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From The Ladle To The Grave: The Shallow Gravy Story

  • Original Air Date:
    August 28, 2011
  • Written by:
    Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer
  • Production Number:
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Jump To: Summary | Capsule | Notes
All-time score of 4.0 with 163 votes


See the Venture Family as you've never seen them before: in a 15-minute documentary-style animated special. Follow the meteoric rise, the equally meteoric fall, and the decidedly un-meteor-like second coming of the most important band Hank Venture, Dermott Fitctel and H.E.L.P.eR. robot have ever been in: Shallow Gravy. If you’re hungry for rock, then open wide, because here comes a ladle of heavy metal fire and metaphoric meat drippings.


Three dark riders came to save the soul of rock with a ladle of heavy metal fire and metaphoric meat drippings.

We set the world on fire with our sound!

Technically it was my kitchen we set on fire.


This is a story of failure and triumph, then some more failure and triumph. Then and explosion and more failure. Followed by double-triumph. This is the story of Shallow Gravy.

Done documentary style, the narrator explains that the band is the most important since... the Beatles, but they didn't always begin that way. The narrator continues that Hank was first the 'better looking son' of Dr. Venture. Doc explains in an interview that music runs in the family. Remember his musical?

We cut to Brock and Shoreleave in a hotel room wearing suits. Brock is cleaning off a bloody knife and explains that he gave Hank a bass for Christmas one year and he started a band the next day. We cut to Hank who says that Brock gave him lessons and taught him a mnemonic device to remember the strings. Every Adversary Dies Gloriously. The narrator notes that Hank's solo efforts were well received but his 'band' was missing something...

Something... or someone like Dermott Fictel.

Wasn't around a lot when I was a kid. Was on the lam. Busted out of juvee after hitting a kid with the Touch of Death.

He said what? Oh please. He lived here his whole life with his sister.

The narrator explains that Dermott is a master of various martial arts that may or may not be real and that he was clearly destined for bigger things. We interview Nikki next who notes that Dermott used to sing Spice Girls songs a lot when he was younger.

Two young travelers on the same road paved with hard rock dreams. Fate drew them together as if one was a magnet that was attracted to trouble and the other was negatively charged trouble.

We then learn the story of how Hank and Dermott met, which of course we already witnessed during the events of "The Buddy System". Dermott's mother explains that she told Dermott to meet her father since he lives right up the road. Dr. Venture seems surprised that Dermott met his father there, but notes that Brock is a bit of a 'gadabout'. He gets around.

I was teaching like a baby version of judo to the campers and this fat kid starts up with this crap!

Shore leave shoots someone out the window with a silenced sniper rifle.

Turned out to be a complete waste of my time because nobody at that dork fest was cool enough to be related to me.

You ever want to kick a kid's ass but you can't?!

Yeah but me and Hank totally hit it off. Dude, did you talk to his wimp-ass brother yet? Fuckin' decked his ass.

He is such a liar! I decked him!

We see a 'dramatic' reenactment of Hank and Dermott meeting for the first time and are introduced to the final member of Shallow Gravy, HELPeR.

Dr. Venture explains how he used to program HELPeR with songs for parties and everyone could sing along with him. That's right, he invented karaoke.

The narrator notes that, now that the band was complete they started practicing and the local press took notice.

Well the Home News back then wasn't the slick weekly it is today. I mean it had all the hard-hitting facts that my readers demand but it was dittoed and stapled on the side.

Shortly after the band put their music on cassette to get it out there.

We then interview the mysterious "Viceroy" who has his face and voice obscured, though there's something kind of familiar with him. Hmmm. Either way he notes that the cassette contained one song that sounded like thirty minutes of an exploding car made out of basses. Awesome. Hank notes that their music 'back then' was more raw.

Well Hank's new wave was rubbing off on me and my fuckin' no guts, no glory attitude was rubbing off on him. We're just rubbing off on each other. Totally not in the gay way though.

New drummer, a release and press coverage meant things were looking up for the band... until tragedy struck. We are of course talking about the car accident/explosion from the end of "The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together, Part II" where HELPeR (and 24) died. 21, uh I mean, "Viceroy" is not happy about that being brought up, noting that a guy was in the car too. Dr. Venture notes that even though hundreds of lives were lost that day it's still tough when one of them is a family member. Hank talks about how one second HELPeR was here and the next he was everywhere... Brock points at the plate in his chest, remembering his time when HELPeR was wedged in there.

Hey here's something for your goofy little slide show. I broke up the band. So, uh, suck on that, America.

And just like that Shallow Gravy was over. Hank apparently spent the entire summer practicing and actually got good at the bass. Dermott was bummed too, though seemingly not as much. Then out of nowhere one day Hank called him up and played a killer riff over his phone... from his watch phone.

Yeah I wrote those lyrics in one night. Song used to be called "Jack". It was about Jack the Ripper.

It was all about some old guy that killed people or something. I said: "That'll never sell." You know what sells? Jackets.

It was around this time that Doc rebuilt HELPeR.

HELPeR was a family member, and when you lose a family member what do you do? Cry? No! You rebuild him! That's the Venture way!

So HELPeR's back and he's huge and spider-like. Everything's awesome and I go: "Hank, new name. Shallow Grave."

Hank explains that HELPeR thought it was pretentious and unfairly pigeonholed them, so they changed the name to Shallow Gravy. Though Dr. Venture got kind of tired of hearing the song over and over, so he gave them his dad's old van and they went on tour. They called it the gravy boat. Get it?

Their road trip was short lived, however, mainly due to the price gas for a gigantic, ancient van hauling a 900 pound drummer. However all was well when they landed the gig of a lifetime... the prom. The greatest show they ever played.

Aww, people were like tearing off their clothes and pulling off their pants!

Dermott took off his shirt I think, is that what he meant?

More importantly the prom gig brought the band to the attention of 'local amateur DJ and sometimes scientist', Pete White.

Magic. They had it all, I mean, a great bass sound, a pissed off frontman.

And a robot!

A real robot! Not like those Kraftwerk phonies. Listen, boy bands are always hot. I wanted to get them into the studio immediately.

Yeah, before they were a man band.

Pete spent a lot of time on production, which Hank seemed to enjoy but Dermott thought was over-produced.

"Jacket" hit the scene like a storm that rained molten lead instead of regular water, and it burned the pe- I just can't say these things.

You gotta read it! Why you stopping? Go!

It's just a silly line.

But this is the best part! This is the big finish!

Did you boys write this?

Shallow Gravy isn't just a band. It's best friends that made a movement. [snickers] Movement.

Yeah, I never found my father, but I found my brother. In rock! The world will know the names Hank Venture and Dermott Fictel.

Wait, Fictel?! And, and he's s- s- seventeen? No, no, no, that's... I um- [stutters] this interview is over! [exits]

That's the end of our story, but not the end of Shallow Gravy. This is just the beginning.


  • A short preview for this episode, along with the full Shallow Gravy music video for "Jacket" premiered during the Venture Bros. panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2011 on July 22nd. Originally the entire episode was to be shown then (with Adult Swim planning to air it two days later on the 24th) but the episode could not be completed in time. Doc Hammer had this to say about it:

    The special isn't the full thing. [AS] will air the full, glorious special right on your TV not that long after the con. So you're not really missing anything. It's like bunch of people listened to a clip of a Beatles song in 1968, then like a month later in 1968, everybody who wanted to hear the whole song got to. Now it's 2011 and who the fuck cares. Most of us heard the Beatles like 30 years later and it didn't make a difference. It's just bragging rights... Okay, rotten analogy. Whatever. I just wanted to compare us to the Beatles.

    The episode air date was later changed to August 28th.

  • In anticipation of the episode a digital EP was released on August 23rd with five versions of the song plus the music video. Versions included (along with the original 'single edit') an unplugged version, a live version, an orchestral version and a 'Conjechno Remix'.

  • This episode was animated at Titmouse Studios, making it only the second episode not to be animated at the Korean animation studio used by World Leaders (the other one being the pilot). Future episodes (starting with season five) will also be produced at Titmouse as far as pre-production goes (storyboarding, writing and so on), though the animation will still be done at the same studio as before since animating full episodes at Titmouse would be too expensive. Titmouse also fully produces Metalocalypse and SuperJail! (starting with season two) for Adult Swim.

  • The episode itself is styled after VH1's popular documentary series Behind The Music series which examines the history of various rock artists and groups, though often ones who were no longer in the music industry at the time of the documentary filming or who were only moderately significant to music. That is perhaps fitting.

  • While Dr. Venture is being introduced we see a character model sheet of The Rusty Venture Show version of him. This is actually based on the same character sheets used for the Venture Bros., though the logos were changed for obvious reasons.

  • In case you were wondering the customary mnemonic device for remembering bass strings is not 'Every Adversary Dies Gloriously' though maybe it should be. There generally isn't one for bass strings since they only have four strings. A six string bass is often tuned to BEADGC or EADGBE.

  • This has been covered before, but it's interesting that the events of "A Very Venture Christmas" are often referenced as the origin of Hank's bass. However the majority of that episode was Dr. Venture's dream sequence. In this episode we even see a scene from the same (or a very similar) Christmas party from the Christmas special, including Steve Summers and Sasquatch and the original Team Venture as party guests. However it can be explained away with relative ease since it's likely Dr. Venture would dream about something he had already experienced.

  • It goes without saying but Dermott has a Dethklok poster on his wall.

  • Show co-creators Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer are in Dermott's yearbook as Christopher Esson and Eric Faulkman. Jackson's real name is Christopher McCulloch and Doc's is Eric Hammer. This is the second time they have appeared in the show after being seen on the jury in "Trial of the Monarch".

  • The text behind HELPeR indicates that he was invented in 1966, which would make HELPeR 45 years old at the time this episode aired (assuming it takes place in the present day).

  • During the flashback where Dr. Venture explains that he invented karaoke he is singing "Rio" by Duran Duran (though you can't hear it of course).

  • "The local press [taking] notice" is a reference of course to Dean's home-spun newspaper "The Venture Home News" (seen in many episodes), but more specifically the scene in "Tears of a Sea Cow" where Hank and Dermott get Dean to agree to write a story about their new band.

  • "Jacket" was apparently originally about Jack the Ripper, who was an unidentified serial killer who committed many of his crimes in 1888 in London.

  • The design of "The Gravy Boat" is based on the Dymaxion car, which is a concept car designed in 1933 by Buckminster Fuller. Fuller is probably best known for inventing the geodisc dome, which is a spherical or partial sphere built out of circle discs. The most well known example of this structure is probably Spaceship Earth at Epcot. Fuller also coined the term 'Spaceship Earth'. The Dymaxion car itself was teardrop shaped and had only three wheels with two in the front and one in the back with the rear wheel steering the car. The car's fuel efficiency was 30 miles per gallon and could transport eleven passengers. Fulller also claimed it could reach a top speed of 120 miles per hour though the fastest documented speed was 90mph. Many thanks to Casey in the comments for pointing this out!

  • The scene where Hank is talking about renaming the band from Shallow Grave to Shallow Gravy contains a scene with the band on the roof of the Venture Compound. This is a reference to the Beatles famous rooftop concert filmed for the Let It Be film. John Lennon wore a coat similar to the one Dermott was wearing, though he wore a shirt under it.

    The scene also invokes Aerosmith to some extent, with Dermott's microphone stand having a handkerchief tied to it similar to Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler doing the same with a scarf.

    Furthermore Dermott's line when Dr. Venture tells them to keep it down, "I think we're being shut down" is from U2's video for "Where The Streets Have No Name" (skip to the end, around 6:30 if you want to hear the line) which itself was an homage to the Beatles' rooftop concert and subsequent shutdown. Thanks to mikeybot in the comments for mentioning that bit.

  • Pete mentions Kraftwerk as being phonies because they don't have a real robot in their band. This is due to the lyrics for many of their songs being sung through a vocoder or generated by text-to-speech software giving them a robotic sound.

  • The narrator refers to Pete and Billy as "an albino Brian Eno and a hydrocephalic Martin Hannett", which refers to English musician/composer/producer Brian Eno and record producer Martin Hannett. Eno has worked with a number of acts over the years, including David Bowie, Talking Heads, Robert Fripp and U2 and previously appeared in the series as "Eon", a high-ranking member of the Guild of Calamitous Intent in "The Revenge Society". Hannett is best known for developing Joy Division and producing many of their songs. Thanks to James Mandible in the comments for mentioning that I left this out.

  • A few things about the future and past of the series are potentially revealed during this episode. Notably the Monarch admits that he 'broke up the band' which seems to indicate he was the one who blew up the Monarchmobile and killed 24 (and HELPeR to a lesser extent).

    We also see Brock and Shoreleave on a mission wearing black suits with red ties, which are the same uniforms that agents Doe and Cardholder wore. This potentially means both Brock and Shoreleave have been given generous promotions and are now second in line at OSI after Hunter.

    "Viceroy" is of course Henchman 21, or Gary as he seems to prefer now. He remains in his SPHINX uniform and has pretty clearly quit by this point. The status of SPINX, as noted after "Operation P.R.O.M.", is still unknown.

    Another potentially important moment is Dr. Venture's realization that Dermott is his son. Further consequences of this realization remain to be seen, of course, but now pretty much everyone in the show except Hank, Dean and Dermott know the truth. Thanks to Mogo in the comments for mentioning that I forgot this tidbit!

  • The music video version of "Jacket" at the end of the episode is shorter than the full version found on the EP. The part missing in the video starts with 'flight jacket' and extends to the denim jacket verse (which is in the song).

  • The complete lyrics (based on the songs on the EP) to "Jacket" follow:

    Yellow. Jacket.
    Straight. Jacket.
    Smoking. Jacket.
    Full metal jacket!

    Flack. Jacket.
    Leather. Jacket.
    Varsity. Jacket.
    It's Brock's jacket!

    Puffy. Jacket.
    Bulletproof. Jacket.
    Track. Jacket.
    Woolen. Jacket.

    Flight. Jacket.
    Favorite. Jacket.
    Steel. Jacket.
    Motorcycle jacket!

    These are the coats we wear
    Of devil's plaid and witch's hair
    Jackets are everywhere!

    With a hood, or a belt,
    or a sleeveless one
    Doesn't count, that's a vest
    called a jerkin

    Cotton. Jacket.
    Baby. Jacket.
    Life. Jacket.
    Eight ball jacket!

    One button. Jacket.
    Two button. Jacket.
    Three button. Jacket.
    [A] Four button jacket!

    Snorkel. Jacket.
    Fancy. Jacket.
    Your. Jacket.
    Plaid jacket!

    Dungaree. Jacket.
    Jean. Jacket.
    Denim. Jacket.
    They're all the same jacket!

    You are my outer wear
    my special coat, without a tear
    Jackets are everywhere!

    With a hood, or a belt,
    or a sleeveless one
    Doesn't count, that's a vest
    called a jerkin

    [Two, three, four]

    Fonzie's. Jacket.
    Bolero. Jacket.
    Tuxedo. Jacket.
    [An] Eisenhower jacket!

    Nehru. Jacket.
    Satin. Jacket.
    Riding. Jacket.
    Technicolor jacket!

    Welding. Jacket.
    Child's. Jacket.
    Driving. Jacket.
    Reversible jacket!

    Members Only. Jacket.
    Padded. Jacket.
    Fringed. Jacket.
    Double-breasted jacket!

    These are the coats we wear
    Of devil's plaid and witch's hair
    Jackets are everywhere!

    You are my outer wear
    My special coat, without a tear
    Jackets are everywhere!

    With a hood, or a belt,
    or a sleeveless one
    Doesn't count, that's a vest
    called a jerkin

    We're all wearing jackets

    Note that a few of the jackets in the song are not actual jackets (as in coats). These include full metal jacket, which is a type of bullet (soft metal encased in a harder metal), yellow jacket, which is a kind of wasp, and steel jacket which can also refer to a bullet but also cabling and apparently a type of Kung Fu.

    Some of the potentially more obscure jackets mentioned include a Nehru jacket, which you may be familiar with from Hadji in Jonny Quest and also was Dr. Evil's coat of choice in the Austin Powers film series. A Bolero jacket is commonly called a shrug and is generally knitted with a short length but with long sleeves.

    The Eisenhower jacket is a military coat that is cropped at the waist. It was mandated by General (later President) Dwight Eisenhower because the lengthier coats used by the military proved to be unfit for combat situations during World War II. The Eisenhower jacket eventually paved the way for windbreakers since it became so popular among golfers.

    'Technicolor jacket' is a reference to the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (which was also referenced in "Shadowman 9"). Members Only jacket refers to the clothing line of the same name which was extremely popular in the 1980s.

    The song also repeatedly mentions that a jerkin doesn't count, which may be true though a jerkin is technically a sleeveless jacket (which I suppose could also be called a vest).

    Finally, the chorus of the song notes that their coats are "of devil's plaid and witch's hair" which is a reference to a certain type of plaid pattern called 'devil's plaid'. This pattern is sometimes used for the inner lining of some jackets. 'Witch's hair' is a bit more mysterious as it's a common name for a species of parasitic plant, but it could also just be something Dermott thought sounded cool. Many thanks to Dean Swift in the comments for pointing out the lyric is not "devil's plant" as I originally had it listed as.

  • The music video itself contains possibly the highest number of references ever packed into the show at one time. Almost every distinct scene in the video is a reference to a music video. I am also 100% certain I couldn't figure out a bunch of them, so please send in additions!

  • In the opening scene (set in a dump) HELPeR has makup on similar to the makeup Peter Criss wore as the drummer for KISS. KISS was of course notable for its bandmembers wearing face paint and insane stage outfits, with Criss being 'The Catman'. Thanks to Rodger in the comments for noticing that.

  • The chair Dermott is sitting in, as well as Dermott's outfit in the scenes that appear washed out (almost sepia) in a field (with a piano on the left) is at least a partial reference to the video for 3rd Bass's "Pop Goes The Weasel" (skip to around 1:17 to see the chair). Thanks to Nikki Xmas and CDSPUNKNY for knowing that.

  • The scene with Dermott singing on a cliff (often with other band members behind him) is a reference to the video for "One Last Breath" by Creed, which takes place almost entirely on a cliff, often with the lead singer's shirt billowing in the wind. Dermott isn't wearing a shirt of course, so there's less billowing, but the effect is the same. Thanks (once again) to Nikki Xmas for pointing that one out (inspired by Doc Hammer's comments in the "Assisted Suicide" commentary).

  • Speaking of the cliffs, the first time they are shown behind Dermott you can see Hank in his Batman costume.

  • Scenes with the band running through a forest (with motion blur) are probably references to the video for "Jeremy" by Pearl Jam. The video includes words that flash up on the screen, similarly styled to the word "Jacket" that appears to be scratched into some film. The video also contains a scene of the titular character, Jeremy, running through a forest shirtless similar to Hank and Dermott. Skip to around 2:45 into the video linked above to see the corresponding scene. Thanks to mikeybot in the comments (and a couple other people, but he was first I believe) for pointing that out.

  • The scene where Dermott is singing in the Venture kitchen which is on fire is a reference to the video for Billy Joel's song "We Didn't Start The Fire", the entirety of which takes place in a kitchen similar to the Venture kitchen (though it's only on fire during the chorus). Thanks to Nikki Xmas for her hints on Tumblr.

    Also it's worth noting that during the documentary portion of the episode Dermott says "we set the world on fire" and Hank says that it was actually their kitchen that was set on fire. That is of course foreshadowing this scene int he video.

  • The 'Eisenhower jacket' scene is likely a reference to the film Patton which famously opens with General Patton (played by George C. Scott) giving a speech in front of a huge American flag backdrop. The scene was used for the majority of the film's promotional material and has become extremely iconic in American film. Interestingly enough Patton, a five-star general, served under Dwight Eisenhower during World War II until his death in 1945.

    Also of interest is that Hank is saluting with the wrong hand.

  • The scene where Hank is jumping into the frame while Dermott holds up a card with the name of the jacket written on it is a reference to the video for the Bob Dylan song "Subterranean Homesick Blues". If you're thinking it's a reference to another video, you're both wrong and right. Dylan's video is from 1965 and pre-dates all other videos that use the convention, which is somewhat of a popular one due to it being the precursor to modern music videos.

  • The quick scene where Pete is standing (while the boys proclaim 'double-breasted jacket!') is a reference to the DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince video "Parents Just Don't Understand". Specifically the background. Thanks again to Nikki for the hot tip!

  • Dean's dance towards the end of the video while wearing a devil costume is a reference to the video for "Venus" by Bananarama. Skip to around 1:10 to see that. Once more, Nikki Xmas, ladies and gentlemen!

  • Also towards the end the black and white scene where Hank and Dermott are carrying a photo of HELPeR and Brock is a reference to the video for Joy Division's "Atmosphere".

Episode Cast

Chris McCulloch Hank Venture
The Monarch
Pete White
Doc Hammer Dermott Fictel
Billy Quizboy
James Urbaniak Dr. Venture
Patrick Warburton Brock Samson
Michael Sinterniklaas Dean Venture
Kate McKinnon Margaret Fictel
Nikki Fictel
Bill Hader Narrator


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