Consistently amusing second season from one of the best toons of Nickelodeon's "golden age." Nickelodeon and Shout! Factory keep the fun going with Rocko's Modern Life: Season Two, a two-disc, 13-episode (although it really works out to 23 short toons) collection that should please fans...who aren't too upset about some of these still being edited (at least that's how I understand it). A personal favorite when it originally aired, Rocko's Modern Life still plays well today, nearly twenty years later (yikes!), so fans and newcomers should find this collection to their liking. A couple of fun bonuses help.
Soft-spoken 20-year-old Australian wallaby émigré Rocko (voice talent of Carlos Alazraqui) just wants to putter around his house, take care of his relatively brainless dog, Spunky (Alazraqui), run a jackhammer in his backyard for fun, and work as a clerk at Kind of a Lot o' Comics. However, his comfort zone is continually challenged by the intrusion of his wacky neighbors and friends. Dim-witted, gluttonous steer Heffer Wolfe (voice talent of Tom Kenny) is Rocko's best friend, but his almost zero impulse control wreaks havoc on Rocko's staid existence. Even though he's relatively quiet compared to the garrulous Heffer, Rocko's other friend, Filburt Turtle (voice talent of Mr. Lawrence), a psychosomatic hypochondriac who's constantly nauseated, is as equally adept as Heffer in getting Rocko into trouble. Rocko's neighbor, however, Ed Bighead (voice talent of Charlie Adler), of Conglom-O Corporation ("We Own You") is no friend of Rocko's, and every chance he gets, he tries to sabotage any good times Rocko manages to eke out of his complicated modern life―with Ed's loud-mouthed, pushy wife, Bev (Adler) wishing she could be the cause of some of those "good times" for the cute, cuddly Rocko.
I'm pretty sure I haven't seen Rocko's Modern Life since it originally aired back in the mid-90s (when my eldest daughter and son were just little kids), but I was surprised at how fond were my vague memories of the show. Prior to this second season disc set coming to my mailbox, I don't think I could have fully recounted to you the plots of any of the episodes...but somehow something stayed there in my head, telling me it was a great show (as opposed to the Looney Tunes stuff I grew up on and adored―those are completely burned into my brain). Once I started watching these toons, though (with a new crop of younger kids along for the ride), the charm and wit of the show came immediately back to me (just so we're clear with the emails: love the show, not an expert). I've written before about that "golden age" of Nicktoons, when the channel was new and edgy, and parents could actually sit down and watch a block of toons and game shows with their kids and find something to laugh about together (as opposed to now, where programming seems devoted to moronic tween sitcoms and screaming queen banshees, with parents desperately searching for the escape hatch). So I won't cover that territory again...but I do have to say I miss that exciting feel of those early days of Nick; if Rocko's Modern Life never passed up a chance to spoof the over-industrialization and uniformity of modern life (even to spoofing its own network in this set's opening toon), I can't imagine what creator Joe Murray and his team of animators and writers would make of crushingly sterile Nick now.
Watching all 23 toons here (most episodes are doubled up, giving this season a 13-episode count), I didn't spot a bad apple in the bunch. Not having seen the first season stuff in 15 years or so, I can't offer any comments on if this sophomore season is an improvement or downturn...but I can write that it stays funny right down the line here. I Have No Son!, the season's opener, gives us a funny parody of Nickelodeon and even Rocko's Modern Life in Ralph Bighead's (voice talent of Joe Murray) uncomfortably autobiographical toon, The Fatheads (the studio tour winds up at the "lifeblood" of the toon's "very existence―toys!"). Pipe Dreams is a good example of the casual grossness that Rocko's Modern Life could pull off without really offending anyone (as opposed to the sickly hilarious Ren & Stimpy), with Heffer plugging up Rocko's toilet (Dr. Phil, the pig "Septic Surgeon," sticks his head right down in the bowl, underwater, to see what all the fuss is about). Tickled Pinky, concerning Rocko's soon-to-be cut-out appendix, is quite funny, particularly the hospital's organ room (Elvis' "King Colon" sings Don't Be Cruel―a sick joke with a lot of layers), and Pinky the Appendix's dreams of freedom (flying over the Andes with a Brazilian soccer team is good...but I preferred his wish to drive a flaming bus through a wall of TVs with a stick of dynamite strapped to his head).
Nebbish Filburt becomes Rocko's friend this season, and he gets a funny outing in The Lounge Singer, where he croons like Sinatra ("Bend your prehensile neck my way / And look at me with those diplodopic eyes all day!"). I had forgotten all about Spunky's hilarious parasitic friends Bloaty the Tick (Kenny) and Squirmy the Ringworm (Alazraqui) until I watched Down the Hatch (a funny "Fancy Frolic" for the two, with my favorite gag being the name of their ramshackle boat: the Colon Queen). Even better is Road Rash, a road trip episode for Rocko and Heffer that gets funnier and weirder as it goes along (from the redneck goat going on and on with the directions, to Heff singing Born to Eat Fried Foods, this one is a series' best...and is that the music to The Wild Angels behind the biker gang?). Commuted Sentence has a nice build to it, as Rocko takes public transportation, and experiences how horrible it can be (the guy drooling on him is good, but check out the postal worker's magazine: Psycho Weekly). Rocko's Modern Christmas is nicely bizarre, as well, with one of the funniest gags I've seen in awhile: downtrodden, suicidal Fruitcake Man at the mall flatly intones, "Go ahead and take a gift...I feel nothing," before a kid tears off a piece of his face.
Cruisin' has some terrific Daliesque visuals in this funny outing aboard an old-folks cruise trip, involving The Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, aliens (they look exactly like Heffer), and time travel ("Oh, spit...I'm bald again!"). Uniform Behavior has a funny reference to The Shining when Heffner goes nuts being a security guard at Conglom-O (did the makers of Paul Blart: Mall Cop see this a bunch of times?). Chuck and Leon Chameleon (Kenny and Alazraqui) were two more funny characters I had completely forgotten about, so it was great to see them in the amusing Hair Licked, particularly when they shoot the glamour photos of Rocko. Snowballs has some good physical gags of Rocko skiing "The Devil's Crevice," another example of how much the writers got away with here...while Eyes Capades pushes the censors even further when Rocko visits the jackhammer store: "All your jacking needs!" It doesn't get any dirtier than that in this funny, funny toon.
Here are the 13 episodes of the two disc set, Rocko's Modern Life: Season Two, as described on the back of the disc holder cover:
I Have No Son!
Mr. and Mrs. Bighead's son, Ralph, is estranged from his dad due to being a cartoonist rather than a corporate man like Mr. Bighead wanted.
Pipe Dreams / Tickled Pinky
Rocko has a problem with his plumbing, thanks to Heffer clogging his toilet. / A bout of appendicitis causes Rocko to experience hallucinations about his soon-to-be-departed appendix.
The Lounge Singer / She's The Toad
Filburt realizes his dream of becoming a lounge singer and hits the big time. / On the eve of presenting a huge proposal at work, an overworked Mr. Bighead suffers a nervous breakdown, so Mrs. Bighead fills his position at Conglom-O.
Down The Hatch / Road Rash
When Spunky swallows a Fatheads vitamin pill, Bloaty and Squirmy believe they have discovered an ancient and mysterious object. / Upon finding out the once-famous tourist attraction "Flemm Rock" is slated for demolition, Rock and Heffer decide to hit the open road by motorcycle on a cross-country journey to see the wondrous marvel one last time in all its glory.
Boob Tubed / Commuted Sentence
When Heffer sits too close to the television, his brain is sucked out of his head and into the console, so Rocko and Filburt must travel to TV Central to retrieve it. / A traffic jam and Heffer join forces to cause Rocko to lose his job.
Rocko's Modern Christmas
In this holiday special, Rocko invites everyone, including the Elves, over for Christmas. But Mr. Bighead spreads rumors about the Elves, which ruins the party.
Hut Sut Raw / Kiss Me, I'm Foreign
Rocko, Heffer and Filburt go camping. / When the U.S. government makes the mistake of saying that Rocko is in America illegally, Filburt poses as his spouse to save him from deportation to Australia.
Heffer and Rocko say "bon voyage" to Grandpa Wolfe, who's going on a cruise.
Born to Spawn / Uniform Behavior
It's Filburt's 21st birthday, and the ancient breeding ground of Kerplopitgoes Island calls. / Heffer gets a little taste of authority when he is hired as a security guard.
Hair Licked / Gutter Balls
On the day he is supposed to pose for a newspaper photograph, Rocko is having a very bad hair day. / After a rival bowling team quits the tournament, Mr. Bighead gets Rocko to organize his own team called "The Losers" to bowl against Mr. Bighead's team.
Junk Junkies / Day Of The Flecko
Rocko needs to pay off the pizza man, so he organizes a yard sale. / After Rocko pulls overtime at his job, a housefly named Flecko disrupts his sleep, eventually provoking an enraged Rocko to go on the warpath with a jackhammer.
Snowballs / Frog's Best Friend
On their way to deliver comic books, Rocko and Heffer are distracted by a ski resort. / Mrs. Bighead adopts Earl, the neighborhood's stray dog.
Short Story / Eyes Capade
When he's feeling inadequate due to his short stature, Rocko gets a vertical boost from Really Really Big Man. / Rocko's new glasses break just before the big jackhammer competition.
The full-screen, 1.33:1 transfers for Rocko's Modern Life: Season Two look...okay, with decent-enough color (at times faded looking, or muddy), a soft-to-medium sharp image, and a moderate amount of picture noise. Better than a VHS...but not "restored" by any means. Okay for kids.
The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo audio mixes are quite good, with moderate separation effects and a decent re-recording level. Hiss is present, but not obtrusive. Closed-captions are available.
The original version of the series' pilot, Trash-O-Madness, where Rocko is his original yellow color, has been included, along with a fun feature where creator Joe Murray draws the various characters.
Just as funny as I didn't remember it. I probably hadn't seen Rocko's Modern Life in 15 years or more, but after the first five minutes of this two-disc set played, most of the episodes came right back to me―along with a lot of laughs. One of the best Nick toons from that "golden era," these work just as well today, for fans and newcomers. I'm highly recommending Rocko's Modern Life: Season Two.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.