Judge Erich Asperschlager wishes he had an arch enemy.
Our reviews of The Venture Bros. Season One (published June 7th, 2006), The Venture Bros. Season Two (published May 9th, 2007), The Venture Bros. Season Four, Volume One (published November 4th, 2010), The Venture Bros. Season Four (Blu-Ray) (published March 17th, 2011), and The Venture Bros. Season Three (Blu-Ray) (published March 30th, 2009) are also available.
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Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick not only have two of the coolest names on TV, they've created one of the coolest shows. Since it debuted as part of the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup back in 2004, The Venture Bros. has amassed legions of fans and metaphorical piles of critical acclaim. To describe the show to someone who hasn't seen it is to probably get it completely wrong. When pressed, I usually start with "Well, it's kind of like a Jonny Quest parody…" But that's wrong. Hammer and Publick's series is impressive because it's not a parody—of Jonny Quest, or Scooby-Doo, or anything else. It also doesn't rely on smug pop cultural references to get laughs. It earns every belly buster with smart, character-based writing. Even when the show isn't hilarious, it's compelling—full of action, adventure, and mystery.
That mix of great storytelling and character-driven humor is all over The Venture Bros. Season Three, which balances the series' ongoing narrative with huge helpings of back story, and ends with an explosive two-parter that rivals the best Hollywood has to offer in both action and comedy. Whether you watched these 13 episodes when they aired, or are catching them for the first time on DVD, this set is the perfect way to bide your time until the first half of Season Four debuts in the fall of 2009.
Facts of the Case
The Venture Bros. Season Three has 13 episodes, plus deleted scenes and commentaries, across two discs:
• "The Doctor is Sin"
• "The Invisible Hand of Fate"
• "Home Is Where the Hate Is"
• "The Buddy System"
• "Dr. Quymn, Medicine Woman"
• "What Goes Down, Must Come Up"
• "Now Museum, Now You Don't"
• "The Lepidoperists"
• "The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together (Part
I)" and "(Part II)"
The animated TV landscape is as full as it has ever been, and a good portion of those shows are aimed at a grown-up market. There are certainly edgier shows in the Adult Swim lineup than The Venture Bros., but none are as smart. In its uncensored DVD form, the show pushes plenty of boundaries, with swearing and animated penises aplenty, but the quality of Hammer and Publick's scripts make it the good kind of adult programming.
Season Three goes to some new places for the show, spending a lot of time with a post-Venture Monarch and a slew of character back stories. There are origin tales for Phantom Limb, the Monarch, and Billy, as well as scenes of Brock from his OSI days (complete with a blood-soaked montage that shows what G.I.Joe would look like if it were real), and appearances by the Murderous Moppets, Pete White, the Order of the Triad, Dr. Dugong, Molotov Cocktease, Richard and Sally Impossible, and Ned. Some of the best stuff comes in the form of flashbacks to Team Venture fighting bad guys and swapping wives in the '60s.
This season was the first to be shown in widescreen HD, and the format is shown off beautifully even on standard-def DVD. This kind of flat animation transitions well to digital, with rich colors and sharp detail. The Venture Bros. has always been a stylish show, and with a full 16:9 window to work with, Astro-Base Go! has created a season that's as gorgeous as it is funny. The 5.1 mix makes scant use of the rear speakers, but is overall dynamic enough that you probably won't notice. Frankly, Season Three looks so good on standard DVD the only reason to get the Blu-Ray instead is the bonus soundtrack CD (sadly missing from this release), or if you prefer the cover with the blue background to the yellow.
I don't usually write much about DVD packaging, but that's because packaging is usually an afterthought. Not here. The case looks like an old Atari game case. Inside, there's a fold-out photo of actors posing as Dr. Venture, Hank, Dean, and Brock gathered around the TV playing the fictional Venture Bros. game. For a taste of what that game might have been, check out the animated DVD menus, complete with a pixilated Brock jumping over alligators Pitfall!-style, and The Monarch shooting Venture skulls.
The bulk of the bonus material are commentaries on every episode by Hammer and Publick. They occasionally talk about the show, but mostly go on tangents, goof around, and smoke. It's pretty great. Just make sure you've seen the full season before listening to any of the commentaries, because they spoil a major death in the final episode—and they do it repeatedly. Disc two also has "deleted scenes" for every episode except "Tears Of A Sea Cow" and "The Lepidopterists," which consist of the recorded audio over storyboard stills.
Hammer and Publick may be taking their sweet time to finish the next batch of episodes, but fans should take some solace in how darn great The Venture Bros. Season Three is. Full of clever writing and compelling characters, the show is completely rewatchable, and has never looked better.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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