Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
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H-H-H-Hank and Dean, Venture Brothers

June 30th, 2017 | Posted by Philip J Reed in television

I love The Venture Bros. You know that. It’s one of my all-time favorite shows, and even if I thought this past season was a bit shit tbh I can’t say that my love or appreciation of it has been diminished at all.

I’d like to say that I realized something when rewatching it lately…but I haven’t been watching it. I’ve just been living my life, going about my business, and a thought occurred. I’ll share that with you in a moment, of course, but here, now, I want to point out that that’s part of what makes The Venture Bros. so incredible to me in the first place. Sure, you can watch it over and over again and find things you missed…but you can also just let it sit. Let it simmer. Let your mind go where it will…and you’ll still find new ways to appreciate it, and new things to consider about it.

Compare that to ALF. I haven’t rewatched that shit either, but I sure as hell don’t catch myself in the middle of the day realizing that “Don’t it Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?” is secretly brilliant.

Okay, so, anyway: late in season one, The Venture Bros. has what might be its first masterpiece: “The Trial of The Monarch.” It harvests seeds that had been passively planted by previous episodes to incredible effect, tearing apart a central relationship and positioning The Monarch — the show’s main villain — as its emotional core. No mean feat, and the episode that accomplishes it is tense, beautiful, hilarious, and unexpectedly heartbreaking.

In short, it’s fantastic stuff, and it’s still one of my favorites.

The titular Venture brothers themselves don’t do much in the episode, but it opens with a fantasy sequence that sees them in costume. Hank is dressed as Indiana Jones, and Dean as Thomas Magnum, from Magnum, P.I. You can see the boys in the screengrab above. And, for reference:

Fine. Everyone knows this. Hank and Dean are dressed as those characters. Few people overlooked that fact; it’s pretty obvious.

But…where did Hank and Dean get those ideas? From the movie and from the TV show, obviously.

…except that in season four’s best episode, “Everybody Comes to Hank’s,” we learn that Hank doesn’t actually know who Indiana Jones is. He wears the iconic hat…which came with a whip that he assumes is a “detective’s whip.”

So Hank wears part of an Indiana Jones costume in that episode, and in doing so he reveals that he doesn’t know Indiana Jones. Odd, as he dressed as the character three seasons prior. Dean may or may not know Thomas Magnum, but that’s academic; Hank doesn’t know his character, and that’s enough to question things in The Venture Bros., where continuity between episodes is important.

Indiana Jones and Magnum, P.I. are a pretty odd pairing. They come from different media and don’t have a clear relation to one another. They come from different worlds and time periods, and they don’t pursue or desire the same things.

They fit Hank and Dean well enough, of course. Indiana Jones is brash and daring, and Magnum is (relatively) focused and methodical. The adventurer and the detective. Hank and Dean.

But Indiana Jones and Magnum, P.I. on their own merits don’t really go together, and it’s not a pairing we’d ever see outside of this fantasy sequence.

Or…would we?

That’s right. The Venture Bros. paired up these two characters in 2004, but Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers did it in 1988.

Rescue Rangers was a very popular show, airing during the enormously successful Disney Afternoon programming block. And while Chip and Dale were already established characters by that point, it was Rescue Rangers that dressed them respectively as Indiana Jones and Magnum, P.I.

And that is interesting.

The same odd pairing of characters happened twice, and it doesn’t strike me as coincidental. Combine this with the fact that Hank doesn’t recognize an Indiana Jones costume when he actually encounters one, and I start to wonder if Hank and Dean in “The Trial of The Monarch” are actually dressed as the Rescue Rangers.

That’s a show they’re likely enough to have seen, and there’s a little more in common as well. Hank, Dean, Chip, and Dale are all four-letter names. It’s always Hank and Dean, as opposed to Dean and Hank…just as it’s always Chip and Dale as opposed to Dale and Chip. Hank and Chip are both Indiana Jones, and Dean and Dale are both Magnum, P.I. Each pair is part of a larger team that goes on new adventures week to week…

I have to wonder if that’s a subtle nod there. The joke being less that they’re dressed as two famous characters and more that they’re dressed as two different famous characters aping source material unfamiliar to the boys.

The Venture Bros. gives us a lot to consider, even in its silliest moments. It’s an impressively layered and incredibly well-written show. And the fact that I can still find new things in a thirteen-year-old episode (holy crap…) is incredible.

Oh, also: I just realized that the episode title “Powerless in the Face of Death” refers not to being unable to revive the boys, but rather to the blackout Dr. Venture accidentally causes. That’s some lovely misdirection I didn’t even notice. There’s still so much to find in this show…

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4 Responses

  • Ridley says:

    Aside: What Indiana Jones and Magnum have in common is Tom Selleck.

  • RaikoLives says:

    Man, I’ve been rewatching this show recently. We must be, like, in sync or something!

    The ONLY hole in the theory is that Hank and Dean both share the facial hair of their live action counterparts, something the diminutive mammals do not possess. But I absolutely agree with you that you find yourself thinking about Venture Bros long after you’ve watched it.

    The recent success of Rick and Morty has had people shouting about how it’s “the best cartoon ever” and while I think that MIGHT still go to The Simpsons, I still find myself “ranking” Venture Bros higher, simply because while Rick and Morty is funny, there’s not the emotional undercurrent achieved by our titular brothers above. Yeah, R&M goes dark, and has some touching moments, the connection I have to all the characters in Venture Bros is totally unmatched. And I love coming back to spend more time with them even if, yeah season 6 wasn’t QUITE what we’d hoped it would be. It was still time spent with these people.

    People rave about Bojack Horseman and sure, I guess it’s good, in it’s way, but I hate – legit HATE – almost every character on that show. They’re all vile, and nowhere near funny enough to excuse it. Seinfeld’s characters were awful, but that was the point. Venture Bros has a remorseless murderer as one of it’s main characters and I adore him, and each time he endangers his relationship I worry he’ll go to far, and Dr Mrs The Monarch will leave him forever. But I love him, even when he’s having sex with a robot that has Dr Venture’s face on it. Or yelling at Gary in front of his new friends that he and his wife swing. he’s a terrible TERRIBLE person but I love him and want what’s best for him, even if at times he doesn’t deserve it, or even want it himself.

    God, this show, man. I cannot thank you enough for introducing me to it, Phil.

    • Casey says:

      You *could* make the case that season 1 Hank was familiar with Indiana Jones, and that season 4 Hank was not, since season 1 Hank is now dead.

      • RaikoLives says:

        Indeed, depending on when he watched the movie and when his memories were last recorded, you could indeed say that. Perhaps he had watched it just that morning, hence why he was so keen to play act as Indiana Jones, and did not have his memories recorded again before he died? Though as that was the Trial of The Monarch, and it was QUITE a while before Monarch got out (he planned a whole escape plot and had the Henchmen destroy the cocoon etc) and the whole thing with Jonas Jr emerging occurred.

        And that episode has one of the best opening segments of the show EVER as they return from a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture show, in full costume, each of them in EXACTLY the right costume for their personalities. Rusty as Frank-N-Furter, of course. Brock as Rocky. Dean as Riff Raff. Hank as Columbia (which is just perfection!) and then, suddenly, H.E.L.P.E.R as Magenta. (They do so love their group costumes – Hank didn’t ruin this one by going as “The Bat”)



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