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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Venture Bros.: "Bright Lights, Dean's City"

Illustration for article titled The Venture Bros.: "Bright Lights, Dean's City"
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Hey, all!  Zack Handlen is fighting off a cold tonight, so I'll once again be stepping in to review tonight's episode of The Venture Bros.  Now, before you all go make fun of him and call him a sissy, what if I told you this was the same cold that killed all the Martians in War Of The Worlds?  Would that make any difference?  No?  Okay, then.

Tonight's episode is sort of a sequel to last week's "Everybody Comes To Hank's":  we learn what happened to Dean  and his New York internship while Hank was back at the compound selling his dad's old keyboard and having a private dick adventure.  In fact, Dean was interning in the Apple with Impossible Industries — which put him in a prime position to find out what nefarious goings-on Professor Impossible has been up to since joining Phantom Limb's Revenge Society.  (This is treated like something of a revelation, and I suppose it is for Dean, but Brock already knows it.  Unless the show has been playing more games with the chronology than usual.)

Dean's job at Impossible Industries is to basically replace the entire staff (damn this economic turndown!) while Professor Impossible, Phantom Limb, and Baron Ünterbheit try to figure out their first big caper.  The Professor rejects Limb's first idea as "a bit killy", but after Doc Venture — bitten by the Broadway bug — comes to town to push "RUST!", his own musical, they conspire to off the guy who, intentionally or otherwise, has caused the majority of their problems.  Of course, they only think Doc is trying to thwart their plans; he really just wants to stage his play and ruin Dean's life by hanging around in his tiny apartment all the time.

Their first attempt to assassinate Doc falls flat due to incompetence on all sides (cabs always seem to fluster the out-of-towners), but once the Revenge Society gets hold of his script, they nearly succeed in taking him out for good.  Fortunately, the safety-conscious Dean manages to burn the Impossible Building down just in time, et voila, we're right back at the end of last week's episode, only with an explanation of Dean's raggedy condition — and the appearance of a natty-looking, fully tousled Doc Venture:  it turns out he's an alternate-universe Doc, who our world's Thaddeus ran into while tooling around inside an enigma hole.  Simple.

According to the bumper, these two episodes where written together, but last week's was finished first.  That's hard to credit, since it's this one that feels a bit rushed and patched together. Jackson Publick episodes, of which this was one, tend to lean a bit more on pop-culture in-jokes and rapid-fire comedy over Doc Hammer, whose job is to flesh out the characters, work on the ensemble, and add emotional depth.  Those latter are the qualities I think make The Venture Bros. stand out against any number of culture-savvy comedies, and tonight didn't really test anyone's roles.  Lots of good comedic material, but everyone seemed a little dumber and more shallow than usual.  Still, the laughs were there and the laughs were strong, and as with all good partnerships, it's the two creators working together, with their warring tendencies, that make the effort worthwhile in the end.

Rating:  B

Stray Observations: 

- Dean's apartment:  motivational posters, Soldier's Joy chicken soup, and that staple of the first home away from home, the milk crate.   I also love that the scion of a family of super-scientists uses an IBM Selectric for his newsletter.


- "Look at this place.  What, are you waiting for Jacob Riis to take your picture?"

- R.I.P., Manservant.

- "Hot sandwich!"

- "I thought Manhattan was the epicenter of supervillainy.  It's more like the Island of Misfit Toys."


- "This one time, during a bank heist, I pulled a Slip 'n' Slide, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and half a Roman legion out of there."

- "Fine!  I don't even like your dimension anyway!  It's an asshole dimension, what do you think of that?"


- My favorite little random pop-culture detail in this episode:  the KKK crown in Baron Ünterbheit's cab.

- I thought most of the jokey auditions for Revenge Society membership were pretty flat, but bringing in the creepy bear-suit guy from The Shining was a stroke of genius.


- Next week: the return of Dr. Orpheus!  Thanks again to Zack for letting me sit in.