Joint Venture 109: The Venture Bros. from the Very Beginning

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Here at Techland, only one television program manages to tie into so many of our geeky obsessions all at once. Superheroes, mythical creatures, action figures and barely believeable sci-fi all flop onto each other on the glorious cavalcade that is The Venture Bros. Cartoon Network’s just started airing the series from the start and Techland’s Hive Mind is taking the occasion to re-watch the exploits of Hank, Dean, Brock and Dr. Thaddeus Venture. Join us as we witness how Venture Bros. evolved over its four stellar seasons.

[Programming note: Anyone who’s been actually watching the Venture Bros. re-runs has noticed by now that they’re not showing the series in order. Rather than jump around the continuity, the Joint Venture feature’s going to keep going on in series order. This is because we love you, dear reader.]

This week, Michelle Castillo, Evan Narcisse and Graeme McMillan talk about Season 1/Episode 9: “Are You There God, It’s Me, Dean.”

GRAEME: Okay, first off: Say what you like about Dr. Girlfriend, but she gives good birthday present.

MICHELLE: Although, I’m kind of confused why there was such an abrupt conversation between Doctor Venture and Dr. Girlfriend when they see each other on the screen. Didn’t they date just, like, last episode?

EVAN: There’s so much right about Dr. Girlfriend that words barely do it justice. It’s almost like she has a doctorate in girlfriend-ology. Here we have a character that’s part Jackie O and part Baroness from G.I. Joe with the voice of Harvey Fierstein and she’s managed to be effective and fun in a way that defies almost everything else on the show. She’s exceptionally well-adjusted and is even game for stuff like what she thought was going to be kinky sex for the Monarch’s birthday.

GRAEME: There’s something slight about “Are You There God, It’s Me, Dean” – Maybe it’s the broadness of the testicular torsion plot, which feels like it could’ve come out of any Adult Swim series, but this seems like a half-powered version of what we normally get from Venture Industries, with only the Monarch plot providing the insight we normally get. Or maybe I’m expecting too much from the show by now?

EVAN: I dunno, I didn’t mind the gonad-centric focus of the Dean plot. Your balls are still mysterious when you’re a teenager: they drop, they move, they get hair. So, to have something so exceptionally freaky happen to them as testicular torsion, is as weird as anything from a sci-fi movie. If the Venture Bros. is about Hank and Dean’s goofy journey to becoming men in their own right, then Dean’s foul balls seems to fit right in.

MICHELLE: This episode just relied too much on potty humor more than satire. I mean, I love low-blow, childish humor, but the whole part of Dean not wanting to show his junk just lasted a little too long for me. I even didn’t like the little pop culture reference to INXS, even though I normally like things like that. For some reason, this episode just didn’t mesh with me. Maybe it was because of Dean’s whiney voice…

GRAEME: About that Monarch plot, though: I don’t know why it amuses me so much for the Guild of Calamatous Intent to be so ruled by by-laws, handbooks and guidelines, but every single time they do that joke, I love it. Here, it’s helped by Hank’s noticing that the particular rule that lets Dean get medical intention is named after his dad, even though he doesn’t necessarily realize that at the time. I can’t remember whether this is addressed later in the series, but the Monarch’s Darth Vader “I am your father” moment DOES make me wonder whether or not Hank is actually Rusty’s son – I mean, he really doesn’t take after his dad at all, if he is, whereas Dean is very much Rusty Part Two, right?

MICHELLE: Ha, that would be an awesome cliche twist. I always like Monarch better than Doctor Venture, just like I like Hank more than Dean. It would also explain why Hank is blonde. Or maybe, Brock Samson is Hank’s father!? That’s why he has so much vested interest in him.

GRAEME: And while I’m wondering about soap opera-esque family twists, the Monarch is clearly related to Rusty, surely: Same voice, same pointy features, same sense of self-loathing, narrow-minded focus and inability to appreciate what they have (The Monarch thanking Brock for giving him something to fight: Awesome).

EVAN: For me, this episode underscores some strong differences between Hank and Dean. I think Dean, at his core, want to be normal. He wants to please his dad but I don’t think he’s got a huge passion for super-science and the boy-adventurer life. He wants to be in love and to have a mother but stuff like the awful ailment of this episode keeps on happening to him.  Hank, on the other hand, embraces the weird exploits of the Venture lifestyle but clearly wants to be more man-of-action than young-hostage. When the poop hits the fan, Dean’s existential angst bubbles up to the surface as in “Oh God, why me?” whereas Hank’s response would be to (incompetently) try to kick ass and take names.

But I don’t think this difference hints at the boys’ paternity the way that you guys are speculating. To have things be so inbred feel wrong for the series. I think that the show’s creators are oing to use the occasion of revealing Where Hank and Dean Came From to introduce all-new weirdness to the fictional universe.

GRAEME: As much as I didn’t really appreciate the Dean plot, it did at least allow for a return from Billy Quizboy and Pete White, who once again prove to be some of the most capable characters in the show, even if you wouldn’t believe it from looking at them. And I’ll admit to momentarily wondering whether Testicular Torsion was a real thing, especially when the PSA starts after the credits.

MICHELLE: BTW doesn’t Pete White remind you a bit about Venture Bros. co-creator Doc Hammer? And Graeme, testicular torsion does exist; sorry to ruin your appetite. Although, I’m pretty sure the motto of “Stop, Touch and Tell” doesn’t exist.

GRAEME: Best line from the episode? “You’ll be given the grandest of accommodations. It will be a far cry from sleeping over Dr. Venture’s garage, like so much Fonzie.”

MICHELLE: Mine is: “Someone got him a Brock Samson? Now I feel like a tool.”

EVAN: “I could’ve fixed this in the prototype phase.” I love that line because it doesn’t make sense at  all in the context of the episode but it’s delivered in such a “sinister foreshadowing” voice that it’s clearly leading to something. And that something is very effed-up, indeed.