A security leak has provided Appellate Judge Mike Pinsky with the government's look one of our nation's most brilliant scientific dynasties. But instead, read this review of some silly cartoon show.
Our reviews of The Venture Bros. Season One (published June 7th, 2006), The Venture Bros. Season Four, Volume One (published November 4th, 2010), The Venture Bros. Season Five (Blu-ray) (published March 19th, 2014), The Venture Bros. Season Four (Blu-ray) (published March 17th, 2011), The Venture Bros. Season Three (published April 9th, 2009), and The Venture Bros. Season Three (Blu-Ray) (published March 30th, 2009) are also available.
"Fly! Fly my pet! Let the beating of your wings ignite the hurricane of my glorious second coming!"—The Monarch
From: Office of Secret Intelligence, Counter Surveillance Department
The following report evaluates recent surveillance gathered from wiretaps (authorized under Patriot Act III provisions) on Astro-Base Go and its personnel. Astro-Base Go has been classed a Type G potential security threat due to its continuing surveillance of OSI agent 09262-8765-001 (Brock Samson) and this agent's ongoing assignment as caretaker for the Venture family, code-named "Operation Rusty's Blanket."
Facts of the Case
Preliminary analysis of data files downloaded from the Astro-Base Go mainframe has provided the following information regarding the nature of this facility:
1. The Astro-Base Go facility, which currently orbits the moon, contains sophisticated tactical surveillance equipment that allows users to target subjects even within secure locations. While this might be used for crucial military intelligence, it is currently used to watch the Venture family, sometimes even on the toilet. The base's location makes it nearly unapproachable by standard military assault, although tour shuttles depart for it every 30 minutes.
2. Astro-Base personnel consists currently of three individuals. Jackson Publick is wanted in three states under the name Christopher McCulloch, which is believed to be a pseudonym. Research indicates that so-called "Doc Hammer" is likely not a doctor. Rather, he has been trained as a painter, although one report (filed as "Tangiers 1985") indicates that Hammer may also be an effective assassin (particularly with women's undergarments). Nothing is currently known about the entity known as Soul Bot.
3. Equipment at the Astro-Base Go facility has been used repeatedly over the last few years to record the Venture family. Reasons for this are currently under discussion by our staff psychologists. What is known is that Astro-Base Go has edited these surveillance recordings for distribution, in direct defiance of warnings from this office. Their second collection of these recordings has been edited into thirteen "episodes." Brief overviews follow:
• "Powerless in the Face of Death:" This first installment should answer all questions regarding the latest deaths of Hank and Dean Venture, as outlined in Brock Samson's last incident report. The recent escape of the Monarch, right under the noses of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, is of serious concern. Plans are underway to increase surveillance on unattached henchmen formerly in the employ of the Monarch. In the meantime, OSI has passed on details regarding the Venture cloning project to the appropriate department. Such technology could prove useful for replacing important personnel. However, the Pentagon has been advised to reject Dr. Venture's proposal to sell his "teleporter" device to our military.
• "Hate Floats:" The training department should use this particular "episode," especially the battle in the shopping mall, as a tool to demonstrate how not to run an extraction operation in a public area. On the other hand, several of the Monarch's former henchmen in this episode should be approached as potential OSI recruits, as long as they learn to keep their pants up. OSI need not be concerned about the resurgence of the Monarch however: his obsessions with both former girlfriend Dr. Girlfriend and Dr. Venture keep him well distracted.
• "Love-Bheits:" While we have been concerned for some time with the disposition of Baron Werner Von Ünderbheit and the military capabilities of his nation of Ünderland, the footage in this episode indicates that our fears were unfounded. Ünderland is actually a disorganized poorly run mess that offers only a moderate threat to the nation, much like the state of Florida.
• "Escape to the House of Mummies, Part II:" Since Department R has had access to working shrinking technology for some time, the information gleaned from this episode regarding Dr. Venture's efforts to restore a shrinking gun designed by his father is of little strategic value. However, events in South America recorded here directly contradict Brock Samson's stated reasons for filing two Workman's Compensation claims for the same mission. Please forward this file to the Department of Temporal Paradoxes for further analysis.
• "20 Years to Midnight:" Based on our initial analysis of Dr. Venture's mission to collect the lost pieces of his late father's interstellar communication device, this office has determined that Dr. Richard Impossible is paranoid, monomaniacal, and overly obsessed with research at the expense of his family. Recommend we hire him immediately.
• "Victor. Echo. November." It has come to the attention of this office that several agents have been passing this episode around, along with the rumor that it contains inappropriate material. In fact, it simply contains footage of a pair of double dates: young Hank and Dean with Triana Orpheus and friend, and Phantom Limb and Dr. Girlfriend with the Monarch and one of our undercover agents who met the Monarch through his LiveJournal account.
• "Assassinanny 911:" This file should be interdicted immediately, as it reveals high level OSI training techniques (particularly related to Brock Samson), direct information on a rogue agent now disavowed by this department, and unauthorized footage of Russian mercenary Molotov Cocktease, labeled a Class C threat. (As a side note, a reprimand has been issued to Samson's file for using Cocktease as a "babysitter" while away on official OSI assignment.)
• "Falling Arches:" Please consult File #446-CR for updates on Byron Orpheus, known publicly as Dr. Orpheus (formerly Bryan O'Reilly; divorced, father of one). Orpheus is not considered a risk at this time, but his connection to the self-proclaimed "blacula hunter" Jefferson Twilight should be investigated, particular in light of last year's incident involving the Secretary of State. Agents should also consult this episode to study the policies and procedures of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, the leading professional organization for costumed adversaries.
• "Guess Who's Coming to State Dinner?" Department K is continuing its investigation into paranormal activities in the White House, specifically the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Initial reports that President Lincoln may have been spotted during the recent "Manchurian Candidate" incident involving famed astronaut Colonel Bud Manstrong. Official department policy however is to deny any incidents of haunting or spiritual possession, especially on government property, so act accordingly.
• "I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills:" Full dossiers are currently under development for Dr. Killinger. Reports that he may have once been involved in high level policy-making for the Nixon administration, or some similar supervillain organization, are purely speculation at this time. Reports are less certain on the identity of kidnapper "Myra" and her relationship to the Venture family, in spite of her claims and those of her therapist.
• "¡Viva Los Muertos!" Copies of this document have been forwarded to the research wing for a feasibility study on Dr. Venture's resurrection technology. We understand that several technical-support help lines already deploy such "zombies," although their use in fields other than customer service may be limited at this time. A memo has also been forwarded to the FBI to close their case file on the so-called "Groovy Gang," the roving band of "detectives" who have been responsible for so much meddling in abandoned amusement parks, ghost towns, and local gothic castles.
• "Showdown at Cremation Creek:" REPORT CLASSIFIED
From the Case Report of Dr. Simon G. Atwood, Staff Psychologist
My preliminary evaluation of the inhabitants of Astro-Base Go can be summed up as follows, with specific supporting evidence to follow: due to prolonged isolation in their orbiting moonbase, Publick and Hammer clearly exhibit all the signs of a potentially dangerous psychotic breakdown, but their illness is treatable if steps are taken immediately. Their long term exposure to popular culture ephemera of the 1960s and 70s has become conflated with their observations of the Venture family, causing them to interpret their surveillance material through the lens of such programs. The picture on the DVD packaging sums it all up. It looks like a poster for some Italian crime flick from the 60s, folded up in a drawer for years, then opened up (creases included) and tacked up on a wall. This clearly indicates a willingness to misinterpret the pathetic failure of Dr. Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture to live up to the legacy of his father (and the failure of Venture's sons to live up to even their father's dubious legacy) as—near as I can determine—comedy.
Thus, their surveillance footage of this family has been edited into what I can only reasonably determine is some kind of cartoonish situation comedy, dubbed The Venture Brothers. While the first few installments of this so-called "second season" focus on wheedling down an enormous amount of "plot" (the reintroduction of Hank and Dean Venture, following their untimely death at the end of the "first season;" the escape of the Monarch from prison; the fate of Baron Ünderbheit) into a few episodes, the mental breakdown of the Astro-Base Go inhabitants quickly overwhelm the narrative.
"Escape From the House of Mummies, Part II" shows The Venture Brothers becoming increasingly unhinged. Once free of the initial story points, the Astro-Base team can indulge themselves. Stories become increasingly fragmented, often ending long before the plot can achieve closure. Instead, episodes wander off on bizarre tangents: henchman encounter groups, a performance of Lady Windermere's Fan, and so forth. This serves two useful functions. First, it allows for more comedy built on the writers' deft use of non-sequiturs, particularly references to geek culture and "respectable" literature. Tally up the obligatory Star Wars references in each episode. What kind of show manages to reference Magic the Gathering, Maya Angelou, and the Residents—and even gets David Bowie to show up for the season climax? Ok, so it isn't really David Bowie. But that isn't the point. Even having Bowie show up, with Iggy Pop as an evil sidekick—that's clever, at least for a pair of functioning psychotics on an isolated space station. The second thing wandering off track accomplishes, particularly in the continuing shifts in focus toward Dr. Orpheus and his fumbling efforts to prove he is a good hero and father, is that the tangents develop character.
I must offer a caution here: while I quickly found myself sucked into the narrative here, and I appreciated the references, as a medical professional charged with assessing the behavior of Publick and Hammer for the OSI files, I cannot condone their actions. These are sad, dangerously sick individuals. And I must be careful of my own tendency toward transference here. As a documentary collection of surveillance footage, The Venture Bros.: Season Two severely misrepresents the work of a government-backed member of the scientific community. If Dr. Venture were, say, a cartoon character, all this might be very funny—perhaps the best "adventure cartoon" on television. But he is not, so the point is moot.
In the deranged minds of the Astro-Base Go team, "The Venture Brothers" (the unhealthy focus here on the two underage boys—note too the frequent testicle jokes—is the subject of an entirely separate report) are the stars of a "boy's adventure show" modeled on recently declassified documents concerning OSI Target Family B-9724/K (Dr. Benton Quest and son) and the childhood adventures of New York State Senator Frank Hardy and his sister Josephine (prior to her well-publicized surgery).
As a purely aesthetic object however, The Venture Bros.: Season Two proves a source of excellent diversionary entertainment, as evidenced by unauthorized viewings throughout the OSI offices. The Venture family could easily be just a collection of postmodern riffs on popular culture, a game of "spot the reference." But Hank and Dean evolve into more than just Johnny Question-marks. Dean in particular elicits our sympathy. He is an awkward teen, a not-so-hardy boy who feels hormonal urges he doesn't understand (and may be even a little confused about his sexuality), is forced to become like a father whom he isn't sure really loves him, and is desperate to claw his way out of his tightening cocoon. By the time he snaps completely at the end of the season, it is more than just a joke: there is real pathos folded into the comedy. If Hank seems a little less rounded by comparison, it is only because he covers his insecurities by willingly embracing the fantasy of his own heroism, the older brother who must be tougher and smarter and more capable. Comparing this kerchief-clad boy to the older parody of Scooby Doo's Freddie in "¡Viva Los Muertos!" gives you a good sense of the path down which Hank is heading: creepy control freak.
The increasing focus in the "show" on the definition and coherence of "family" (particularly father figures) indicates unresolved Oedipal tensions in the psyches of both Publick and Hammer. But it also helps develop the "characters" within the show. How does Dr. Venture cope (or fail, as the case may be) with both the presence of an overachieving brother (report to follow on Dr. Jonas Venture, Jr.) and an absent father with an overwhelming legacy? This may shed light on Venture's own inadequacies as a father. One episode is even dedicated to Brock Samson's father issues and has been added to his case file for his next staff evaluation. In turn, much emphasis has been placed on the romantic triangle among supervillains Phantom Limb, the Monarch, and Dr. Girlfriend. I recommend further investigation into this matter to see where it might assist in our dealings with the Guild of Calamitous Intent.
Counter Surveillance might want to pass on to Marketing and Propaganda the following observation about Astro-Base Go's release of these edited recordings to the Cartoon Network, which has been broadcasting them unawares to a young, potentially aggressive male demographic open to OSI recruitment. Adult Swim shows usually fall into two types: shows with original premises that sustain themselves on non-sequitur humor (Aqua Teen Hunger Force, 12 oz. Mouse) and shows that operate as parodies of popular culture, usually through recycling characters from other shows (Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman). For the most part, these shows rarely transcend their initial premises. Sure, many of them are very funny, but they do not sustain themselves much beyond that. The Venture Brothers has the parody elements and the random jokes—and it is very funny at both of these—but the fact that it also manages to develop its characters, to keep you invested in their lives through the course of this second season, is a real accomplishment that sets the bar for cartoon adventure shows. Thus, OSI may want to consider co-opting this show—rather than simply eliminating its creators via the usual means—in order to draw potential interest in the OSI as a career (as well as undermine recent recruitment efforts by the Guild via AM talk radio).
I also oppose eliminating the Astro-Base Go team on professional grounds, based on my assessment that their mental illnesses are entirely treatable. This second season of The Venture Brothers shows marked improvements in storytelling, characterization, and empathy toward the individuals under surveillance. In my opinion, Publick and Hammer are now at the point where an intervention is possible without the use of coercive measures. Their approachability is also apparent in the affable and mostly lucid commentary tracks they provide for each episode. However, OSI will want to research the identities of "guest stars" like "James Urbaniak" and "Michael Sinterniklaas" (these may be assumed names), who appear on these tracks. These individuals clearly have access to the Astro-Base and may be used to place agents on the inside. Potential tactical information may be gleaned from an excellent short documentary piece (narrated by Pete White and Billy Quizboy, who have been repeatedly turned down by the OSI during open recruitment) which tours the Astro-Base facility.
From the Desk of Col. Stimpson Gatto, Internal Security
Based on these reports, it is my recommendation that Brock Samson remain on duty as part of Operation Rusty's Blanket for the time being. Since the public continues to believe that the Venture family is fictional, overall damage to national security is minimal. We should continue to observe the Astro-Base Go team to determine if their continuing surveillance of the Ventures can yield new information on potential security risks, particular the Guild of Calamitous Intent.
All OSI staff members below Security Level Magenta are ordered to submit their copies of The Venture Bros.: Season Two immediately. Anyone above that clearance level wishing to examine these discs are free to do so. I will be certainly watching mine tonight. That Dr. Girlfriend is a total hottie.
File remains open for further assessment.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Commentary Tracks
Review content copyright © 2007 Mike Pinsky; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.