The Venture Bros. are back, though, for now, the return only lasted an hour. “All This and Gargantua-2,” a special mega-episode from the hit Adult Swim series, aired last night at midnight. With it, much will change in the familiar universe that writers Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer have spent more than a decade carefully crafting. What once appeared to be a simple comedy about an adventuring family, turned into a seasons-long saga with action, intrigue, familial drama, teen angst and, still, lots of laughs.
Without getting into spoilers, we can tell you that fictional lives have been dramatically altered over the course of the hour. There are characters that hardcore fans may miss, who return to the fold. Lives intertwine, for better or worse, inside a gorgeous space station filled with beautiful, and maybe a few sinister, people.
Paste caught up with The Venture Bros. writers Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, who explained that the special essentially exists to connect the last batch of episodes (which aired in 2013) with the forthcoming sixth season.
“We had too damn much to say, and we had an idea for a huge, epic story that simultaneously wrapped up our entire fifth season, and fourth probably, and set the ground for all our big plans for Season Six,” says Publick.
Season Six has been on the writers’ minds for several years now. Publick notes that, even when they started work on the fifth season, they knew where the story was heading. The trick was getting them there. With the special, they do it in a way that’s more cinematic than what fans of the show might expect.
Take the music, for example. J.G. Thirlwell, the prolific, experimental musician (Foetus, Steroid Maximus and, this writer’s favorite, Flesh Volcano) who has been scoring the show since its first season, creates a big screen sound that’s alternately more subtle and more dramatic than we might have anticipated. “We did make a conscious effort to be a little more cinematic with the music,” says Publick. ”[Thirlwell’s] scoring a little more specifically than we would normally do in an episode.” As an aside, Publick notes that this score wouldn’t work as well for the new episodes in production. “It’s too film-y,” he says.
There is a lot of story involved in the special. The Ventures, Brock Sampson, The Monarchs and a myriad other characters are heavily featured here. It took some cuts to squeeze in all the major points into an hour slot. “I think we got in all the things that we wanted in this special, as far as actual mechanics,” says Hammer. “We didn’t get in how we wanted to handle those mechanics.”
Publick adds, “There were three more scenes from the compound in the script that kind of developed as its own separate, hysterical adventure. In the end, we were seven minutes over time as it is.” But in the end, that’s fine. “Really,” says Publick, “all you need to know is how it started, and how it ended.”
That’s going to make a big difference for people who watch the upcoming season. “All that stuff is going to make a very direct impact on Season Six,” says Hammer.
Publick and Hammer have a knack for writing episodes that can stand on their own, but also always push the plot forward. “We write a lot of integral things into the episodes,” says Hammer. “It’s like a novel. There’s a lot of stuff going on.”
Back in 2004, when the first season of the show aired, the television climate was different. There weren’t as many binge-worthy series on the air that we see today. The Venture Bros. stood out, not just for its humor, but for its narrative, which unfolds over seasons that are often separated by a couple of years. Hammer points out that there are a lot of “great things to enjoy these days on television,” but The Venture Bros. is still somewhat unusual for the U.S., in that it’s an adult-oriented animated series. It’s often perceived as merely a comedy, but also has a grand, overarching story. It’s only been recently, with series like Archer and, now, Bee & PuppyCat and BoJack Horseman, that we’re seen more of this kind of storytelling.
As for that forthcoming sixth season, some episodes are still being written, while others are further along in the animation process.
“We’re not funneling it into an ending,” says Hammer.
Publick agrees. “There’s always more to say and another place to take it,” he says. “I am no longer of the feeling that we will bring the whole thing to some kind of ultimate climax one day.”
He adds, “I don’t ever want to end it. We may stop doing it, but to me it feels like these characters are just alive now. We may just get sick of documenting them. I don’t have a big end in sight for any of them anymore. ”
Liz Ohanesian writes about pop culture from her base in Los Angeles. For updates, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.