The Venture Bros: Season 5
Warner Bros. // Unrated // $31.97 // March 4, 2014
Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 11, 2014
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
Everytime I've skimmed through the menu of a Greek/Italian restaurant over the past year or so, I've smiled just a little bit wider. Thanks, fifth season of The Venture Bros.!

On one hand, yeah, it's been a bit of a wait. Two and a half years passed between "official" episodes of The Venture Bros., and
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with only eight eps this time around, this season was over just about as quickly as it began. Then again, between the two specials and the double-length premiere, you're getting around ten and a half episodes' worth of material with this set. Season six looks like it's gonna be less than a year away. Then there's the part where everything this season is straight-up brilliant. The Venture Bros. has rarely been smarter, sweeter, stranger, and more endlessly hysterical than it is here. One of the most exceptional series on television has somehow managed to get even better.

If you need more of a review than that, I don't really know what to tell you. I guess I could start with the whole plot summary thing, though. The usual routine in any review of The Venture Bros. is to point out for the eight hojillionth time that this is a show about failure. That's not so much the case this time around, though. 21 -- once a lowly minion of the Monarch! -- now commands the mighty resources of SPHINX. Okay, SPHINX's roster is awfully thin these days, but still...! Gary's the boss, even if he's not leading anyone but himself. Billy Quizboy scores an arch-nemesis of his very own, a quadraseptazillionaire collector whose arsenal consists of props from every geeky movie ever made, big or small. Dean stumbles onto one of Team Venture's most closely guarded secrets. It's a revelation that rattles everything Dean thought he knew, yeah, but it also helps him grow into his own man. He torches his learning bed, cranks up The Smiths, and sulks in his bedroom. Okay, maybe "man" isn't the right word here, but he's past the whole boy adventurer thing, and that's gotta count for something. Sgt. Hatred grows this season as well. Literally, in the chesticular region. I'm talking about boobies here. Hank's still a wide-eyed kid who rolls with the punches. Pump him with enough caffeine when the chips are down, though, and a hero will rise. Doc actually delivers as a super-scientist this season. Okay, by farming out the work, mutating a hundred or whatever college students, and suffering heavy casualties along the way, but still...! Delivers. We get a peek at Rusty's childhood, including one of his happiest memories that's only fucked up a little by his absentee square-jawed-adventurer father. Ooooh, and speaking of Rusty, The Monarch at long last is in a position to crush his arch-enemy once and for all. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

Legions of the walking dead! Mutant armies infesting the Venture compound! Socialist revolutionary monsters lurking in the jungle! The most dead-on guy-who-did-the-voice-of-Cobra-Commander-and-Starscream impression ever! A playful Greek festival threatened by the heir to America's largest plastics fortune! A vintage tale of Team Venture squaring off against a cyborg L. Ron Hubbard during Jackie O's wedding! The conflict between O.S.I. and the Guild of Calamitous Intent raging to a head (including Tank Top, the sensational character find of 2013)! The threat of way-Freudian vagina stuffing! A cybernetic blind date! A funeral for a friend! I can't begin to tell you how much I love, love, love The Venture Bros., but if you've made it this far in a review of the fifth season of a TV series, I'm guessing you're right there with me. This season really was worth the long wait too. Aside from the dreadful and thankfully short Behind the Music riff "From the Ladle to the Grave", everything on this Blu-ray disc, top to bottom, is perfect. Even with cannibalistic mutants and dead-on G.I. Joe spoofs, this is still very much a character-driven show, and there's a whole lotta growth and change on that front this season. The best gags still have me howling, especially one near the tail-end of the season about Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The season's fat-packed with action, from G.I. Joe-style battles royale all the way to Arkham City-style stealth Batman takedowns. The Venture Bros. revels in its gloriously dense mythology without getting too distracted as it sometimes has in the past. As ever, these episodes hold up startlingly well to repeat viewing. Admittedly, season five doesn't build to the sort of frenetic finalé you're usually treated to with The Venture Bros., and I sure wouldn't have complained if it were a few episodes longer, but I honestly don't have anything to gripe about this season. For crying out loud, there's an episode where Hank, Dermott, and 21 go full-on villain to infiltrate an insane asylum so their father can talk to the voice of Teddy Ruxpin in person. Keep your True Detective or whatever. This is the best thing on TV. Highly Recommended.


Episodes and Stuff
But yeah,
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eight episodes. Two specials.

Episodes!
  1. What Color Is Your Cleansuit?
  2. Venture Libre
  3. Sphinx Rising
  4. Spanakopita!
  5. O.S.I. Love You
  6. Momma's Boys
  7. Bot Seeks Bot
  8. The Devil's Grip
Specials!
  1. A Very Venture Halloween
  2. From the Ladle to the Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story

The only thing is that one of the specials, "A Very Venture Halloween", is set in the middle of "What Color Is Your Cleansuit?", and there's a plot point lurking in there that helps shape the entire season for Dean. When you click "Play All" from the main menu, it only plays the eight main episodes and shrugs off the specials, so you'll probably want to start with the Halloween ep and move onto the rest of the season from there. "From the Ladle to the Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story" is listed last despite airing first, but it's not really a continuity-heavy thing, so it really doesn't matter when you watch that.


Video
If you've grabbed the past couple seasons of The Venture Bros. on Blu-ray, you pretty much know what to expect here. The linework is crisp and really well-defined, definitely setting itself apart from anything DVD is gonna deliver. Its colors are bright and vivid when appropriate as well, so don't expect any gripes on that front either. Even though the entire season is crammed onto a single BD-50 disc, the VC-1 encode almost always holds up well. 'Course, The Venture Bros. has a clean visual style that plays nicely with encoders. When it's not, though, such as during Billy's nightmare in "Spanakopita!" with all that faux film grain, the image breaks up really badly. You'll probably need to open that case-in-point below to full size to see what I mean, though:

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Yikes. I didn't notice much in the way of posterization throughout the meat of the season, although the "From the Ladle to the Grave" short suffers from a couple hiccups like that. Look at the banding, posterization, and those strange vertical lines in Hank's face, f'r instance:

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There's a bit of that sort of sloppiness, yeah, and it's inexcusable. If you can look past those brief moments, though, this season of The Venture Bros. lands right where I expected it to be.

Oh, and speaking of sloppy, the flipside of the case says that this season is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, but...nah. It's straightahead 1.78:1, the same as it aired in high-def on Adult Swim.


Audio
Some techie at Warner Bros. dialed the Way-Back Machine to 2006 or something, 'cause not only do you get a VC-1 encode for the visuals, but you're lookin' at a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack as well. Lossless is lossless, and the 24-bit, 5.1 audio sounds pretty terrific. I can't
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get over the clarity of the voice acting, which is consistently rendered cleanly and clearly throughout. There's not a single line throughout the entire season that unduly struggles for placement in the mix or suffers from even the slightest flicker of distortion. J. G. Thirlwell's musical contributions, especially those glorious analog synths, come through brilliantly as well. The Venture Bros. doesn't go nuts with the whole 5.1 thing, but those other speakers still make their presence known. The traffic whizzing by Dermott in the background of "From the Ladle to the Grave", the howling wind as Brock and Molotov Cocktease square off outside the helicarrier in "O.S.I. Love You", and the aircraft zipping across the front and rear channels in "What Color Is Your Cleansuit?" are a few of the highlights on that end of things. Bass response is generally modest but nicely reinforces those punches, kicks, thuds, and explosions just the same. There's some extra resonance to the jungle-is-so-'90s music blaring at the literally-underground club from "The Devil's Grip" too, and that makes a hell of an impression. Nothing that'll redefine the way you perceive sound or anything but still a huge improvement from what was making the rounds on basic cable this time last year.

No dubs or anything this time around. Subtitles are limited to English (SDH) only.


Extras
The good news...? Commentaries on all eight episodes and one of the bonus shorts. The bad news...? That's juuuuust about it for the extras.
  • Fax My Grandson (3 min.; HD): Subtitled "The Further Audio Adventures of Diamond Backdraft!", voice actor Larry Murphy goes nuts riffing as a David Crosby-lookin' Vietnam vet-slash-SPHINX recruit-slash-other stuff who doesn't know a whole lot about computers.

  • Deleted Scenes (6 min.; HD): These aren't really scenes, so much; more like additional snippets of dialogue from scenes that did make it to air. "The Devil's Grip", "Venture Libre", "What Color Is Your Cleansuit?", and "Spanakopita!" are all extended a bit, including more of the losses that Team Venture has suffered over the years, a lengthier reintroduction to Venturestein, and probably a little too much more of Dr. Z's indescribably awesome training film. Some of this footage is presented in animatic form,
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    and tiny bits of it were fully animated before being edited down. One highlight is seeing the fully animated version of Billy's nightmare in "Spanakopita!" before being processed with all that fake grain and before the stop motion stuff was pieced together.

  • Audio Commentaries: Pretty much everything on this disc -- minus "From the Ladle to the Grave", for whatever reason -- is packin' commentary by Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick. As ever, the best stuff has borderline-nothing to do with The Venture Bros., explaining why Peedee Shindell is nicknamed "Hamburger" in the credits for most of the season, their first boob-touching experiences, the bleakness and rapiness of Zorba the Greek, reading from a long-yellowed list of "30 under 35" on-their-way celebrities that they popped up on years ago with Scarlett Johansson, and the influence of the 1899 French novel The Torture Garden on an episode that wasn't meant to be a finalé but was anyway. The commentaries alone are worth the price of entry.

The packaging for this season of The Venture Bros. has a whole vintage young adult adventure novel motif thing going, and I especially love the painted artwork on the slipcase. This isn't one of those combo pack deals, but you do score an UltraViolet digital copy code along with a little table-of-contents insert.


The Final Word
I know, I know. I had you at The Venture Bros., and if I didn't, I don't know why you scrolled all the way down here anyway. This is a short but brilliant season, and it's the sort of Methadone fix I need to tide me over till the next special sometime this Fall. Highly Recommended.


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