I’ve recently caught up on the latest season of The Venture Bros. The show is currently the longest running on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The show revolves around the Venture family consisting of Dr. Venture, a struggling scientist living in the shadow of his late ‘Super Scientist’ father; His two sons who have spent their lives with little socialisation outside the family and so severely lack basic socialisation skills; and Brock Samson, their trigger happy bodyguard and OSI agent (Similar to the American CSI). The family has their arch-nemesis ‘The Monarch’ who besides his butterfly obsession has little clear motivation to hate Dr. Venture, although that doesn’t seem to stop him from trying.
What interested me in the show is it’s vintage comic and animation asthetic. This combined with the very NSFW humour that Adult Swim is known for. The show is similar in many ways to its contemporary Archer, although the shows differ in their theme and emphasis of animation. Where Archer is known for its simple, almost digital cut-out animation style, The Venture Bros. relies more heavily on traditional 2D.
The appearance of side characters clearly inspired by Scooby Doo and Johnny Quest drives the emphasis on nostalgia home. It’s no secret that nostalgia is a big swayer in production funding right now but it is rarely done correctly. The slew of 3D/live action remakes of Disney classics for example are largely forgetable. Meanwhile the now iconic Samurai Jack came back after 13 years for a final season and did so strikingly well. In my opinion nostalia is a matter of managing the expectations of fans of the original product while still innovating and suprising them, and others who aren’t aquainted with the source material. This is never an easy thing to do, and deeper the enthusiasm of the fan base, the higher (and usually more diverse) the expectations.
The Venture Bros. side steps this by commenting on periods and genres over individual products. This has the advantage of exciting viewers that grew up reading and watching similar work but not giving them an objective point of comparison. The adult language in the show also adds to this as the people that grew up in the 70s, 80s, 90s are much older, and so more matured themes suits its audience well.
I hope that to see many more shows like this that get this balance right in the future.