Failure is the theme of Adult Swim’s Venture Brothers


Imagine, if you will, a world where super science and the supernatural meet, where, for one family, the fantastic is an everyday occurrence. Except everyone is a failure in one way or another.

Without a doubt one of the best shows on TV right now is “The Venture Brothers,” now in its second season as part of the “Adult Swim” block on Cartoon Network. The show’s main characters are Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture, former boy adventurer and self-proclaimed super scientist, his sons and the show’s namesake, Hank and Dean, and their bodyguard, Brock Samson, an agent of the Office of Secret Intelligence with a license to kill literally anyone he wants.

What makes the show great is its quirky sense of humor, which is difficult to describe because it depends so heavily on delivery and the whole situation of the episode. Jackson Publick, who also wrote for the original cartoon, “The Tick,” created the show. If you’ve ever seen that show, you have a good idea of the humor in this series. It definitely has a particular flavor, which, while not everyone will enjoy, is brilliant for those who do. For instance, one episode, “Escape to the House of Mummies, Part II,” does not have a part one, but carries on as if there was, including clips summarizing what happened.

Easily the funniest character on the show is Dr. Byron Orpheus, a necromancer who rents the manufacturing wing of the Venture Compound. Almost everything he does is accompanied by extremely dramatic music, even if what he’s saying is, as he exits a public restroom, “Do not be too hasty entering that room. I had Taco Bell for lunch!”

While it is easy to just start watching the show at any point, the show has several themes running throughout, the most prominent of which is failure. Each of the Ventures is a failure in their own way. Thaddeus Venture has failed at running the company his father, the late, great Jonas Venture built, in addition to failing as a super scientist and father, a running joke in the show being that pretty much everyone else acts more as parents to Hank and Dean than Thaddeus does himself. Hank and Dean themselves have been total failures as boy adventurers, having died more than a dozen times, only to be restored through their father’s cloning technology. Brock, while an extremely efficient killing machine without even the use of a gun, has been relegated to the relative backwaters of secret agent work. Even the villains of the show are failures in their own way.

But perhaps because of their faults you end up liking them more. When Dr. Venture’s nemesis, a villain called The Monarch who wears a butterfly costume and has a giant cocoon as a base, is framed for murdering a police officer, you genuinely feel for him. It’s this quality of the characters that keeps you coming back, wanting to find out what happens to them next.

Unfortunately the season finale was Sunday night, but the DVD of season one is available and you can find season two episodes either on the Adult Swim Web site or on I would highly recommend buying the DVD, even though, or perhaps because, the commentary tracks, featuring Publick and fellow writer Doc Hammer, are more like listening to them talk about random stuff as opposed to the actual episodes.