Enter 2011. I’ve just begun college in a new city. Collegiately speaking, I’m a late bloomer so I’m able to house myself off-campus with some friends of a friend. That goes to say, as a freshman I did not have your typical dorm room experience. My early college days were spent largely alone. I got out and met people plenty, but I also spent a lot of time by myself. That was okay with me. I was living in the hey-day of “Netflix and chill”, even if it were just by yourself. I was always looking for a show to binge because that was the cool thing to do. We had no clue then, of course, about how quickly binging melts your brain. It was like the golden age of cigarettes back before they knew they could kill you.
As any experienced binger knows, you can’t just finish one series and not have another to start on. Then you would, what?, go outside or something? Fuck that. I had already consumed the most popular menu items of the day (I think I had just finished How I Met Your Mother) and I was looking for something new, something unique. That’s when it happened: a moment that changed my life forever. Even back then, Netflix’s algorithms were able to mine some gold. I followed a weird, animated little rectangle called The Venture Bros. and I haven’t stopped following it since.
I didn’t love Team Venture right off the bat, but I couldn’t stop watching it. It was niche. It was nostalgic. It was crude. Its references were obscure and made me Google things. It was… holy shit, did Brock just die while choking that henchman? Over-the-top fight scenes and blown-up sci-fi tropes kept me interested. I binged the first season in two evenings. It was the greatest television show I had ever seen, but I had no clue at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was good but I didn’t realize how good it was yet. Truth be told, I don’t think the creators did either. When the titular brothers died at the end of season one (spoilz!), I knew I was hooked.
If I could, I would erase all my memories of The Venture Bros. just so I could go back and re-experience the magic again with new eyes. I yearn for my Venture Virginity. I cannot recreate the feeling of excitement brought on by that incredible fight scene music. I cannot recreate the giddiness of watching Brock go on yet another bloody murder spree. I cannot recreate the supreme feeling of peace when a storyline that started four seasons ago finally makes sense. I cannot recreate all the things that The Venture Bros. made me feel. I cannot recreate all the ways it inspired me.
I learned to wait patiently for each new season and to savor each new episode as a gift to be treasured. I wondered how long the creators could keep this up, and, deep in my heart, knew this day would come eventually.
Enter 2020. Two years after the release of their latest chapter, the much-heralded but seldom viewed Hannah-Barbera, Marvel, and DC parody, all wrapped up into one, was finally cancelled. This year was going so well up until that point. I just couldn’t believe it.
In all seriousness, the cancellation made a lot of sense. Publick and Hammer already had trouble getting the show out in a timely manner during non-planetary crisis years. The Venture Bros., as beautiful as it was, was not meant for this world.
I feel a bit like the widow who shows up the funeral with a hot young date. I wouldn’t have been fooling around if The Venture Bros. had just paid more attention to me! But I digress… I wouldn’t call it cheating, but shortly before the Venture gang got the boot, I found a TV series that had already started to fill the Venture-shaped hole in my heart. It’s called Harley Quinn and there are two seasons out on HBOMax. I’m sure anyone reading this likely already knows about its existence but amuse me, if you will, as I draw some parallels between the two shows.
In a sense, HQ is essentially a Venture rip-off, and I mean that as the highest praise. They got everything right that Team Venture got right – the sarcastic tone, the bureaucracy of evil, the pettiness of super-egos, the fun of animated hyperviolence – Harley Quinn has it all. The main difference between the two is that HQ actually has the rights to the DC properties that The Venture Bros. parodied. While it is fun to see real life (did I really just say real life?) super heroes like Batman and Superman treated in an openly mocking way, they don’t quite have that vicious ironic touch that a Captain Sunshine or Crusaders Action League had. Part of the freedom of The Venture Bros. was that it created new characters in making fun of the old ones. HQ does not suffer for being bound by its already established universe, it’s just a little different, you know? However, just like The Venture Bros., the villains are way more fun than the good guys. And who has a better rogue’s gallery than DC? Only The Venture Bros.
At only two seasons in, Harley Quinn is showing a level of interdependence and continuity between episodes that it took The Venture Bros. three to four seasons to master. If only for its infancy, the interdependence of the HQ-niverse has not quite reached Venture status yet. However, as stated, not even The Venture Bros. had reached true Venture status by the end of their second season. The Venture Bros. was just “pretty good” until seasons three and four, where it crossed the line into “objective greatness”. The first two seasons of Harley Quinn are even stronger than the first couple seasons of Team Venture, and with young, hilarious voice talent, a huge roster of characters to pull from, a (presumably) much faster Korean art team, and a huge HBO bankroll, the sky is truly the limit for Harley Quinn.
Nothing will ever be able to fully replace our beloved The Venture Bros. Every evening, before I get into my learning pod, I pray to white Jesus for a Team Venture movie or at least one more episode. There are still so many story lines to finish… sigh. I can’t let myself go there again. I must be strong. Finish the opinion piece, damnit!
Oh, wait, never mind… that’s it. What’s more appropriate for a piece on The Venture Bros. than for it to end abruptly? Go Team Venture!