with his teenage daughter Triana. Finally, Professor Impossible, and The Impossible 4, who are parallel universe representations of The Fantastic Four in which everyone hates each other.
The story actually manages to work in an arc among all the episodic stuff but never insists that things be watched in any order (except for the last episodes of the Season leading to Season 2). In fact there are several arcs, of course there is Dr. Venture's inability to rise to the level of his father and the subsequent addiction to diet pills he needs to keep visions of the "old man" at bay, that's sort of funny. Funnier though are the stories centering on the Monarch's tenuous hold on Dr. Girlfriend, Dr. Orpheous desire to receive an arch enemy from The Guild, and the revelation of Dr. Venture's twin, as malformed dwarf who still managed to get the best of the original Dr. Venture even though he was eaten as a fetus in the womb by Rusty.
I'm not kidding. This was an actual episode called "Return to Spider Skull Island".
Rouding out the semi-regulars are Monarch Henchmen 24 and 21, and the one-eyed super Russian assassin, and former girlfriend of Brock Samson, Molotov Cocktease.
The DVD collection presents all 13 episodes of the first season (plus the special Christmas Episode) so you can follow the insane adventure of the most dysfunctional family in Super Science as they try to prevent a Japanese Techo-fetishist ninja from masturbating all over the "Ooooo ray" at a UN conference, restore Dr. Venture's kidney function after they are stolen in Mexico, recover a crashed spaceship from the ocean bottom, escape from the funeral of Mike Suriyama (a former classmate), raise enough cash selling off old equipment and failed experiments at a yard sale to keep Venture Industries solvent, escape from Brisby world, troubleshoot Gargantua 1, avoid being turned into a giant Monarch Butterfly by The Monarch, deal with Dean's testicular torsion, survive an attempted assassination by both The Monarch's and Baron Underbeiht's henchmen while Brock is on vacation, disable the Pleasure Machine powered by parts of an orphan child, witness as The Guild sets up The Monarch on trumped up charges, and finally escape from a Scared Straight program at a prison where The Monarch is an inmate.
The Venture Brothers is sheer unmitigated hysterical foolishness and it begs to be watched again and again and again. The animation is great too, better than just about anything else in TV right now. And the music is also really well done. It's a total entertainment package.
And now you can, on a DVD featuring the uncut pilot, the full first season, the Christmas episode, cast and crew commentaries, behind the scenes material from the live action film.
Also, season 2 is airing as you read this, Sunday nights at 10:30PM with Season 2 episodes available from the iTunes music store.
This is a must own DVD.
GO TEAM VENTURE!!