Saturday, August 10, 2013


Who are the most talented showrunners today?  You might immediately answer Vince Gilligan of "Breaking Bad" and the "X-Files," or perhaps J.J. Abrams of "Lost" and "Alias," or perhaps David Simon of "The Wire" and "Treme."  But there's a pair of showrunners that are often overlooked, despite putting out one of the best shows currently on television.

This dynamic duo currently helm one of the best written, drawn, and put together shows on television.  This duo is none other than Jackson Publick (a pseudonym of Christopher McCulloch) and Doc Hammer.  These two cartoonists had previously worked on such projects such as "The Tick," with Ben Edlund before deciding to create a t.v. show that would parody the old t.v. series "Jonny Quest" as well as the superheroes and supervillains of the silver age of comics with their "The Venture Bros." cartoon.

Originally, the first season is very much a parody of the Jonny Quest universe, but even over the course of the first season the show transformed to something much more expanse than just simple parody.

One thing that TVB has that other shows don't have, and that is the incredible Brock Samson.  Pretty much Brock Samson is "Archer" on steroids.  In fact, I'd have to say that the best crossover of all time would be if someone put Archer and Brock Samson together.

There was a very funny pair up of the villain "Phantom Limb" and Samson when they had to work together.

The first appearance of Samson at the U.N.

Samson doesn't use guns, yet still passes his firearms test

The series is centered around the failed Super Scientist Dr. Thaddeus Venture and his two sons, Hank and Dean Venture, and their adventures.  Dr. Venture was himself a "boy of adventure," with his Super Scientist father and found himself kidnapped by supervillains on a regular basis and needing rescue constantly.  He even had his own t.v. show (which was, of course, a zing-reference to Jonny Quest.)  Dr. Venture's nemesis is the villain "The Monarch," who is pretty much the worst themed villain of all time, but is endearing because he tries so hard to be a serious villain.

The show's brilliance comes from its creators ability to let the show grow beyond what the viewers would expect the show to become as it has progressed.  The creators have killed off fan favorite characters and taken the show in several different directions and had the characters actually grow and change over the course of the past five seasons.

The show is incredibly DEEP.  It just doesn't cover the basic pop culture references, it takes them several layers deep.  Take for instance the "Gi Joe" parody (of the original 80's cartoon series).  It shows "OSI" battling the evil "SPHINX," and for a moment you might thing you're looking at a long lost Gi Joe episode.  

But unlike in the Gi Joe series that pretty much never showed anyone die EVER; with pilot managing to eject from their cockpits at the last second, and bullets not quite hitting their mark, we instead see pilots ejecting only to be bloodily shot up in their parachutes; missiles killing whole trucks of men, and even "Destro" having his heads and legs decapitated by an OSI jet, only to have the two jets actually pass the head between the wings of the two planes, only to have it land in the cockpit of a Sphinx fight pilot, killing him (also bloodily).

Then we have the OSI debriefing where the flaming character "Shore leave" and his band of Village People OSI agents make fun of the series hero Brock Samson and his mentor Gen. Hunter Gathers, himself a version of author Hunter S. Thompson.  "Oh, look if it isn't the Incredible Hulk and his friend Mister Magee."  This was a direct reference to the 70's "Incredible Hulk" t.v. series..
One of the original ancillary characters was that that of "Billy Quizboy," a pint-sized genius hydrocephalic with a giant head who lived with an Albino named "Mr. White."  White and Billy's role has (fortunately) expanded over the seasons, with Billy even getting his own origin story tied in with the one of the show's bigger villain's "Phantom Limb;" a villain who has invisible limbs that resembles a floating torso when not fully clothed.  This episode was one of the more touching episodes and showed that the Venture Bros. was no mere "cartoon."  Furthermore, this cartoon has grown beyond being just a comedy into something considerably more substantive.

TVB showed the folly of having a giant robot made up of other giant robot parts in this scene vs. "The Monarch" and his cocoon ship.  "Keep it cat and mouse," argued the Monarch. "Not cat and missile!" 

The universe of TVB seems small, but in fact is is very rich and deep.  Just take a look at the character listing from just five seasons, and 63 episodes so far:

This video put together by the team behind TVB sums up the story of TVB so far.

The Venture Bros. are only available on Netflix streaming season one only.  But I can suggest whole heatedly that if you've never seen TVB before, and like what you've seen in this post to buy the dvds/blu-rays of the first four seasons.  You won't be disappointed. 

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