The Cartoon Network is known for its kooky Adult Swim programming, with everything from "Robot Chicken" to winged superhero lawyers.
But few cartoon shows can match the level of comic brilliance of "The Venture Brothers," which unabashedly spoofs "Jonny Quest" and other kiddie adventure fare. It's loaded down with hilarious writing, aspiring supervillains, adolescent humor and the most dysfunctional family ever to fly a superjet.
It's about the adventures of Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture, a has-been child genius who is still overshadowed by his adventurous dad's legacy. And he now has two dim teenage sons of his own, Dean and Hank ("Go Team VENTURE!"), as well as the nurturing robot H.E.L.P.eR. And finally there's his knife-wielding, lusty mullet-haired Swedish bodyguard Brock.
In the first episode, the brothers are kidnapped by the Monarch, a second-rate villain who desperately wants to be Dr. Venture's nemesis. Meanwhile, Dr. Venture has had both kidneys stolen, and Brock is apparently dead -- but he won't let a little thing like that (or the chupacabras) keep him from rescuing Hank and Dean.
In the episodes that follow, the Venture Brothers bravely (and stupidly) deal with the minions of the Monarch and steel-jawed Baron Ünderbheit, a crazed Walt Disneyesque mogul, their friendly neighbor necromancer, a broken space station, ghost pirates (both real and fake), testicular torsion, secret twins, yard sales, murderous robots, and a date gone wrong -- Dr. Venture ends up turning into a giant caterpillar.
There's also two extra episodes: the pilot, where thw twins get lost in NYC while a ninja tries to steal Venture's latest invention. And then there's the Christmas special, in which the Monarch riddles the Venture compound with explosives -- and a nasty Christmas spirit crashes the Christmas party to punish the wicked.
A series like "Jonny Quest" is just asking for a spoof, and "Venture Brothers" happily obliges. But in fact, it also mocks the Fantastic Four, Sean Connery, Christmas specials, and Germanic villains -- basically all unrealistic action-adventure. Where else can you find a villain's henchman arguing who would win in a "crazy fantasy fight-fight between Anne Frank and Lizzie Borden"?
It's full of adolescent gross-out humor (porta-potties), gory action (wrestling mummies and alligators), and the odd sex scene for Brock. But the genius is in the scripting, which is often crazy and unabashedly sarcastic: "With every fiber of my being I stab at thee, as long as blood flows through this heart I will hunt you down. I will be the stuff of your children's nightmares!" "What's he doing now?" "He's making his dramatic exit."
Patrick Warburton and James Urbaniak are simply brilliant as the indestructible Brock and the embittered Venture, with Michael Sinterniklaas as the naive Dean, and Christopher McCulloch doing many roles, most prominently Hank and the whiny-voiced Monarch. And Steven Rattazzi gets a special mention as the melodramatic necromancer/single dad Dr. Orpheus.
"The Venture Brothers" have exactly the kind of adventures that kids dream of NOT having, but for the grown-ups, it's a hilarious animated comedy. GO TEAM VENTURE!