The Venture Bros.: "Self-Medication"
B+

The Venture Bros.: "Self-Medication"

The "let's begin in the middle of a standard-seeming action sequence" opening is a much-loved Venture Bros. standard by now, and "Self-Medication" goes at it with the gusto you'd expect. The doc is being menaced by the Monarch and his floating cocoon, things are at their worst, and then Rusty's alarm goes off, and he's got a therapy appointment to go to. This is not really surprising; nor is the revelation that there's a new clause in Guild contracts that allows time off for mental health issues. Monarch isn't very happy about it (we don't find out quite how unhappy he is till the episode's stinger), but really, could he have expected otherwise? The world of the show, or at least the part of it that our heroes and villains inhabit, is as much about wallowing in neuroses as it is making obvious puppet-based puns. It's all about avoidance--if you're obsessing on the past or running for you life, you don't really have to worry about being a grown-up.

We're in the standard sitcom structure land tonight, splitting our time between Story A and Story B. In A, Doc goes to a group session with some other former boy adventurers having problems adjusting to the real world. In B, Hank, Dean, and Sgt. Hatred go to the movies. The two only became loosely connected at the very end, almost incidentally. Thematically speaking, we have both the Doc and Hatred confronted with their pasts, and struggling to find a way to move on, but only Doc manages a successful transition; how much you enjoy Hatred's plot is going to depend a lot on how well you take pedophile jokes. The sitcom-iness of "Medication" goes beyond the structure, as well--both plotlines feel like they could've worked just fine (if slightly tweaked) as an episode of Night Court.

About the pedophile jokes--I'm not sure how to take them at this point. It doesn't really make me uncomfortable, exactly, as I trust Public and Hammer enough that I don't think things are going to get truly icky at any point down the road, but that doesn't mean I find the set-up worth revisiting this frequently. Hatred is a well both writers have returned to too many times, and while he's a decent enough character when he isn't obsessing over little boy-girls, it's clear that a big reason he's on the show is that his "dirty little weakness" hits the the sweet spot of humor taboo. The set-up here is familiar enough, with Hatred forced into increasingly difficult to resist temptation, and really, what makes the joke not work for me anymore is that there's nothing to it beyond "Heh, it's hilarious because he wants to fuck that ten year-old, and that shouldn't be hilarious at all!" The shock value has worn off by now, and the gag itself never changes. So it's not the worst thing in the world, but it is pretty boring.

Thankfully, the A-story was better. Seeing young Rusty confessing his fears to his father is as horrific as anything we've seen Venture Sr. do in the past, and gave a little more weight to the rest of the ep. At the Boy Adventurers Group Therapy Session, we got a lion's share of sweet comedy gold, with Patton Oswalt as the overweight, sexual dysfunctional ex-Wonder Boy, Seth Green and John Hodgman as Lance and Dale Hale, former mystery solvers who lost their taste for the game when they Menendez'd their father, and Brandon Small as our old friend Action Johnny. Plus Ro-Boy (Chris McCulloch) with his horrifyingly placed reset button. Hearing them chart their miseries in a therapeutic setting was, much like the cold open, unsurprising but satisfyingly clever. And then their therapist is killed by a "two-step viper," so they have to go solve the Mystery of the Stiffening Corpse.

The voice cast here did most of the heavy-lifting. The storyline itself wasn't bad, but at times it came dangerously close to a "going through the motions" vibe, with a return to that good old strip club the "Nighten ales," a fight scene with some pointed sound-effect words ("Cower!" "Jetkick!"), and finally, a visit to Action Johnny's old nemesis Dr. Z, who's living the good life with Mrs. Z, and gives the team the friendly advice that sometimes, it's healthier just to let things go. Apart from the incidental gag lines, the best part here was Rusty's realization at the end that he doesn't even belong in therapy, because he, at least, is an adult. It provided a nice feeling of change in an otherwise static twenty minutes.

Stray Observations:

  • Here's hoping we see more of the failed boy adventurers. ex-Wonder Boy's "Beep boop" as he turned off the "radio" on his belt was a perfect two seconds of sadness.
  • Dean: "They just stay 13 forever." Hatred: "What, did Henry Darger write this?"
  • "I mean, I can't even get an erection unless I'm tied to a chair with a time-bomb taped to my chest."
  • "Did I just kill Premature Ejaculation?"
  • Insult for tonight: "Encyclopedia Brown-Noser"
  • Having Hank dress up as Princess Tinyfeet seemed like all 57 flavors of wrong to me.
Filed Under: TV, The Venture Bros.

More TV Club