The Venture Bros: Escape to the House of Mummies, Part II

The boys continue to warp and shatter the structures and expectations of form.  It was funny enough that they put a fake “previously on The Venture Bros.” at the top of the show, but then they put a fake “next week on The Venture Bros.” at the end.  So we’re apparently watching the second act of a three-part episode, what would in normal circumstances be released on DVD as The Venture Bros. Movie.

What makes this monkeying with structure great, of course, is the way it frees up the writers’ creativity.  Why bother explaining how the boys got into the room with the spikes, or how Dean’s head got removed, or how Edgar Allen Poe got roped into this mess — that was all explained in Part I.  And how will they get away from the bad guys, what will happen to the second Brock, how will Dean’s head get put back, all that will be explained in Part III.  Right now, we’ve got the tumultuous, everything-in-motion Part II.

Of course, all that motion and calamity is the “B-story” this week.  In the foreground is Rusty’s childish contest with Dr. Orpheus.  The science/religion conflict that sparked in Episode 1 explodes into flames here, continuing Season 2’s theme of taking background ideas from Season 1 and making them the foreground here.  Rusty abandons his family and tortures his friends, Dr. Orpheus fools his daughter and puts her into a coma, all for the sake of this contest.  The goal of the contest?  “Who can be the smallest,” of course, again, making the metaphoric literal.  And when they both lose, they only do so because they both win!  They’re both the smallest men!

And while it’s true that Orpheus is a know-it-all, I too felt the urge to correct the deity when he made the mistake of confusing Argos and Cerberus.

I once wrote for a comedy show, and the sketches for the show were developed as though the show were taking place in the late nineteenth century and were being written for the vaudeville stage.  The producers insisted that each sketch must have a premise, development of the premise, a satisfying conclusion to the premise (called “the payoff”) and then a final “switcheroo” that they called “The Button.”  This strict adherence to 100-year-old comedy rules helped ensure that every idea the writers had would eventually be turned from something everyone thought was funny to something no one thought was funny.  After a few weeks of observing just how deadening this process was, I raised my hand in a meeting and said “I’m sorry, didn’t Monty Python prove, twenty-fiveyears ago, that you don’t need any of this crap?  Why can’t we just think of funny ideas, keep them going for as long as they’re funny, then cut away when they’re not funny any more?  Won’t that make the show fresher, more unpredictable, cut out all this dead time, and keep all the sketches from feeling exactly alike?”

It was questions like this that have kept me from working in television comedy for the past ten years.

So it’s good to see The Venture Bros., in its second season, being so voracious in its appetite to expand the boundaries of the possible in television.
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Comments

28 Responses to “The Venture Bros: Escape to the House of Mummies, Part II”
  1. eronanke says:

    I love Luis Guzmán. Just FYI.

    • eronanke says:

      Did Fax ever try to pull you over to MadTV?

    • Todd says:

      Mr. Guzman, Mr. Leguizamo and David Herman were the lifeblood of that cast. Luis would do absolutely anything we asked him to and do so with charm, grace and elan. John is an astonishing comic and mimic, something his film work only barely hints at, and Dave Herman, so great in Office Space, is a severely underused talent.

      • popebuck1 says:

        Leguizamo’s one-man shows are SO brilliant, they make all of his regular “acting” jobs pale in comparison. (Much like Whoopi Goldberg’s whole career, as compared with her original one-woman show that got her noticed.) It’s really kind of sad. At least they’re preserved on DVD.

        • greyaenigma says:

          I managed to catch him on stage a few years back, and I’m amazed at how talented he is. Unfortunately, since they were tickets we’d won, we were in the very last row of the theater, so he was a talented little dot.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I hadn’t pegged you for a Adult Swim Fix kind of viewer. But where’s your Assassinanny 911 breakdown?

  3. You..

    could’ve written for Mr. Show! That S–t was ice.

    • Todd says:

      Re: You..

      Strangely enough, when I saw Mr. Show my first thought was not jealousy but rather “Oh, good. That’s what I wanted to do on American television, but assumed I could never get done. Glad somebody did it.”

      That shit was, indeed, ice.

  4. rennameeks says:

    I admit, I also mentally corrected Dr. O’s mentor on the incorrect reference. I believe he said Argus, though, not Argos. Both names were used in Greek mythology (indeed, Argos was used twice), but only Argus was a bodyguard of any sort.

    I agree wholeheartedly about this episode’s structure! That instantly kicked it up my ladder of favorite VB episodes. It’s hard to make the A plot into the B plot!

    • rennameeks says:

      *grumbles at HTML formatting and kicks up a {/mythology geek} at the end of the first paragraph*

    • rennameeks says:

      Since the episode’s on again now and I’m an uber-nerd:
      – The Master says “Argos.”
      – Orpheus says “Argus.”
      – Orpheus identifies him as Ulysses’s dog. I didn’t even think Ulysses had a dog. x_x

      So….yeah. It’s funny, but as far as I know, not mythologically accurate.

      Nothing like completely dissecting a joke to drain it of all humor, right?

      • kokoyok says:

        Argus

        I didn’t even think Ulysses had a dog.

        Odysseus had a dog named Argus. Argus was actually the first to identify him when he returned home from the Trojan War. (When he was scoping out his home incognito.)

        • rennameeks says:

          Re: Argus

          Oh crud. Someone’s putting the Odyssey on her summer reading list. -_-

          *prods herself for not being a good enough mythology geek*

      • popebuck1 says:

        Argus was Odysseus’s dog. Argus was the only one to recognize Odysseus in his old-man disguise when he finally arrived home, but Odysseus couldn’t give himself away and so rejected Argus on the doorstep. I believe Argus laid down and died after that – proof (long before Laura Ingalls Wilder and “The Shores of Silver Lake”) that one sure-fire way to tear your audience’s heart out is to kill off an old faithful dog.

        Argos was specifically a bodyguard – he had a hundred eyes. Here’s his story: Zeus was fooling around with poor young mortal woman Io, and heard Hera coming along. So he turned Io into a heifer, and when Hera found them, was all “I was going to give you this sweet little heifer! As a surprise! Yeah, that’s it!” Hera wasn’t fooled for a second, but accepted the heifer and set Argos to watch over it/her, so that Zeus couldn’t come near her. Argos was the perfect bodyguard because of his hundred eyes, only fifty were ever closed in sleep at any given time. But Zeus eventually sent Hermes to sing Argos to sleep (i.e., all of his eyes at once) and reclaimed Io. Argos eventually had his eyes immortalized in the tail of Hera’s favorite bird, the peacock.

        • Todd says:

          Hey! I learned something on the internet!

        • rennameeks says:

          That bodyguard’s name was Argus, at least according to my mythology books. And Hermes didn’t just put Argus to sleep – he bored him to death! In the versions of the story that I’ve read, Hermes told a long, boring story with no end (insert your own zinger here) that eventually caused Argus’s 50 awake eyes to close. Once they were shut, Hermes touched them with his wand, closing them forever. Then he escorted the bodyguard’s soul to Tartarus.

          Argos was the man who constructed the Argo for Jason, hence the name of the ship (the Argo) and his men (the Argonauts).

          Of course, there’s not single version of any of these myths…just some versions that are better known than others. Argos didn’t even make the cast list of Clash of the Titans.

          • Todd says:

            Of course, there’s not single version of any of these myths.

            Just like comic books.

            Hermes told a long, boring story with no end (insert your own zinger here)

            I can’t believe they haven’t used this as a plot point for The Venture Bros yet.

            • rennameeks says:

              Yes, exactly like comic books and most other stories that use the mythic structure. 🙂

              “Hermes told a long, boring story with no end (insert your own zinger here)”

              I can’t believe they haven’t used this as a plot point for The Venture Bros yet.

              That just conjured up an amusing image of Dr. Orpheus rambling endlessly….wait, he already does that. Hey, if a story’s got to be long and boring, it might as well be shouted dramatically.

              I’m waiting for an Indiana Jones reference with Brock cutting a long story short….as only Brock can.

  5. craigjclark says:

    Favorite line:

    “Hank, you and Caligula take up the rear.”

    That, in a nutshell, is why I love The Venture Bros.

  6. robolizard says:

    Okay! Todd! I have created THE GREATEST MOVIE PLOT TO END ALL MOVIE PLOT! DAVID BOWIE VS. THE INCREDIBLE HULK! The Incredible Hulk is on the loose again, and when the Avengers (c) can’t stop him, its up to ZIGGY STARDUST to serenade Bruce Banner into peace with soulful yet silent renditions of ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Sons of the Silent Age’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’. The Hulk falls into a deep slumber when he awakes in another dimension AS A BOWIE INSPIRED T-REX! In this dimension, there is no love for rock, nobody rocks out, and the Hulk-Bowie-T-Rex must bring the spirit of rock to these disenfranchised(c) people.

    What do you think!? :D!?

  7. robolizard says:

    Something interesting about the Venture Bros. is that its a parody that actually lives in the world of what it is parodying on all planes. Although Dr. Venture is clearly a grown up Johnny Quest, the real Jhonny Quest lives in this world [well, Race Bannon does]. Tigerrific was a riff on Wolverine, and in the next episode we see toy Wolverine claws acknowledging the existence of Tigerriffic’s inpsiration. Its just weird…

    Indeed, it is nice to see shows [really, most shows on Adult Swim] try new styles of comedy… and Edgar Allen Poe… smells worse on the inside…