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The Venture Bros. and I have a troubled past. I loved the first season. While it was nothing groundbreaking, I fully enjoyed the absurdity and almost surrealistic nature of the program. The second season continued this with more emphasis on a story arc and expanding the Venture Bros. world. I found there to be a dip in quality in the third year. There was too much focus on side characters and the show’s mythology to the point that it almost seemed as if the Venture family had become guest stars in their own show.
The fourth season I found to be an absolute train wreck. No direction. Half-hearted stories with no satisfying resolution. Don’t get me wrong; there were some bright spots, but overall the season just fell flat. It was far from where the show’s once greatness. Maybe a lot of that had to do with the season being longer forcing creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer to stretch themselves too thin to the point where the quality suffered. I don’t know. I wasn’t ready to give up on the show yet, but I was extremely cautious about going in to the recently completed fifth season.
I am very happy to report that this new season was fantastic. Easily the best the show has been since those early days. While characters continued to develop and move forward, there was no true season-long arc. This helped things tremendously as each episode was its own thing. Also helping matter was that the season was only eight episodes long, much shorter than most and only half as long as the previous year. This clearly gave Publick and Hammer more time to focus on strengthening the scripts.
One the highlights this season was the direction the titular Venture brothers took. Dean learns that he and Hank are clones and becomes super moody about it to the point that he goes all emo. Since Dean was always the goody two-shoes previously, this change in direction would seem strange on paper. They make it work, and they never betray who Dean actually is. I suppose that has to do with the fact that Dean has always been portrayed as being insecure about himself. He becoming emo is such a natural progression that makes sense when you think about it.
Hank continues to be his over-enthusiastic self, now with an entrepreneur streak. The thing with Hank is that he is completely aware at how nutty his surroundings are and how atypical his life actually is. Unlike Dean, Hank completely revels in it. He loves it, and because he’s aware of it, he knows how to play it.
There is also Dermott, a character introduced in the third season who I previously loathed. This season has made me revise my opinion. While he isn’t my favorite, I do appreciate his presence. Especially now that he is revealed to be a third Venture brother.
Some low points in the season largely included Sargent Hatred’s development of breasts. It is such a cheap joke that has gone nowhere. It should have been a one-episode shot, but they kept going with it. I also didn’t care much for Billy and Pete’s new arch nemesis, Augustus St. Cloud. The character reminds me too much like the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, but not in a good way. In the season opener, they introduced a potential new love interest for Dean. Unfortunately, she disappeared after that. That is disappointing, because it would have been great to see a girl be actively interested in Dean after years of Triana being put off by him.
There was also a severe lack of Brock and Dr. Orpheus.
Best episode of the season? Possibly “Spanakopita!” only because it is so completely absurd, and I do love me some absurdist humor.
Thumbs up to The Venture Bros. season five. My faith in the show is completely restored. Hopefully, the next season will continue with what worked this year and continue the shows high quality. I cannot wait!
Last week, my friend Brian and I had the opportunity to see A Klingon Christmas Carol at the Greenhouse Theater Center in Chicago. It was fantastic. Basically, it was a retelling of the Charles Dickens classic through the lens of the fictional antagonists from the Star Trek franchise.
Did I mention that the whole play was largely done in the Klingon language? Don’t worry – there were subtitles.
I have to hand it to the Klingon actors as they are basically preforming in a completely made-up language. That cannot be an easy task to do. Acting with a foreign language is hard enough, but at least there one can have some prior exposure to it. While the Klingonese has become a fully functional language, who uses it (save for some really hard-core Trekkies)?
What I liked about this production is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. While they stay surprisingly close to the novel, all the Klingon elements are done largely tongue-in-cheek, but without going into a pure parody. I also appreciated the use of Star Trek lore within the production. It would have been easy for the playwrights to simply adapt it to Klingon and be done with it. Instead, they dropped several key Star Trek references.
For example, the line “Old Marley was dead as a doornail” was adapted into “Old Marley was dead as a red shirt.” If you are not a Star Trek fan, you’ll likely not understand. However, if you are a fan, it is hilarious. Without spoiling anything, the hands-down best use of Star Trek lore was easily their interpretation of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
In closing, I recommend this production. Fans of Star Trek will love it. Non-fans, I think, will still be wildly entertained. The show has been running during the Christmas season for the past six years. I have little doubt it will return again (where, however, is another question). If you have the opportunity, check it out.
*Note: Photo caption courtesy of Travis Probst.