|(Photo source: Venture Bros. character and prop design supervisor Chris George)|
Occasionally on Friday, I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. It's the "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week. Stream "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," my one-hour mix of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, right now!
Venture Bros. co-writers Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer's decision to burn down the Venture Compound and give the newly wealthy Dr. Venture and his sons Dean and Hank a new home in Publick and Hammer's real-life hometown of New York is often, at a late point in a TV show's lifespan, the kind of risky move that screams out creative bankruptcy. When Jenji Kohan similarly burned down the setting of Agrestic and freed the Botwins from their suburban confines, Weeds experienced a creative decline that was so awful it has made me wary of forming an attachment to Kohan's Orange Is the New Black. Is Orange going to lose its way just like post-Agrestic Weeds did? (I wouldn't know. I actually haven't watched a single episode of Orange on Netflix yet.) So all I could think of while watching the three-minute, online-only epilogue of "All This and Gargantua-2," last year's hour-long setup for The Venture Bros.' move to New York, was Weeds and its long, slow and stoner-paced decline.
Publick himself seems to be aware of the failure that can result from the riskiness of getting rid of a setting viewers have grown attached to and bringing wealth into the lives of characters who are distinctive for their lowliness and desperation, because he has said, "Basically, we just had Dr. Venture win the lottery like Roseanne." The lifestyle porn that was on display in Roseanne's much-maligned final season--a season that seemed to reflect Roseanne Barr's love for Absolutely Fabulous (she, in fact, wanted to produce an American version of AbFab at the time)--was deemed as a betrayal by so many of Roseanne's biggest champions in the TV critic community. But if "Hostile Makeover," The Venture Bros.' narratively busy (and maybe way too busy for some viewers) but extremely funny sixth-season premiere, is any indication, Publick and Hammer know what they're doing and are doing their damnedest not to have another Weeds or Roseanne on their hands.
|(Photo source: Venture Bros. color design supervisor Liz Artinian)|
Of course, the pimpin' Columbus Circle penthouse Dr. Venture inherited from his smarter and now-dead twin brother J.J. looks fantastic, and the Titmouse animators' artwork of Ventech Tower at night is so gorgeous I've been thinking of turning it into wallpaper on my Mac. But all signs of Entourage-y lifestyle porn are quickly done away with when 1) the Venture family's power walk to the penthouse is soundtracked not by some recent Top 40 hit but by a parody of "The Power," Snap's very '90s hit single (the chorus declares that "Rusty's back on top now") and 2) Rusty fires all of J.J.'s employees, which proves that the self-absorbed wanna-be genius hasn't lost any of the pettiness, dickishness and narcissism that have made Dr. Venture so compelling as a comedic creation. Losing J.J., a family member he never really liked, to cancer hasn't softened Dr. Venture either.
Rob McElhenney once said he intentionally gained weight in season 7 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia because he wanted to make fun of how sitcom stars become more handsome or thin when they get richer and begin to wave around cash at personal trainers or plastic surgeons. So McElhenney did the opposite and uglied himself up for just that one season. There's a similar "I don't give a fuck"-ishness to what Publick and Hammer are doing with Dr. Venture (and Hank) at the start of the new season.