I’ve been grooving on The Venture Brothers for a while now. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a 30-minute show on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block of programming. The Venture Brothers started out as a semi-parody of the old Johnny Quest series, but has since grown into its own twisted, hilarious thing.
Ben Edlund is friends of the show’s two creators. Edlund is the guy behind the Tick, and has worked on Firefly and Angel. If you saw the puppet episode of Angel, you’ve seen his work. He’s turned in a couple of scripts for The Venture Brothers, the most recent of which, “¡Viva los Muertos!”, played this week. The episode contained an off-kilter parody of the Scooby Doo gang in their later years. Fred was replaced by Ted, a bully who manipulated the others. Daphne had become Patty, compliant and beaten down by life. Velma was now Val, chain-smoking her way through the episode and explaining how the Y chromosome is an incomplete X chromosome and therefore men are but damaged women. Shaggy had become Sonny, drugged out and distraught that no one but he ever heard Scooby — pardon me, Groovy — talk, and Groovy kept telling him to kill prostitutes. Edlund had gone beyond the obvious “ha ha, they’re all stoner hippies” jokes and made them all disturbing psychopaths.
I didn’t realize it until a friend pointed it out to me, but they were all psychopaths because they were based on real-life crazy people from the 1960s and 1970s, the heyday of Scooby Doo. Ted is Ted Bundy, he of the charming personality and thirty deaths to his credit. Patty is Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped and brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army. Val is Valerie Solanas, who wrote the S.C.U.M. Manifesto and shot Andy Warhol. Sonny was David Berkowitz, better known as the Son of Sam, the serial killer who claimed that his neighbor’s dog told him to kill.
And that is how you turn a parody into something far more disturbing.