Adventures in Nerdom: The Venture Bros.

When I was a kid, I would eagerly wait the return of fall every year. Not because I couldn’t wait to go back to school, but after a long summer filled with reruns, all of my favorite TV shows would have their season premieres. What a glorious few weeks that was (yeah, I was an indoor kid). These days, TV programming runs on a very different schedule, and when a show gets picked up for another season, it comes back when it’s good and ready, and not by any specific calendar that I know of (Mayan, maybe?). And while so many of my favorite shows have aired several seasons on that random timeline, there’s one show that had a season finale years ago and is FINALLY returning to its loyal, patient fans. I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not Arrested Development. Well, that could all apply to Arrested Development, too, but I think that ground is pretty well-tread at this point – the return of that show got more press than the royal wedding. I’m talking about the season premiere of The Venture Bros.

At its most basic, The Venture Bros. is a parody of old Johnny Quest cartoons, which were before my time. But really, it’s about a failed super scientist, his boy-adventurer sons, their hulk of a bodyguard and their day-to-day lives, which consist of a steady stream of disappointments, unachieved goals and avoiding being killed by their arch enemies.There is an overarching theme of failure that makes its way in to every episode as well, reminding you that while this is a cartoon, these characters are as human as they come. In general, the showpulls from what most people would consider “boy things”: comic books, sci-fi, action figures and other things that would traditionally be more in tune with teenage male interests. I know that when I was 14, I was more into The Barenaked Ladies and Beverly Hills 90210 than Danzig and the Justice League.

But even with a show so steeped in those kinds of references, The Venture Bros. finds a way to appeal people like me. Obscure ’80s metal and ’70s sci-fi cartoons may have been what inspired Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, the show’s creators, but it is so much more than just nods to those genres. Even if you took away all of the references (and there are A LOT), it’s still a really great show. I hate to admit it, but I don’t understand every deep cut to specific G.I. Joe characters or B-list Marvel villains they throw out there (hence the Adventures in Nerdom title), but you don’t have to catch all of the references in order to appreciate the beauty of the show and laugh for 22 minutes straight. It’s exceptionally honest in its characters and their experiences, and creates a world and mythology that you care deeply about. And even better, it makes me want to learn more about those genres that I’ve never known anything about!

There’s something magical about The Venture Bros. to me. It’s not just that the creators ask their audience to imagine a world where being an arch villain is treated as if it were a mundane 9-to-5 office job. But withcharacters like The Monarch (a super villain who dresses like a butterfly), Dr. Orpheus (a necromancing stay-at-home dad) and David Bowie (just plain old David Bowie), it never stops being funny. And when something happens to one these carefully crafted characters, it truly impacts the intricate world that has been created and reminds you, “Oh yeah, it’s a cartoon… literally ANYTHING can happen.” There are so many layers to this show, it makes my head hurt. The Venture Bros. universe is filled with so many interwoven storylines and is so perfectly written that no detail is too small is bring back, and it always manages to come at the exact moment when you’ve forgotten about it completely.

Okay, I’m gushing a little (a lot) and probably sounding like I’m trying to sell you something, but I promise, I’m not; I’ve been watching The Venture Bros. on Adult Swim for years now, and after almost three years, it’s finally coming back on June 2nd at Midnight. To fully prepare myself for this moment, I went back and watched the entire series again, and man does it hold up. (Season one is on Netflix, and you can watch a bunch of others on Adult Swim-just in case you’re interested). The last season ended so perfectly, topped off with one of my favorite songs of all time (“Like a Friend” by Pulp), that I can’t wait to see what this season brings. Everyone should do themselves a favor if they haven’t already, and welcome the Venture family and all their allies and enemies into their lives and DVRs (or watch it live like a civilized person). Go Team Venture!

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