The Venture Brothers (Adult Swim, Sundays, 11:30 pm)
Last week on Venture Brothers, Dr. Rusty Venture found himself in an Egyptian temple, beset on all sides by mummies. As is often the case. Unable to move, Dr. Venture — father of the titular leads Dean and Hank Venture, son of the legendary super-scientist Dr. Jonas Venture, heir to Venture Industries — cried out to an apparition of his father for help.
The evil Dr. Henry Killinger, conjurer of this nightmare, stopped him: “Do not call out to your fah-zer to save you,” he said as the mummies descended, “for he commands zeez creatures of ze dark: fear, self-loathing, stinkin’ thinkin’ und dilly-dallying! You yourself vill destroy ziss temple of failure!”
See, Killinger is a super-villain, but he’s also a “freelance business consultant and executive motivational coach.” Wearing skull slippers and flying from place to place with a parasol, a la Mary Poppins, Killinger conducts his evil deeds by employing self-actualization, Jungian archetypes, and by quoting inspirational snippets from The Secret in his soothing, even-tempered Germanic accent.
Though Dr. Venture’s stated archenemy is a doof in a butterfly costume who calls himself the Monarch, Dr. Henry Killinger is, in many ways, Rusty’s perfect nemesis. Venture’s a complete failure, a drug-addled shadow of his father and of the geniuses he’s modeled after (the dad from Johnny Quest, Marvel Comics’ Mr. Fantastic, even Tony Stark to a degree). His 16-year-old sons are complete morons who — like the Hardy Boys but more … real — are inept home-schooled teenage adventurers who think erections make baby angels cry. The only person keeping the moron trio alive is Brock Samson, the Ventures’ bodyguard (voiced brilliantlyby Patrick Warburton), a compulsively sexual super spy who, despite uncanny powers over women (strippers mostly), spends his days pining over a Russian agent named Molotov Cocktease.
Three seasons in, few satires have proven as consistently good as The Venture Brothers. Golden-age comics, book series like the Hardy Boys, and television shows like Johnny Quest have instilled successive American generations with flawless, archetypal visions of goodness, heroism, and perfection in a way that contributes to our national sense of ourselves as virtuous peacekeepers in a world of swarthy miscreants. The Venture Brothers thumbs its nose at the absurdity of its source material, showing the tremendous folly of seriously engaging in the rhetoric of Good vs. Evil. The world isn’t black-and-white. Until we realize that, we’ll be just like Dr. Venture: pale, ineffectual shadows of our forefathers. •
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