“Jumping the shark” happens. Six seasons in, though, and “The Venture Bros.” is still fresh. There are plenty of reasons why. Perhaps most significant, it’s because the show excels at lambasting other “jumping the shark” moments. That is key for the show’s longevity and its humor.
For those that don’t know, “The Venture Bros.” is an Adult Swim triumph. The show particularly focuses on the tropes, nay, legends, of previous animated shows and pop culture. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is too obscure. If you watched it in childhood before 1995 there’s a good chance “Venture Bros” lampoons it. Sometimes this is through direct mockery. Other times, and most significantly, this is through tropes.
“The Venture Bros.” takes mass-produced cultural junk and squares it with today’s millennials and gen Xers. The progenitors of cartoon aesthetics even receive a nod. Iggy Pop and David Bowie play pivotal roles in The Guild of Calamitous Intent. A Hunter S. Thompson lookalike runs the heroic OSI. We run across several legends and plenty of warped versions of such.
That mentioned, the characters are also their own. There is far more depth than the shenanigans we see in “Drawn Together,” “Clone High,” or similar fare. All shows play with the same basic premise: put great personalities in mundane situations. “The Venture Bros.”, however, would rather look at great personalities’ impression on mediocre people.
Mediocrity drives the humor. Dr. Venture, son of Dr. Venture, is the case in point. He is both lazy and less capable than his super scientist father. His income derivatives from that man’s legacy, intellectual and actual. Contrasting him is the Monarch. He’s used his parents’ substantial assets to build a giant floating cocoon and field a small army of butterfly-dressed henchmen.
“Absurdity” is a multifaceted abstraction. “The Venture Bros.” covers many layers. We enjoy the stupidity of pop culture, sure. But it also plays with limitation and failure. Characters from the “The Venture Bros.” must rectify their ambitions with their incapabilities. They must confront their weaknesses and cope.
“Bob’s Burgers” and other traditional fare are quite similar. Fox’s lineup is also quite static. Nothing changes and character development is minimal. “The Venture Bros.” on the other hand, leverages a season-long narrative. We particularly receive far greater payoff towards the later episodes. Circumstances change and outlooks evolve. This is actually most indicative of the latest season.
Perhaps the creators became bored of the Venture Compound for season 6. More likely, they know the show can be more. Dr. Venture’s far more capable twin, a lady’s man dwarf, dies. He leaves significant assets and inventions to our hero. Dr. Venture, of course, relocates to New York with his usual team. Shenanigans erupt.
Legacy is the driving theme of “The Venture Bros.” It creates the aesthetic and story, yes. But the truly “macro” element is that it is also the driving force for the show’s characters. Cartoon Network obviously recognizes the show’s quality. More significantly, the channel probably digs the attention to its other properties. Unfortunate, then, that each season is becoming shorter. It also signals the network identifies this show as a special. And if anything, “The Venture Bros.” is special.