An Open Letter to
Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer
Only a two-part finale stands between us and the end The Venture Bros. season three. Which is leading many fans to start turning their excitement toward the inevitable DVD. Aw, hell, let’s admit it…we’ve been salivating over the idea of a DVD since the end of Shadowman 9.
Yet there was a statement from (creator/writer/Monarch) Jackson Publick on his livejournal that made me kind of sad:
This season’s DVD set will be relatively light on special features, since we’re too busy making the show and we don’t really have any good ideas for any. We will be doing commentary, however, and we’re currently scouring our old animatics for potential deleted scenes, but that’s about it.
Now let me get a few things straight before I go any further:
1) The DVD will be worth buying on the strength of the episodes alone.
2) We are used to Adult Swim DVDs being light on the special features.
3) Commentary and deleted scenes really are the most valuable extras anyway.
And, hey, let me add a fourth:
4) I understand completely that working on season four is your prime concern right now, and I’d much rather have a solid fourth season than a few more extras on the season three DVD.
But then I started to wonder what other extras might be available for season three, without Jackson or Doc Hammer having to invest much time or effort in getting them together…mainly because a lot of this stuff already exists, and just remains to be archived in official DVD format.
So, here, below…with the hopes that either Jackson or Doc might stumble across this…is a list of pre-existing material that I think most fans would more than appreciate finding on their season three sets. (And below that is another list of extras that I’m sure we’d all like to see, if a little bit of time could be spared to put them together.)
Possible extras that already exist:
—The Buddy System video commentary
After The Buddy System aired on Adult Swim, the network uploaded this “video commentary” to their official website. It’s basically a collection of clips featuring Jackson and Doc, on a couch, commenting on what’s happening in the show, the geneses of certain ideas, and a whole lot of excellent, irrelevant chatter. I’ll be honest here and say I wasn’t sure how this video commentary thing was supposed to work…do I watch a scene from the show and then try to find the appropriate clip of Jackson and Doc? Why does the episode continue on the right no matter what explanation I’m watching? No matter. Watching all of the Jackson/Doc clips back to back was more than rewarding and informational enough. Why not string them together for a featurette on the DVD?
—ORB video commentary
Hey, look! Another video commentary for the most recent episode. As before, the discussion clips work just fine when watched one after another. Also, as before, the dreaded “BUFFERING: 5%” message fast wore out its welcome. How nice would this be to watch on our televisions, which load videos significantly faster? Also, the fact of the matter is that this is good stuff, and it deserves to be archived along with the appropriate episodes. It’s not just filler; this is stuff worth watching that’s going to be helplessly buried on the Adult Swim site in a few weeks and never seen again. And, hey, by simply slapping this and The Buddy System’s video commentary onto your disc, you just bought yourself an hour’s worth of additional special features, for no more time or money than what you’ve invested already!
We learn in the above commentary that ORB was timed out to run something like 7 minutes too long. That’s practically a whole act’s worth of material. While I’m sure the majority of edits came before production of the episode began, would it be possible to stick Doc’s full, original script on the DVD as a pdf? I’m sure the fans would be interested in reading that, especially as it’s an episode structured as a puzzle, which Doc claims made a lot more sense before he had to go tearing sections out of it.
—Comic Con footage (w/commentary)
This selection of audience questions and responses by Jackson Publick and Michael Sinterniklaas (Dean Venture) would make for a great special feature. Both Jackson and Michael come across as witty and very friendly guys (and damned if you shouldn’t want that fantastic stubble archived for all eternity, Jackson…) and the audience interaction is priceless. An extended cut would be nice, but, hey, we can live with the same edit found on the Adult Swim site. And since you’re recording commentary for the episodes, feel free to throw some added value this way with some commentary on the short feature. Talk about Comic Con as a whole…your experiences with the fans…anything. Sure, I might be a bit selfish here with the commentary request…but the edited footage exists already…get it on the disc! (I have been informed that clearance may be an issue with something like this, as everyone who is seen or heard would have to specifically allow the usage of their appearance. I’m unfamiliar with Comic Con, so I assume it’s not unlikely that attendence at the event is in itself a sort of tacit acknowledgment that footage may be used in other projects—but if not, I understand.)
—season three teaser
Why not? It’s an exciting enough collection of clips on its own, and it went a loooooong way toward getting the fans speculating before the season began. On top of that, the prom night joke alone justifies its inclusion. Again: it’s already edited. Use it!
—season two DVD commercial (w/commentary)
Why not? This didn’t make it onto the season two DVD, and since you’re short on features this time around, toss it on! A truly exhilarating collection of clips set to one of Thirlwell’s best tunes yet (which is saying a lot), and a great hypnotic intro to kick it all off. This is worth including…the specially-produced introduction is both hilarious and dense…people will have to watch it a few times to pick up on all of the “subliminal” messages. Give them the chance! (And, hey, this is a damn good and inventive trailer. Why not spice it up with some commentary?)
—Venture Bros. season one commercials
As long as we’re taking the chance to archive things we didn’t get to include before, why not dig up the commercials Adult Swim aired in support of season one? I don’t mean any “Next week on The Venture Bros…” stuff…I mean those character-specific commercials they aired…a collection of clips from the show spotlighting a certain character. I know there was one for Dr. Venture (which began with his “torn from the pages of Kafka…” monologue), one for Brock (which ended, I think, with his Molotov-related boner), and possibly one for The Monarch as well. (I’m not sure, but I seem to recall his “I am rubber and you are glue” line being used to promote the show…) Dig em up. Slap em on!
—telephone calls from prison
Audio of two telephone calls placed by The Monarch while he was in prison. One to his henchmen, and one to Dr. Girlfriend. Yes, we can find them online, but the internet is transient. Sites go up and down all the time. MP3s are deleted, lost, mislabeled. Give these excellent character pieces a home on the DVD as an audio-only extra. I know they’re out of date by now…but it’s still Venture material, and if it’s on the DVD it’ll be something everyone can enjoy years from now, regardless of whether or not the original files have survived.
—isolated music cues
Okay, okay, I know J.G. Thirlwell is planning on releasing a Venture Bros. soundtrack. I’m so excited by that prospect that I promise I won’t bug you for any uncut tracks from the show’s score. (I can wait…as long as the soundtrack includes that cute little tune that plays while the children discover Race Bannon’s body, and while Brock gives the Ventures a lice inspection.) But why not stick some of the specially-composed songs on the DVD? You can find the Henchmen’s Wedding Song and Revv Me Up online, but what about the excellent Mitre Storm? (In case you don’t recognize that title, it’s the song that plays while Myra and Rusty pork.) Or the OSI jingle from this season? Since those songs aren’t Thirlwell’s and aren’t likely to be on his soundtrack, why not include them yourself?
Extras that can be produced if time permits:
—Comic Con footage from years past
If clearance (as discussed above) isn’t an issue, YouTube is full of clips from conventions and Q&A sessions. Could a featurette be produced simply by stringing pieces of this footage together? Of course! And what’s more, just about any fan would be thrilled to have his/her footage used on your DVD, so you wouldn’t necessarily even have to provide any of your own. Put out a call for recorded footage and have an intern string it together. Then take that intern out to lunch. And give him a hug for me. (Or a grope, if it’s a woman intern.)
—season three DVD artwork featurette with Billy/Pete narration
How did that “real life Ventures” photo shoot for the DVD cover go? Hopefully somebody was on hand, shooting at least a little bit of footage of the event. Nobody outside of the production has seen the cover art yet…and yet we’re intrigued. Why not stitch together some footage of the event (if it exists) and have Billy and Pete narrate it for us in the vein of their featurettes for seasons one and two?
—Shirt Club featurette with Billy/Pete narration
Or, hey, how about this one? Shirt Club was a huge success for you guys…grab a video camera and take some long panning shots of the supplies and equipment used to fill our orders…we’d love to hear about the process, and I’m sure Billy and Pete would love to discuss it. (Or even, hey, Henchmen 21 and 24. I’m sure those guys would have plenty to say…)
—J.G. Thirlwell featurette
The man behind the music. The Venture Bros. owes a lot of its atmosphere and impact to Thirlwell’s excellent (excellent, excellent) score…wouldn’t it be interesting to fix a camera on him and have him discuss his craft? His inspirations? Maybe walk us through his process for setting each episode of the show to music? He’s an enormous part of The Venture Bros. and we hardly know anything about him. I’d love to see a feature on the man.
—interviews with voice cast
When do the actors start recording for season four? If it’s before this DVD comes out, grab a camera and get a few quick interviews with the men and women who make the characters come alive. If it’s not that soon, keep it in mind for the eventual season four DVD. I’d love to hear Urbaniak discuss (on video) his approach to characters as different as Dr. Venture and Phantom Limb. Or Stephen Ratazzi guiding us through the mind of Orpheus. Hell, I don’t even mind if Jackson and Doc spend the whole thing discussing their characters. We’re fascinated by these creations…any small insight into the process is hugely welcome.
—footage of voice cast performing
Few things are more fascinating in the world than seeing a voice actor at work. It’s amazing how an actor can change so little on the outside and yet produce something entirely different vocally. How much fun would it be to fix a camera on Urbaniak, Sinterniklaas or Ratazzi (or Mia Barron, or Charles Parnell…) while they record their lines? I’d love to see even a short feature constructed of these clips. I understand a few of the actors are recorded cross-country via telephone lines, but why not set a camera on Doc and Jackson while they listen to Patrick Warburton (or whomever) and provide him with feedback and notes on the performance? Just hearing Warburton performing moose-cry after moose-cry must be worth the price of admission alone…
In conclusion…yeah, I understand. I’m oversimplifying. By a huge amount, I’m sure. But the above wishlist is constructed out of love, and out of a great respect for such an excellent program. It deserves a great DVD. And while I’m sure that the commentaries and deleted scenes will be more than entertaining enough, I can’t help but think even one or two of the extras listed above would only increase the value of the set.
Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer: thanks for the excellent season so far. It is with great respect that I submit the above to you, in the hopes that you will accept it for what it is, and understand that it’s not a premature critique of any kind.
Yours in Frith,