Warning: This preview contains minor spoilers about recent events in the show’s universe and elements of the upcoming season.
If there is a constant running through the next six seasons of The Venture Bros., it is expanse. Things are never quite what they seem; they are usually larger, more extensive and much more complex.
This all started with its 2003 premiere, an episode every fan should rewatch if they’ve been wanting to gasp ever since. (Creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer told Ars that the slick setting and animation that awaits viewers in this upcoming season has only been possible in the last two years. It’s not a technical evolution, though; “it’s our idiocy that makes it possible.” makes,” Hammer insisted.)
Any suspicion that the show wasn’t so subtle Johnny quest tributes were quickly undermined in season one as The Venture Bros. proved it wasn’t just another sci-fi cartoon. The show pioneered modern storytelling through lines and world-building long before the Golden Age of TV began (The wire and Sopranos were young peers; Crazy men, Lost, et al. to come later). Publick and Hammer took the time to do things their own way – insisting on old-fashioned animation, voicing characters themselves, weaving in deep cultural references, etc. Louie/Louis CK-esque arrangements of today.
The Venture Bros. revealed itself as a show focused on a single family but about many things at once: the flaws of humanity and its search for meaning, the repercussions of wacky sci-fi villains and equally bizarre technology, sophomore running gags and deep pop culture references. It’s an entity that might be dense and daunting to a newcomer, but the complexity and depth of the show continually offers something for everyone. There’s a reason The Venture Bros. universe, lore and devoted following seem to grow every year whether there are new episodes or not.
Fortunately, this is a year for new adventures. Season six finally premieres this weekend at midnight Eastern on January 31 (Sunday through Monday, prepare your DVRs accordingly). However, it wasn’t really set in motion until the epilogue of last year’s “Gargantua-2” special. That space epic you can’t believe it hadn’t happened yet resulted in the death of the show’s big, bad bureaucracy, the loss of the (non-regenerative) Venture family members, and the destruction of the Venture compound itself (which was the main setting of the show for a long time). The whole structure of the Company world turned upside down within an hour and all viewers had was a Crash Test Dummies shanty and the idea that things were headed for NYC. Publick and Hammer murdered their darlings, seemingly ready to rein in their almost immeasurably vast universe.
“Well, I don’t think we’re missing anyone that we killed, or we wouldn’t have killed them,” Publick told Ars ahead of season six.
“I think the big ‘maybe dead’ is Jonas, but it’s the second time we’ve killed General Treister,” Hammer added with a chuckle. “Although they’re not ‘maybe dead’ – we just killed them.”
“And,” Publick continued, “we don’t miss them.”
Publick, Hammer and company now have the most visually rich backdrop for their favorite dysfunctional families. While NYC may be virgin territory, they can immediately orient both characters and viewers through subtle directorial decisions, visual cues, and familiar nuances. A new villain may appear in one scene while discussing the current reality of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, but the next moment Brock and Hank may be dissing Justin Bieber and refer to dick pics like they used to.
“The first episode gives you a sense of what it’s like to be someone moving to New York for the first time,” Hammer told us. “It’s really big, it’s really different, everyone seems new. But even in episode two, like moving to New York, it’s not that different. Your life hasn’t changed that much, you’re just in a new place Things become familiar very quickly.”
“While everything is different and redesigned, we’ve made a conscious effort to bring in bits of familiarity,” added Publick. “Our shot of the new penthouse is at the same angle as our old shot, and Columbus Circle has a statue in the center that harkens back to the Venture Compound. Even the living room maintains its relationship to the kitchen. There are all these little echoes to locations that we knew – it’s just bigger, brighter and newer.
Like that innocent premiere from 13 years ago, looks can be deceiving in this premiere. next season of “The Venture Bros. take NYC” isn’t any smaller. This isn’t some extended bottle episode where Dean, Hank, Rusty and Brock never leave their borough and become regulars at a diner. At least the move to NYC only allows Hammer and Publick to get more of their unique perspectives in the series. The Venture Bros. has always had a strong element of its creators, and now the show literally takes place in their hometown. So while the setting may have a tighter focus, Publick and Hammer can only introduce deeper corners of the image Company universe and delve further into the human condition. (The more things change…)
“We’re always writing about our stupid lives,” Publick said. “Now we can put a little more daily BS in there.”
“Yeah, it was rejuvenating for me,” Hammer added. “Jackson and I have always been New Yorkers. We consider it our birthplace. It’s not like we’re writing for it like ‘Oh, the big city, Gotham!’ We think the same way as the little Venture Compound – this is where we live. So it wasn’t that big of a deal, and in our hearts I don’t think it changes that much.
“Well, there are more checkered cabs,” Publick remarked.
Weaving public transportation into the fabric of the show (including subway-inspired promotional stills) isn’t the only structural change. Without giving too much away, season six sometimes harks back to a pre-Company era of television. “It’s something we’ve never done before, maybe because we loved The Monarch too much or maybe we were purposefully trying to avoid The tickadmits Publick. “But this season kind of plays out in a ‘bad guy of the week’ fashion.” When added to the events of “Gargantua-2,” that ominous statement has major implications for the overall storytelling. from Dr. Venture, The Monarch, Dr. Girlfriend and the rest of the Company regulars.
However, after seeing the first episode, we advise you not to get lost in the details of what is changing and what has not happened yet. The Venture Bros. is back in all its strange, gross, profound and complicated glory. The show remains equal parts arguably hilarious and reflectively thought-provoking. With just eight episodes to enjoy before who knows what (and when) comes next, even the creators won’t dwell on the past.
“I don’t miss it. We spent a lot of time at the Venture compound and we can always do flashbacks,” Publick told us. “It took us five seasons to build it and fill it with rooms and fine-tune its design, but there are so many more possibilities in New York. Let’s just move on.”
“It was dusty anyway,” Hammer added. “Although it gave them more opportunity to use the aircraft.”
List image from Adult Swim