At long last, The Venture Bros. are back. This Sunday, season five will make it's much anticipated premiere. More than two years have passed since the rousing conclusion of the show's fourth season on Adult Swim.
Although it didn't take long for word to spread that the popular animated series was picked up for fifth and sixth seasons, it did take a while for new episodes to come to fruition. In the meantime, the team behind the show released a music video and exposé for the Venture compound's house band, Shallow Gravy, and a Halloween special.
Recently, we caught up with Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, the masterminds of the Venture universe, to talk about the things you might not necessarily know about the show.
1. Only two people write The Venture Bros.
If you're the sort of person who constantly checks out the credits, or if you hit up The Venture Bros. panels at San Diego Comic-Con, you probably know that Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer write all of the episodes. (In this case, you may also know that Ben Edlund, of The Tick and Supernatural, wrote “¡Viva Los Muertos!” and has story credits for “Guess Who's Coming to State Dinner?” and “Careers in Science,” but those are exceptions.)
That Publick and Hammer are the sole writers for the series is unusual in the world of television, where, typically, you'll see several people with various writerly credits on a single episode. “We don't have a think tank. We don't have a writer's room,” says Hammer. “It really is just two people.”
Publick and Hammer write the season premieres and finales together. For the rest of the season, they alternate episodes. There's a good reason for that kind of schedule. “It's supposed to mean that we each get a month to write a script because we have to turn in one every two weeks once we get going,” says Publick.
2. The same two writers also direct and edit the show.
Even more unusual is that the two writers also have directing and editing responsibilities. Publick is the director for many of the series' episodes. Hammer handles editing duties. On top of that, both of them voice multiple characters and handle other odds and ends on the show.
“That's one of the reasons why it takes so long,” says Publick of the often lengthy stretches of time that pass between seasons.
Animation is an incredibly long process. It takes several months to get one episode from pre-production to to completion. “It gets nuts in the middle [of the production cycle] because you'll have five or six episodes that are in various stages of production and you just have to deal with that,” says Publick. “You're editing the animatic for one while you're revising the storyboards for another while another one is being designed and another is being colored and you're recording another one.”
“And you're writing another episode,” Hammer adds.
3. The length of time it takes to write an episode varies.
Publick and Hammer give themselves a month to write a single episode, but that's not necessarily the way it works. Take two episodes from season four, “Everybody Comes to Hank's” and “Bright Lights, Dean City,” as examples. The two were originally conceived as a single episode penned by both writers. In the end, the former was written by Hammer in about three days. The latter took Publick somewhere around two months to finish.
“I wrote my part in this fury overnight, turned it in the next day to Jackson,” says Hammer. “And he says it's good and we're late on scripts, so open it up and make it a full episode.”
Meanwhile, Publick struggled with his end of the story. “My half is probably one of my record longest writing sessions,” he admits. “I was having a lot of trouble with it, just paring it down. I had a lot of stuff. I was the most miserable I've ever been on this show when I was writing that episode. I don't know why. I think it was just because it was late in the season and I was exhausted and unhappy with the production.”
There are days when they write a lot and days when they don't. “I've had days where I've spent an entire day having less than when I've started,” says Hammer. “I write a lot and then, the next day, it's all removal and reconsidering what my point was.”
4. Season four could have been the end of the series. Obviously, it wasn't.
Season four was an interesting group of stories from The Venture Bros. team. It was split up in two parts. Half of the episodes aired in the fall of 2009, the other half reached the small screen almost a year later. It consists of some of the strongest episodes of the series, but they're also some of the darkest and most dramatic. By the time the show headed into the hour-long season finale, “Operation P.R.O.M.,” it wasn't a stretch for fans to wonder if this was the end of the show.
“Season four, probably, when we started it, I thought it would be the last,” says Publick. “Certainly, when we expanded it to be longer and in two halves, I thought that's about it.”
It wasn't until the two started working on a rewrite of the season finale- – which was originally written as a half-hour episode — that Publick thought the show had more in its future. Somewhere in the process of finishing the fourth season, they came up with the ideas for a fifth one. Four of those stories, they say, should be in the forthcoming season.
“We practically nailed the entire story in one conversation,” says Publick of season five's evolution. They called their agents to let them know that they wanted to do another run. Ultimately, The Venture Bros. was picked up for two more seasons. And, in case you're wondering, they already have ideas for a sixth season.
“Somewhere in the middle of season five, we started getting interested in six,” says Hammer.
“Actually even before that,” Publick notes. “When we started talking about five, we kind of knew what six would be.”
5. It takes a lot of talking to get The Venture Bros. written.
There's not traditional writers' room for The Venture Bros., but that doesn't mean that these two scribes work in complete isolation.
“Before we start the season, we do a lot of talking,” says Hammer. “It's not just writing down what everyone is going to do and where the season goes. It's talking about what we're excited about and making up scenes and characters.”
The chats are important because they essentially dictate what will happen during the course of the season. “Then we have to pay attention to who makes those things happen,” Hammer explains.
Once they start writing individually, they may or may not edit each other's work. “We don't do it that much,” says Publick.
“There are episodes that Jackson turned in and I didn't read until the day before we recorded it,” Hammer concedes.
If they are going to review each other's scripts, it typically happens in the earliest episodes of the season. “Usually, there's a little more back and forth in the first couple of episodes,” Publick explains, “partially because we have more time, partially because every season we've messed with our characters or we have an arc that we've discussed and we're checking in with each other.”