Air Date: February 16, 2003
Dr. Venture, his bodyguard Brock, and Hank and Dean, the Venture Brothers, are adventuring around the world like the elaborate parody of Johnny Quest that they are. As Dr. Venture prepares to give an exhibit of his latest invention at the U.N., the Monarch and a rogue ninja are both trying to get the Venture family, and Dr. Venture’s inventions, for their own reasons.
A decent start to one of my personal favorite TV shows of all time. But now that it’s cancelled, and I have yet to watch all the episodes, I thought I’d add it to my currently growing repertoire of television reviews.
This first episode was a good one. It had some great humor, and if you’re familiar with the old Johnny Quest show you’ll get a lot of the jokes right away. Even if you aren’t, this is a very smart and well-written show. Even here, where none of the characters are very clearly defined yet, you get the same sense of adult-themed children’s adventures that only Adult Swim could deliver back in the day. Now, we have Rick and Morty and a whole host of other things that have come out since this show premiered but had Venture Brothers not existed, I don’t think we’d be living in quite the same world with so much of this type of entertainment.
Characterization-wise, this show is lacking by quite a bit. We don’t really get a sense of who anyone is. The Venture Brothers are probably the most fleshed out and even they don’t really have anything outside of their physical appearances that differentiates the two with each other. Dr. Venture just seems a tad kooky and nothing to really explain that it’s because he’s addicted to pills from being brought up by his emotionally distant father, outside of a small hint. Or Brock, who comes off as an unhinged psychopath with how quick he is to attack anything he sees as a supposed threat. This is a show with a great deal of depth later on, so it’s a little rough watching even an episode that seems to be lacking its soul…
+7: So, ultimately, it’s a funny episode which gives a good basis for the tone of the rest of the show, but without good characterization, or even focus on any one character in particular, it’s hard to know who to root for in this one. Dr. Venture and Brock are extremely unlikable and Hank and Dean are so slow and dim, nothing like the Johnny Quest character their based on, and nothing really makes them different from each other outside of their hair colors.
+0.5: This is a weirdly specific thing just for me, but I really like the ninja jokes when the guy is hiding somewhere, such as on the ceiling, and someone points to him right away and says something like, “Well, I don’t know why he’s there but…” It’s one of those meta-jokes you only get if you understand how often people do things like this in action and kung-fu movies and how ineffective it would actually be in real life most of the time. Weirdly specific jokes like this that only a handful of people would get is kind of the backbone of this show (…but probably also the reason it was so niche and got cancelled…)