"The Venture Bros. Season 2": Go Team Venture!
I don’t watch many Adult Swim shows: Robot Chicken, The Boondocks, and, my personal favorite and the focus of this review, Venture Bros. Few cartoons past Futurama have made me genuinely laugh the way Venture Bros. has (and continues to do). The torrent of potty and genitalia jokes also doesn’t hurt either.
For the uninformed, Venture Bros. is a Johnny Quest-style parody from the minds of Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick. It incorporates the aforementioned Quest while also referencing a host of such other Hanna-Barbera classics as Scooby Doo. In the show’s Emmy-worthy second season (not that it was nominated, mind you), we’re treated to a season-wide arc in which the boys, Hank and Dean, several times come close to finding out that they’re actually clones of themselves, and has the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend breaking up and then getting married. I like this season much more than the first, which in no way means I thought the first was weak—quite the contrary. It’s just that season two had an excellent string of episodes, not one of which I disliked. “Escape to the House of Mummies (Part 2),” in particular, is perhaps one of my favorite episodes of the series, period.
The second season of Venture Bros. is just littered with great jokes, great animation, and superb story telling. There’s not an episode in this season I didn’t enjoy both on its original airing and on DVD. I suppose some will categorize “Guess Who’s Coming to State Dinner?” as a bit on the weak side, which I may concede, too—but Ghost Lincoln was still awesome. I was also surprised by “Victor. Echo. November”; I had thought I’d seen the whole season on its first airing, but this one was new to me. It has since become a favorite of mine because of such lines as “It feels like someone with a fever is yelling at my pants!” and “I gotta take a Count Dooku.” The second season is pure and absolute gold through and through.
If you aren’t watching Venture Bros., you really need to be. Now. Any show that splashes lines like “Love never blows up and gets killed” across its DVD packaging deserves to be seen by anyone and everyone.
DVD packaging has never been a strong focus in my reviews (most is generic and not worth talking about), but this volume continues the tradition set by the Season One release. Packaged in a white, “papery” feel slipcase, Venture Bros. comes with a distressed look, complete with “wrinkles” and “coffee stains”, giving it an old-time feel. The exterior art is simple and extremely effective, offering a very cool and stylized shelf presence next to other, lame-o DVD packages. Inside, it gives us a full three-panel fold out splash image showing off Doc, Brock, Cocktease, Phantom Limb, Dr. Girlfriend, Monarch, and Dean and Hank. The packaging needs to be seen to be believed—it’s just flat out awesome. Interior art of the tri-foldout has all the episode titles and summaries as well as credits for the show and disc contents. The discs themselves feature stylized art just like the packaging, with a small group of butterflies gracing the first and a Doc Venture silhouette the second. I’ve never been so thoroughly impressed by a DVD’s packaging. it just exudes excellence all around.
The disc presentation is even better. The menus are styled in widescreen like an old film strip. Changing menus triggers menu animation and sound effects that match that of a reel frame stepping. Jitters and clicks abound as you switch between menus. Even going to the very “bottom” of the film strip and going back to the main menu shows the other menus on the individual frames whizzing by. On presentation alone this set earns five stars, and we haven’t even touched the content of the discs.
Video and audio is great. While each episode seems to have an extreme amount of ghosting frames, the audio is simply superb. Coming in with a 5.1 track on every episode (though the back of the package says only 2.0—though that’s included as well), the track is lively and great to listen to—definitely a step above the 2.0 track on the first season set. In addition, there are chapter stops in every ep—although I shouldn’t say “stops”, as there’s really only one stop per episode (roughly right in the middle where a commercial break is). Better than nothing, I suppose.
The thirteen-episode set comes with thirteen episode commentaries. That’s right, boys and girls—commentaries on every episode! Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick appear on all of the tracks, but we also get guest appearances by James Urbaniak and Michael Sinterniklaas. While the tracks consist of the guys just basically shootin’ the ****, there are some interesting production anecdotes about the scripts and last-minute line additions and deletions. Fans will find them all entertaining, but be forewarned: there’s an “Explicit Content” sticker on the back of the package for a reason. While some of the more extreme stuff is bleeped out, F-bombs and many other things remain. Didn’t bother me any, but the squeamish expecting a censored track like last season’s set will be shocked to hear what Hammer and Publick really say beneath some of those bleeps.
The first disc has episode and commentaries only; the second has six more episodes and commentaries, plus deleted scenes and a tour of Astro-Base Go. The tour is shot old-documentary style with Billy and Pete White narrating. The featurette is relatively short, but it gives us a look at the area where the show is created (and the various “Station” names). We’re also given an in-depth look at Soul-Bot and his many powers.
The deleted scenes are fun to watch, though you can tell why most were cut (for time or because they just weren’t all that funny). Deleted scenes range from the completely finished to storyboards with voiceovers. Overall, the special features are satisfying, if only for the thirteen full-length commentaries. The deleted scenes are hit and miss, and the Astro-Base Go featurette wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but they are still fun in their own right.
Overall, I don’t care if you’re a fan of the show or not: Go pick up this set. The episodes are just too great to miss, and the special features are worth a look-see as well. Plus, the packaging alone is so attractive I consider it a special feature all by itself.