The Venture Bros. has been one of Adult Swim’s longest-running original series. It premiered in 2004 with its finale movie airing on July 21st, 2023. This series is unique among adult animation for both its story focus and extensive continuity.
The entire story is the product of only two lead writers, who write the whole show together.
Jackson Publick began writing for the cartoon series The Tick. During his work there, he came up with the basic concept for the series. The late-night adult animation block Adult Swim picked them up for a pilot. He met Doc Hammer through a mutual friend Bed Edlund and found his co-creator and partner for the pilot.
The creators drew inspiration from the adventure novels and comics of their childhood. Just like in those comics continuity matters in this show, The Venture Bros. is an example of a long-running TV show that uses its continuity to tell a better story. Rather than the medium simply being a way to present the tale, the medium adds onto the story’s impact.
Meet the Venture BrothersThe Venture Bros. began as a parody of the Hannah-Barbera cartoon Johnny Quest. A cartoon about boy adventurer, Johnny Quest travels the world with his scientist father and their bodyguard. The premise of The Venture Bros. arose from Publick’s commentary on how dangerous dragging a child around the world on adventures would be.
Between Johnny Quest, the Hardy Boys, and Tom Swift, what is up with these pie-eyed youths chasing pirates and international diamond thieves and stuff like that? They would get their throats cut the minute that stumbled upon a hideout. And that would be the gag.
In The Venture Bros, twin brothers,Hank and Dean travel the world with their super-scientist father and bodyguard. However, their bodyguard, Brock Samson, brutally massacres the villains they fight. Meanwhile, their father, Dr. Thaddeus Venture, is a washed-out has-been who severely neglects both children.
It turns out Dr. Venture is a former boy adventurer himself. His childhood adventures traumatized him turning him into a washed-up former child star. Now, Rusty regularly exposes his children to the same dangers.
Naturally, the show began as a parody, but by the end of the first season it had grown beyond its premise.
A Game ChangerInitially, the show followed an episodic “one adventure a week” format. However, creator Doc Hammer never intended for the show to stay that way.
We didn’t want the kind of show where no episode is connected and things just happen because it’s a sitcom.
The first big changes to the status quo come at the end of season 1. The episode “Trial of the Monarch” ends with the series antagonist, the Monarch, in prison. He stays there for the rest of the season.
From that point on it becomes clear that the authors are telling an ongoing story. Things just don’t reset by the next episode. Everything changes, and continuity matters.
The season finale “Return to Spider-Skull Island” makes an even bigger change by killing off Hank and Dean. In fact, they stay dead through the first episode of the next season. While Rusty clones them to bring them back from the dead, their deaths are still technically permanent.
At this point, the writers solidified there is no status quo in their story. K
Why Does Continuity Matter?People often talk about “liking continuity” in serialized media, but what does continuity mean anyways? Does it mean needing to memorize every detail of a show’s extensive lore to understand what is going on?
The show itself even made a joke about what a chore it is trying to keep up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Is it me or is every new show about superheroes? I can’t keep up. It’s like a job trying to follow this nonsense. Inhumans? Do I have to watch fake X-Men on the moon to understand the movies?
What continuity means is that a story remembers the events that came before. Using the past builds to future events. A story with good continuity does not require an audience to remember everything. However, it challenges the writers to remember what they’ve written and build off of it.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon pioneered a formula of episodic adventures that span into season-long story arcs. Each season further develops the premise of “what if, in this story ,the cheerleader was the hero rather than the victim?” The seasons grow more complicated by building on the events of what came before.
The Venture Bros turned the premise of “how messed up is the life of a boy adventurer?” into something more. The writers constantly reference previous events in a way that adds depth to the story. For example, events like the “Pyramid Wars” mentioned in a season 3 episode are explained all the way in season 7.
Continuity is really just decent storytelling. A story with good continuity is coherent and rewards the audience for paying attention.
How Venture Bros Does Continuity
As mentioned above, the writers of this show wanted to avoid a sitcom format. Publick even stated how much continuity matters to him.
There was just a natural instinct to care about continuity and that anything that actually happened was going to stay happened. If someone blows a hole in the wall, it’s either being fixed or staying in the wall for the rest of the season. Sometimes we’ll do a whole season about renovating a house.
“Change” is the keyword here. Character relationships change. The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend break up in season 1 only to marry in the season 2 finale. Brock Samson quits his job as bodyguard in season 3 in order to find himself. Hank and Dean run out of back-up clones, forcing the boys to grow up.
However, the most impressive way the writers use continuity is foreshadowing. Early foreshadowing sometimes pays off two or three seasons later. The writers admit they rewatch past episodes and look for concepts or ideas they can further explore in future ones.
That’ my favorite thing – when thoughts actually pay off and look like careful planning. Or when continutiy doesn’t become a burden, but actually creates new opportunities you don’t know about when you laid those seeds.
The Venture Bros. is all about planting the seeds of ideas and letting them grow, which eventually culminates in some impressive late-game reveals. Essentially, the show itself promises to answer all the viewer’s questions if they’re just patient enough.
Who is the Blue Morpho?One of the best examples of the show’s use of its own continuity is the Morpho Trilogy. These first three episodes of the beginning of season 7 reference past events as early as season 1.
The episode “Arrears in Science: references the season 1 episode “Careers in Science.” It even answers the question of why the mysterious “PROBLEM” light turned on. That episode also mentions the Movie Night Massacre, ” with Arrears in Science” finally explaining what happened on that night.
A season 5 episode “Bot Seeks Bot” hints at the true identity of Vendata, while this episode reveals his identity. A season 4 episode, “Sphinx Rising,” mentions the Pyramid Wars, which Arrears follows up on.
The show’s continuity is so good that in the season 1 episode “Past Tense,“ a necromancer named Dr. Opheus predicted another character would have a stroke in 2 years and 17 days. In “Arrears in Science,” that prediction finally comes true.
A single episode can cap off over seven seasons’ worth of questions with character and lore reveals. This makes it a particularly effective use of The Venture Bros. own continuity.
Why Does Venture Bros Do It Better?
Admittedly, here are many long-running shows that develop a complicated continuity over time. In fact, it’s often a draw of certain series. Still, compared to these shows, The Venture Bros. better rewards its audience by the simple fact of actually answering their questions.
There’s a trend in episodic television called the “mystery box.” The term originated from J.J. Abrams, who used it in his breakthrough television show Lost, and also used it with his new Star Wars trilogy. The premise of long stories based on the premise of building up questions for the audience about the story and mythos didn’t begin with Abrams, however; The X-Files is another classic example of a puzzle box show.
The X-Files divided its episodes between one shot and episodes that contributed to a “Myth Arc.” However, The X-Files, Lost, and even the new Star Wars trilogy ultimately gave what the audience considered unsatisfying answers to the questions they raised. That’s when they gave answers at all. Audiences like to piece clues together, but when writers create questions without answers, they write themselves into corners.
Other shows struggle to maintain clear continuity because the writing staff changes. For example, fans criticize Steven Moffat’s run on Doctor Who for ignoring a lot of plot and characters from the Russell T. Davies era.
The Venture Bros. avoided this issue because two writers created the entirety of the scripts themselves. Hence, there were no disputes on the writer’s team, or new writers changing things.
What you love and hate about the Venture Bros is all caused by the same thing. It’s two guys from the very beginning and end that controls the show. That’s where the continuity comes from. We have this amazing gift of being in love with the show…”
The MovieSeven seasons are finally coming to an end in the movie The Venture Bros: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart. Adult Swim canceled the series and greenlit a movie to serve as the finale. The official description of the finale’s premise is blown.
Doc’s latest invention will either bankrupt Team Venture or launch them to new heights, as Hank searches for himself, Dean searches for Hank, The Monarch searches for answers, and a mysterious woman from their past threatens to bring their entire world crashing down on them.
This movie teases answers to a long-running series of questions. Who is the boy’s mother? What is the Monarch’s relationship to Dr. Venture? It also gives a resolution to the cliffhanger ending of season 7 where Hank runs away to find himself.
The fact that the authors work so hard to find answers to these questions shows they are just as invested in the answers as the audience is.
Now’s The Perfect Time to Get Into The Venture Bros.The Venture Bros. is one of Adult Swim’s classic animated series. This is because it’s one of the rare story-driven adult animated series. Two writers are responsible for the entire series and its complicated continuity.
It began as a parody of Johnny Quest and classic pulp adventure novels but grew beyond that. By the end of the first season it was willing to break the formula it established. From then on the story and characters constantly changed.
Continuity matters in a story because past events lead to future developments. When the authors show they care about continuity, it makes the audience care. The show promises the audience that their investment will be rewarded.
This show grew beyond pulp parody into one of the most unique television shows. Hopefully, and most likely, the movie will bring a satisfying ending to the seven seasons that came before it.