Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block taps the Jonny Quest vein with The Venture Brothers, a spoof of 60s-style action-adventure cartoons that has some funny moments, but doesn’t consistently keep the laughs coming through its 30-minute episodes.
The series itself starts back in the early 1970s, with the story of Dr. Rusty Venture — a boy genius and the son of an overachieving scientist who founded Venture Industries, a legacy inherited by Rusty and his two dorky sons, Hank and Dean.
The family lives on a spacious compound when they’re not traveling the world. On their adventures, they are accompanied by hulking driver and bodyguard Brock Samson (voiced by Patrick Warburton, Seinfeld’s David Puddy).
The humor comes not so much from the namesake brothers — they’re pretty much aw-shucks types from straight out of Archie Comics central casting — but from everyone that surrounds them.
Perhaps the strangest interactions are with the show’s supervillains. The episode called “Dia de los Dangerous!” introduces arch-villain The Monarch, a man-as-monarch butterfly and his masculine-voiced but sexy female assistant, “Dr. Girlfriend.” We watch the supervillain try to attempt to bond with the boys, who are perplexed by his attempts to befriend them when Dr. Venture fails to go after them — leading the Monarch to feel bad for the kids because he’s not a good father.
In the most entertaining of the three episodes offered up for preview, “Eeeny, Meeny, Miney … Magic,” the boys and Brock are sucked inside Doc Venture’s dream machine.
In the episode, we meet Dr. Orpheus (Byron Orpheus, to be exact), a master of mysticism and single parent who sublets the Venture family home with his daughter, Triana, a goth girl who becomes the object of Dean’s affections. Orpheus is also a bit lonely, and his attempts to bond with the Doc — in the flowery language of a comic-book magician — provide a few chuckles.
So do the clueless and awkward Dean’s attempts to find common ground with Triana in a sort of Hardy Boys-meet-Daria scenario.
But much of the ground tread by The Venture Bros. consists of classic-cartoon spoofery of a sort done more successfully by the block’s other shows, most notably Harvey Birdman: Attorney-at-Law. There are more than a few laughs, but also more than a few jokes you feel like you’ve heard before.
The Venture Bros. bows Sunday, Aug. 7, at 11 p.m. on Cartoon Network.
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Mike Demenchuk has served as content manager of Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News since 2016. After stints as reporter and editor at Adweek, The Bond Buyer and local papers in New Jersey, he joined the staff of Multichannel News in 1999 as assistant managing editor and has served as the cable trade publication's managing editor since 2005. He edits copy and writes headlines for both the print magazine and website, wrangles the occasional e-newsletter and reviews TV shows from time to time. He's also the guy to bother with your guest blog, Fates & Fortunes and Freeze Frame submissions.