It’s really a hard choice to face: You can be a lunatic with great purpose in your life, or you can be sane and be bitterly, bitterly unhappy. Every episode, [The Venture Bros.] walks this edge of having these ridiculous, insane characters bouncing off one another with all these crazy pop-culture references on one side, and these rather startling insights into the human condition on the other. Which is why I think it’s a show for the ages.
Earlier this summer, I was suffering from Archer withdrawals. A friend recommended I check out the long-running Adult Swim series The Venture Bros., which Netflix had started streaming. And so I did. And after sitting through a couple of rocky, early episodes in Season One, I was completely hooked.
This is one of the best serial TV shows ever made, on par with HBO heavyweights like Deadwood and The Wire. It's written, directed, edited and largely voiced by two nerds, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick (yep, those are their noms de plume), who have been working on this labor of love for 10 years. And it's fucking hysterical.
But I struggle to find ways to get friends into the show. Just saying, "It's a Johnny Quest parody" doesn't do it justice. And having the first season on Netflix is a double-edged sword. The pilot was a low-budget proof-of-concept, animated in Flash without any sound editing. It's an interesting episode to return to after getting into the series, but an awful way to introduce someone to the show.
Just look at the difference in animation quality between the pilot (2003) and a Season Five (2013) episode:
Skip the first half of Season One (at least when you're starting off), and watch these episodes in the following order:
- Ghosts of the Sargasso: The first two minutes are a word-for-word retelling of Space Oddity, which is pertinent to the rest of the show, since David Bowie is the leader of the villains' union. You get serious Brock Samson bad-assery, fake ghost pirates and a healthy dose of Scooby Doo-like costume shenanigans.
- Eeney, Meeney, Miney… Magic!: Introduces the great and powerful Dr. Orpheus; the spark of Dean Venture's infatuation with Orpheus' daughter, Triana; and you learn how many pieces of an orphan Dr. Venture put into his latest invention.
- Are You There, God? It's Me, Dean: Dean suffers from a bout of acute testicular torsion, which is based on series co-creator Doc Hammer's real-life experience with ATT. This is also a fine introduction to the show's main villains, The Monarch and his future wife, Dr. Girlfriend.
IMPORTANT: Watch each episode all the way through, so you catch its plot-essential, post-credit epilogue.
Immediately after finishing the Season One finale, watch the Season Two premiere, which is when The Venture Bros. truly becomes, as Todd Alcott put it, "a show for the ages."