Joint Venture 202: 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 like that, this Joint Venture feature’s going to keep going on in series order. This is because we love you, dear reader.]

This week, Evan Narcisse, Michelle Castillo and Graeme McMillan talk about Season 2/Episode 2: “Hate Floats”

GRAEME: Here’s a question for everyone: Is this episode when the series stopped being about adventures that the Venture family is on and more about random things that happen to them by accident? Even late season 1 episodes like “Past Tense” and “The Trial of the Monarch” felt like they had more situation set-up than “Hate Floats,” where a shopping mall expedition goes so wonderfully wrong.

EVAN: I watched this episode on TV with a friend of mine who doesn’t watch the VBs and he loved it, too. It was a great reassurance that even a action-light, continuity heavy episode like Hate Floats can draw in new viewers.

MICHELLE: There are some parts that help this episode keep old fans entertained. I’m glad they picked up the Doctor Girlfriend story line and show how unhappy she is with Phantom Limb. The Monarch might have been insane, but at least he didn’t belittle Dr. Girlfriend as much as Phantom Limb does. The difference in their two characters is further highlighted when The Monarch admonishes his henchmen for using violent weapons, while Phantom Limb greasily applauds and uses painful techniques.

We also find out that The Monarch actually does care about Dr. Girlfriend – well, almost as much as he cares about plotting to try to kill Rusty.

EVAN: The one person I really felt for in this episode was Dr. Girlfriend. Left one jerk, only to wind up with another. And you can tell that all she wants is for the Monarch to say the right thing and the poor schlub has no clue. And Phantom Limb is egotastically bombastic that he never sees that she’s not enjoying herself. I love the grudging partership that Brock and he strike up, though, and it kinda underscores that Limb and Brock are the only regulars who know what they’re doing in this episode. As Graeme said, this episode holds some real poignancy. For me, it was when Brock says, ” A lunatic’s just kidnapped my family.” That might be the first time he refers to Hank, Dean and Rusty as such and it’s a nicely understated moment.

GRAEME: It’s not a complaint, more an observation; I actually really enjoyed this episode, but it did make me wonder whether there was some moment between the first and second seasons where Publick and Hammer decided that the show should be something that happens TO the characters, not about things that the characters do that happen to be interesting. Am I sounding appropriately pretentious yet? Probably.

EVAN: I totally blocked out the thuglicious henchmen recruits in this episode and man, are they a jarring development. Not just because they’re urban but because they introduce a frighteningly real-world level of violence to the show. I mean, Dr. Venture almost loses an eye and Brock just gets freaking shot. As made clear in Phantom Limb’s comments, the Guild’s rules are complex and bizarre. They kind of explain why no one ever died in the action-cartoon firefights of yore but make a great bit of world-building, too.

GRAEME Anyway: Randomly wonderful things about this episode:

– #21 and #24 singing “Mars, The Bringer of War” as they put their hench costumes again.

– The Monarch’s inner monologue while carrying Dr. Girlfriend being the lyrics to “Can You Read My Mind?” from Superman: The Movie.

– Hank and Dean asking Dr. Girlfriend if she’s their mom (And the fakeout when she doesn’t answer, initially).

– Just how much fun Brock and Phantom Limb have together, especially compared with Rusty and the Monarch. Also, compare the toys Phantom Limb has with #21’s collection.

– Although, really, who wouldn’t want to fight thugs with Hulk Hands?

MICHELLE: Other things I loved:

– How Gary’s (#21) Mom sounds like almost every character on the show.

– In addition to #21 and #24 singing, #21 adds special effect sounds when he puts on his outfit. This includes the standard “katching!”of a belt buckle and the button-pressing sound effect “doo-doot-doot-doot.”

– Doctor Venture’s slip up when he says, “Happy 5th– 16th Birthday!” which references the death of the Venture boys the season before. I also love how Dean asks why the IDs are singed. Clues like these make the show fun for people who have seen the whole series.

– Phantom Limb running after Monarch. And then, Monarch sweeping Dr. Girlfriend off her feet. So romantic… I guess?

– Hank asking, “Can I do it, Duffy Moon?” right before he throws the football.

GRAEME: Also, is it just me, or does the non-mullet look for Brock kind of… work?

MICHELLE: I didn’t even realize it was missing!

EVAN: Favorite line: I number-two’ed for Truckules when I was first starting out.” I just love that there’s a villain named Truckules somewhere.

MICHELLE: Favorite Line: “This is a Speed Suit Mister, not a onesie!”