The Venture Bros. may be one of the most daring and original shows to ever exist. Not only does it go on extremely long breaks that make me want to punch a walrus, but it also manages to change itself up every season. Each time they make a major change you think “nah, it won’t last, it’s just a ploy.” Soon you’re into the next season and you realize it’s sticking. The boys aren’t going to be kept perpetually young. They graduate from high school and explore their own collegial careers. On top of that you change up the Brock dynamic and replace him with Sergeant Hatred and…well, lets just say that the creators were being genial when they started out slow by altering The Monarch’s lineup before they started futzing with the main cast. What it all boils down to is The Venture Bros. is not just a daring show for changing things up on a regular basis, but also changing things up for the better. Never has one of these alterations in character storylines or series storylines ever backfired and while that is fantastic for the fans, it must be kind of nerve wracking to keep up that tradition for the creators.
Questions are answered and truths are revealed. Learn how Henchman 21 copes with life without 24. See what happens when Brock and the Venture family are forced to part ways. Discover the final fate of H.E.L.P.eR. And all the while, the balance of the free world hangs in the hands of Dean Venture, who must kill Hitler.
It’s was hard to review only half of this fourth season late last year because for some reason Warner Home Video did a volume split (why? I have no idea—that first volume got released weeks before the season finale was set to air, so it seems incredibly superfluous to have it in volumes now) and separating the first eight episodes from the more recent ones is difficult. While each episode stands on it’s own it also builds upon a continuing arc. It also introduces some incredibly random material that really has no bearing on anything whatsoever, but it’s so hilarious that it really doesn’t matter.
What’s so great about this series is it genuinely moves plot devices along. It keeps characters relationships advancing (except maybe the title characters, as they kind of just…don’t learn much) and the storylines that accompany them are so wonderfully written. I really don’t get as much enjoyment from watching this series as I do others; the humor is always on-target and hilarious and the timing of the dialogue is always fantastic (especially when it comes to The Monarch).
I can only hope that the series continues to be as terrific as it has been and that adult swim continues to let it grow. I know this is a bit of a strange thing to say about a cartoon that gets hit with TV-MA ratings for bad language and juvenile situations, but when it’s written at such a consistent level, it’s hard not to become passionate about a show like this. That and I really just want more people to watch this series, as the longer it’s on the longer I feel that I can safely watch cartoons without realizing that I’m a man in his mid-20s still watching cartoons.
Between the mix of mocking of past adventure cartoons like Johnny Quest (and even the inclusion of some of those characters as well) and the fast-paced dialogue that remains funny from beginning to end, Venture Bros. is one of the best animated shows to come down the pike in years. Do yourself a favor and check out this show—even if you don’t usually get into cartoons, Venture Bros. is written in such a way that it can appeal to even the most diverse (and then probably repulse them with how perverse it can get) crowd.
This season especially manages to entertain with the newly buffed 24 that kicks an incredible amount of ass. Pile on the expansion of Hank’s persona as a Brock-wannabe (and Brock’s signing up with SPHINKS), Dean’s boy-scientist studies and an incredibly and very disturbing inclusion of Kevin Conroy has a very, very creepy superhero and you have a fourth season that just doesn’t quit. Admittedly this first batch of eight is pretty rocky in terms of consistent quality, but it’s still hilarious and if you stick with it and watch the last half of the season you’ll find that the show manages to keep going with rock solid story lines and hilarious one-off guest star superheroes (Nathan Fillion’s character was super strange). Sadly we don’t get Stephen Colbert back as Professor Impossible (instead Bill Hader fills those shoes now), but still…it’s a good season all around and this first half is a great way to ease yourself into the multitude of changes it has in store. Highly Recommended.
While the first half of the season saw only a DVD release, this fourth season set finally gets the full treatment on Blu-ray (while DVD owners will get a single second volume to compliment their first). The cover art here is the same (and the back art is the cover art for volume 2 on DVD), though sadly we don’t get a fancy paper sheath to house it in like the past season; not a huge deal, but it does disrupt the flow of the series on the shelf (though the transition from DVD to Blu-ray already did that anyway, so what’s a little more chaos?). Inside is the lone single disc that houses the sixteen uncensored episodes and an insert advertising some Venture Bros. swag.
After watching the previous seasons in interlaced 480i 4×3 video and the first half of this season in standard definition on DVD, watching this fourth season in 1080p 16×9 video is absolutely breathtaking. Although thirteen episodes are packed onto one disc, the VC-1 encoding does its job well, with absolutely zero signs of compression to be found on any of the episodes. It looks, simply put, stunning and there is no greater joy than watching 1080p animation due to its crystal clear clarity. On top of that the aforementioned Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is impressive as well, with frequent surround output and plenty of bass. Also included is the DD5.1 track, which is also not too shabby, but if you have the capabilities, TrueHD is the way to go on this one. It should be noted that TrueHD is uncensored audio while DD5.1 is censored.
And the extras? Well there aren’t many, but somehow it just doesn’t matter as all sixteen episodes feature commentary by Publick and Hammer, who, like season past seasons, create an absolutely entertaining five hours of chatter over the season. There’s a mixture of off-topic commentary as well as genuinely entertaining tidbits about individual episodes and how they were created. Frankly put fans of the series will find these commentaries as wonderful wells of information and they’re so much fun to listen to that I could actually see myself listening to them a second or third time in the future, as they’re just as entertaining as the episodes at times. As with the episodes themselves, the commentaries are uncensored, so keep the young ones away from this one if you have them around.
Next up is a selection of Deleted Scenes (28:29, HD), all presented in storyboard form with (what sounds like) completed voice actor dialogue. Some funny stuff is here, but like most deleted scenes the material was cut for a reason, but it doesn’t make it any less entertaining at times. Also included is a So This is Captain- (2:06, HD) reel of the various takes of the aforementioned Captain line, Finale On Air Promos (2:30, HD) with Hammer and Publick, the Comic-Con Promo (3:35, SD) and a “Lost” Open (2:14, SD), which I’m not sure which episode or season that’s from since 24 is not his buff self yet in it. That’s all there is, sadly with no bonus music CD to keep the set company this time around (I still love listening to the “Assclamp!” track from the last Blu-ray set), but the commentaries more than make up for everything.
Overall The Venture Bros. fourth season is a bit light on the extras, but the episode commentaries more than make this a Highly Recommended release.
The Venture Bros. – Fourth Season arrives on Blu-ray on March 22nd.