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The Venture Bros.: The Fifth Season

World Leader Entertainment/AstroBase Go/Cartoon Network (2013), Warner Home Video (March 4, 2014), 1 disc, 198 mins plus supplements, 16:9 ratio, Dolby True HD/Dolby Digital 5.1, Rated TV-MA, Retail: $31.97

Storyboard:

The Venture boys witness the rebirth of both the OSI and SPHINX, and are touched by the ghosts of their father’s past, while the Monarch continuously plans for his revenge on Dr. Venture.

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The Sweatbox Review:

After a hiatus of over two years, Venture Bros. fans were treated to a summer full of new episodes in 2013. As it has been a while since we last saw the Venture family (and we never reviewed Season Four), perhaps a quick recap is in order.

Brock has left the Ventures to become part of the revived SPHINX outfit, which despite new leadership is at odds with the OSI. Brock has been replaced by Sgt. Hatred, a former supervillain and trying-to-reform pedofile who went from arching Dr. Venture to working for him. The Monarch’s Henchman 21 has realized his attraction to Mrs. Dr. Girlfriend and successfully acted upon it, only to find out that she cheats on the Monarch regularly. Hank and Dean have graduated from “teaching bed” high school, and are asserting their independence in different ways— with Hank opening a cheesy emporium at the Venture compound, and Dean entering a mopey rebel phase, not helped by his discovery that his crush has a boyfriend much cooler than he. As usual, there is lots of failure to go around, as we enter Season Five.

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What Color Is Your Cleansuit? is the double-length season opener, picking up from the previous episode, which saw the Venture Bros. prom turn into a disaster for just about everyone. Despite the gentle insistence of Dr. Girlfriend, the Monarch is still in denial about 21 quitting him, but in fact 21 is quite sincere about taking over the SPHINX operation when SPHINX is disbanded. Meanwhile, Dr. Venture hires college interns to hurriedly finish a project that he promised his brother JJ he would soon have ready for him. The project turns out to be exceedingly dangerous, and the fresh recruits end up being exposed to dangerous amounts of radiation that mutates them in disturbing ways. Meanwhile again, we learn of Master Billy Quizboy’s own arch nemesis, the filthy rich collector Augustus St. Cloud, who has long harboured a grudge against Billy dating back to their trivia game show days. When the mutated interns eventually all either go tribal or missing, with JJ’s deadline fast approaching, it seems impossible that all could end well. But of course, if it did, then it wouldn’t be The Venture Bros.

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Venture Libre sees Dr. Venture being ordered by the U.S. army to clean up one of his messes, as his patchwork Venturestein creation has gone rogue and will only listen to his creator. What follows is a mash-up of Dr. Moreau, Batman, Jonny Quest, and maybe a bit of Apocalypse Now, with Dr. Venture, Hatred, and Hank (equally high and sick from eating coffee beans by the handful) fighting off a variety of science experiments who want their own nation.

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Sphinx Rising focuses on good ol’ former Henchman 21 (just call him Gary now), currently a self-styled leader of SPHINX. Realizing that it is difficult to command, plan, and carry out missions all by himself, he begins to recruit others. Unfortunately, the only respondents to his ad are Hank Venture, and former members of SPHINX who want to destroy the OSI. This is actually handy, since Brock and Shore Leave have been sent by the OSI to dismantle SPHINX properly. The situation isn’t really all that confusing, until you add in The Monarch, who is trying to do a little destroying of his own at the Venture compound, all the while thinking that Gary is still his henchman.

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Spanakopita! is the name of a festival (which no one but Dr. Venture has ever heard of) that takes place on an isolated Greek Island. Flashbacks to Doc’s childhood, a Spanakopita competition, albino brotherhood, and interference from the insufferable Augustus St. Cloud all figure into the nutty plot. Look for a stop-motion tribute to Harryhausen’s Clash Of The Titans.

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O.S.I Love You jumps around in time to gain perspective on exactly what happened when Team Venture inadvertently interfers with the OSI’s captivity of Monstroso and Molotov Cocktease. The character interplay is zippier than ever, and each member of the cast gets a moment to shine. We also learn more of Mol’s past with Brock, even as all heck is breaking loose.

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Momma’s Boys has Hank, Gary, and Dermott accidentally rescue Dean after purposefully being incarcerated. The boys maybe meet their Mom (but probably not, of course), and Doctor Venture tries to find an imaginary friend that he doesn’t know is imaginary. Then things start to explode.

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Bot Seeks Bot refers to a robot-oriented sting operation set up by the OSI in order to learn the identities of the Council of Thirteen. It mostly all goes wrong after Doctor Venture and Bill Quizboy crash a supervillain nightclub and Brock has to save Doc for old time’s sake.

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The Devil’s Grip sees the final revenge of The Monarch! Well, “final” may not be quite right, and the “revenge” part is even questionable, as we have to really wonder if Venture and Monarch aren’t maybe each other’s best friend. The episode almost approaches becoming poignant, as Hatred and Gary also bond while breaking into The Monarch’s ship, Dr. Girlfriend shows her true love of The Monarch, and Hank & Dean come to turns with their true natures. It’s pretty humorous, too.

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This show hasn’t lost steam yet, consistently producing funny episodes that successfully push forward the story of this crazy dysfunctional extended family, while secondarily spoofing beloved pop culture icons. Despite the frequent send-ups, each character here has his or her own voice, and the writing manages to evoke empathy as much as humor. It’s a neat trick. The theme of the show continues to be all about failure, but the positive aspect of it is that these characters persevere and continue to be there for one another. Even when they’re enemies.

Is This Thing Loaded?

A Very Venture Halloween (22:29) is a full bonus episode that was originally shown in October of 2012 (in-between seasons 4 and 5). Chronologically in the context of the show, it would actually take place during season 5. While Doctor Venture, Pete White, Billy, and Hatred place bets on the ability of trick-or-treaters to make it to the front door, Morpheus holds a sorcerer’s party next door, and Dean spends a night in a supposed haunted house, where he learns of his true nature (and adds to the angst we see from him in Season 5). An audio commentary is also available for this bonus episode.

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From The Ladle To The Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story (11:45) originally aired in August 2011. It plays like a VH1 special, examining the formation of the band comprised of Hank Venture, his half-brother Dermott, and robot H.E.L.P.E.R. This featurette mostly goes over what we already know, but serves as a nice recap too, and the mock seriousness of the enterprise is amusing enough.

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Deleted and Extended Scenes (5:52) of varying levels of completion are here, too, with a few good snippets mixed in with some stuff we’ve already seen. Of a similar type is Fax My Grandson (3:14), which is really just an extended seen from Sphinx Rising.

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The Audio Commentaries available with every episode range from amusing to informative to self-indulgent. They’re reasonably skippable, but the show’s biggest fans may enjoy listening to the show’s two creators discuss their “process,” which largely consists of making each other laugh.

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Case Study:

You have just got to love the classic Hardy Boys-styled cover to this set. The classic book series is one of the inspirations for this show, and it is cool to see that recognized with the beautiful cover painting and packaging motif. At the same time, the show’s even bigger inspiration, Jonny Quest, gets a huge nod with the cover image with the purple pteranodon (from this season’s second episode, which had this homage to the Jonny Quest episode Turu The Terrible). The Blu-ray case itself continues the motif, having the appearance of a blue cloth-type hardcover, the type of which you would frequently see beneath old dust jackets. Even the inside cover has fine line illustrations mimicking oh-so-many book series from my parents’ youth.

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There are inserts inside for a contents listing (with one of those fine line illustrations on the back), as well as an UltraViolet code.

Ink And Paint:

The barest amount of banding is really only present if you look really hard for it and have a giant screen, so for all intents and purposes this is a great transfer that makes it worthwhile to go with the high def version for a purchase. The look of the show continues to be very slick, with some very good cartooning. It is such a treat these days to see such a well-animated hand-drawn cartoon on television. Too bad, in a way, that it’s only for grown-ups.

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Scratch Tracks:

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is active enough to impress, with some nice rear effects and a little bass poking through. Only English subtitles are added, with no further language options.

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Final Cut:

I continue to really enjoy this show. The humor only occasionally goes “too far,” though this is definitely not a show for kids, based on subject matter, one instance of male nudity, and many instances of profanity. The initial idea of this show may have been to spoof pop culture, but the characters have become quite endearing in their own right, and continue to grow in surprising ways. Video and audio are top-notch, and the extras include two bonus episodes and a full set of audio commentaries. Good show, good set.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?


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