The correct answer to, “Which The Venture Bros. episodes should I watch?” is “all of them.” None are bad, most are at least very good, and a select few are some of the funniest episodes of any television show in recent memory.
But in case you don’t have time to binge the entire series before season six premieres on Jan. 31 — which, again, you should; real life can’t compete with Princess Tinyfeet — here are eight episodes you should for sure watch.
They’re not necessarily the best episodes of the series (otherwise the list would be season-two top-heavy), but eight that showcase the many stories Venture Bros. can tell with gusto. Here they are, in chronological order.
“Tag Sale – You’re It!” (season one)
Like most comedies, The Venture Bros. didn’t find its groove immediately. It took a few episodes. The initial “this show is something special” moment came during “Tag Sale – You’re It!”, in which Dr. Venture sells some junk around the compound to raise funds. It’s a low concept, but clever way of having gobs of previously introduced heroes and super villains alike in one location, with familiar, character-based humor, like when Master Billy Quizboy and Pete White discuss why Dr. Girlfriend sounds like a construction worker (they suspect it has something to do with a baboon uterus). This is the first episode curious Venture Bros. newcomers should watch.
“Twenty Years to Midnight” (season two)
“Twenty Years to Midnight” takes a familiar trope — a task must be completed in a certain amount of time, or else — and adds a Venture Bros. spin to it. In this case, there’s Dr. Venture’s father telling his son that his “greatest invention” must be finished by tomorrow. Simple enough, relatively speaking, until you add the reappearance of a fake ghost pirate, a tweaked-out Jonny Quest, Stephen Colbert as Richard Impossible (a spoof of the Fantastic Four‘s Mister Fantastic), and best of all, a humanity-judging robot named the Grand Galactic Inquisitor. But don’t worry, IGNORE HIM.
“Showdown at Cremation Creek (Part I and II)” (season two)
When the Monarch promises to stop arching Dr. Venture, Dr. Girlfriend agrees to take his hand in marriage. It’s not happily ever after, though, when drunk butterfly henchmen kidnap Dr. Venture. To reconcile the situation, the Monarch tells his fiancée that Dr. Venture’s his best man. There’s plenty of comedy to be mined there, but “Cremation Creek” goes further than that, roping in Phantom Limb (who kidnaps Dr. Girlfriend), David Bowie (or a shapeshifter who’s actually the Sovereign of the Guild of Calamitous Intent), Iggy Pop, and a weird subplot with Dean hallucinating. The two-part “Showdown at Cremation Creek” is not your typical wedding episode.
“The Lepidopterists” (season three)
Good vs. Evil. That’s the basis for millions of stories in Western culture. But it’s not that simple on The Venture Bros. There aren’t good guys and bad guys — there are protagonists and antagonists, less offensive, opinion-less terms. Jonas Jr. (the protagonist) wants to straight-up murder the Monarch (the antagonist), but he can’t. There are henchmen aboard the Floating Cocoon, with innocent wives and kids. What about them? Do they deserve to be victims of circumstance? That’s not to say Jonas Jr. and the Monarch can’t fight to the death, but there are rules, and “The Lepidopterists” does a fine job of explaining them — while still throwing in a Voltron parody.
“Operation: P.R.O.M.” (season four)
“Operation: P.R.O.M.” is The Venture Bros.‘ masterpiece. It’s an extra-long episode that allows the plots, of which there about 4,284, room to breathe. Because there are so many characters, 22 minutes often isn’t enough. Given twice that, Dr. Venture throws Hank and Dean a “home school prom,” which at first seems like merely an excuse for Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer to come up with Urban Dictionary-like definitions for what a “Rusty Venture” is. But “P.R.O.M.” quickly becomes much more than that, with scenes set in space, below the Venture compound, and on a winding road, where Brock faces off against Molotov Cocktease. The only thing predictable about this masterfully paced, hilarious episode — which ends with escorts becoming fly mutants while a Pulp song plays, naturally — is that it’s unpredictable.
“Everybody Comes to Hank’s” (season four)
Hank has four days to find a job. Instead of getting a paper route or delivering pizza, he sets up shop in the garage and takes on multiple jobs. Hank’s a notary, a skilled businessperson and a private eye who takes items from around his dad’s house and sells them back to him at an inflated price. It’s a black-and-white parody of film noir, with colorful dialogue from Hank, whose good-natured personality works in humorous contrast to his hard-boiled dick lifestyle. There’s deception, intrigue, and a shocking revelation about who Dermott’s father is. It’s a memorable episode not only for Hank, who finally loses his virginity, but viewers, too.
“Spanakopita!” (season five)
Dr. Venture is usually a deeply unpleasant man, haunted by the notion that he’s not nearly as smart as his father was. He takes his insecurities out on his boys, and basically everyone he meets. That’s what’s so refreshing about “Spanakopita!” It’s maybe not the best episode of season five, but it’s a rare glimpse at the Dr. Venture that could have been. He’s cheery and exuberant, happily showing Sgt. Hatred, Billy Quizboy, and Pete White around the isle of Spanikos during the titular annual festival. Naturally, there’s some deception involved, but not from Dr. Venture. He’s too busy celebrating Spanakopita!
“All This and Gargantua-2” (special)
Because it’s the most recent (and very good) episode, and a lot happened.