Rusty Venture needs a new outlook, and the skyline of New York City is the perfect spot for a former boy scientist to recreate himself in and see a new light. He doesn’t have to be shackled by the impressive life of his twin brother or live in the shadow of his father; he can come to a new town and escape all his troubles… except for two sons that will find their own mischief to get into while attending college, a former arch-enemy’s who has hit hard times, and a new set of celebrities to try to impress, such as one Christopher Lambert. Season six of The Venture Bros. is here, but is New York a happening scene, or the dredges of arching society?
Season five had its flaws, almost being so obsessed with its own continuity and references that it made the series tough for even astute followers to keep up with, especially given the large gap of time between seasons. Thankfully, season six almost jettisons the deep-level studies and gets back to basics in a new light: the family has shifted from the Venture Compound in California to New York City. With the death of Rusty’s brother Jonas, Rusty inherited the largely-ignored NYC base and takes the opportunity to abandon his destroyed home for greener pastures. While New York City is almost shorthand for “place to recreate yourself” as much as it “place that media focuses on way too much,” it works for this series. With The Venture Bros. frequently having an Archer-esque love and vibe of the 1960s and 70s, this brings them into a world of Andy Warhol knockoffs and flashbacks to the era of Peter Parker juggling college alongside his web-swinging adventures.
Despite all sorts of character growth, it’s nice to return the crew back to where we met them. Brock Samson’s working for the family in the guise of bodyguard, and the erstwhile Henchman 21, Gary, is back to working for the Monarch, bailing on both the Ventures and the G.I. Joe-inspired OSI. The biggest shift that remains throughout the season is that Dr. Mrs. The Monarch is now an integral part of the Council of 13 (itself the replacement for The Guild of Calamitous Intent) while The Monarch is trying to play both sides of the street, aspiring to get back on top of the villain vista while simultaneously having a bit too much fun as The Blue Morpho, a Green Hornet-parody that runs many episodes and effectively uses two bumbling villains as vaguely-accomplished superheroes. The show doesn’t stalemate on new characters, though, with Wide Wale and Sirena, father/daughter pair, actively leading the new favorites. Wide Wale is largely a whale-stylized Kingpin, and Sirena rapidly becomes the focus of Hank’s (vaguely disastrous, vaguely successful) love life. The Justice League and the Avengers get proper send-ups with parodies that are a bit on the nose, but it’s a bit fitting that Brock falls in love with a more traditional Amazon than what Wonder Woman portrays.
In a re-watch, the season isn’t perfect, despite all the attempts to “reboot” it. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch never feels adequately used, and continues to exist as a woman either dragged down by, or the focus of attention of, men in her life, despite the fact that her character has rapidly advanced in status over the seasons. The death of Jonas Jr. in the season premiere special takes a character off the playing field that could have always been redeemed into a more interesting character (in fact, his late-game battle with cancer brought about a little more growth for a character that was otherwise aggravating at times). Hank takes up the most of the attention over these episodes thanks to his dating plot, despite a few gems showing up in Dean’s college-focused plot. While the episode where Dean gets “possessed” stands out, the only other memorable bit is clearly a Peter Parker parody that’s more notable for the Spider-Man substitute than for Dean’s involvement. Admittedly, though, this was not planned to be the whole season (as the commentaries, later, will mention repeatedly); with the crew having spent their budget on the special at the beginning of the season, they attempted to rework later episodes into a more-fitting finale, but you’re effectively viewing an unfinished season. The premiere of season seven effectively has aims to be a great big season six finale.
With ten episodes (counting the special “All This and Gargantua-2” twice because it’s double-length) on one disc, a fly-through of the season is short-but-sweet. There’s a few minutes of deleted scenes, a recap of the previous season that you’ll be forgiven if you didn’t remember much of, and five short Adult Swim interstitials that show off creative art styles in the way only Adult Swim can. Each episode (including the special) has a commentary track, which is great to have as background noise, and you can play all of the episodes in one run (once again, the special counts as the odd-man-out and is hidden away in the extras).
The commentary track is where viewers of the series in its initial run on Adult Swim will get their maximum enjoyment out of this disc (yes, singular; the whole season fits on one Blu-ray with no problems on storage size, riding a little longer than four hour-long dramas or an extended special edition of a major blockbuster). It’s honestly entertaining, featuring the creators of the show rambling about what’s on screen, what’s going on in their life, or how massively messed up in their heads they are. They even get a bit meta on the concept of commentaries as a whole, suggesting that the viewer/listener of a commentary is probably taking care of some of their stuff at home, such as laundry or other random stuff. One of my favorite lines from the feature hits home a bit with the discussion of how shocking whole milk is when you come from a skim milk family. It’s almost the epitome of what the show boils down to: you’ll have a decent enough plot with legit jokes, and then a reference to something that brings back a vivid memory from your childhood.
Season six successfully reboots the franchise, but only gives us a taste of how it can move forward in this brand new world. It’s a good afternoon for a mini-marathon, but it’s a taste of a new bottle of Venture Classic after a bit of New Venture dominated the market. It most likely won’t be getting new viewers at six seasons, but if you felt bored or confused by the last season, season six should bring you back to the fold.