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!
Pipe Dreams / Tickled Pinky
The Lounge Singer / She's The Toad
Down The Hatch / Road Rash
Boob Tubed / Commuted Sentence
Rocko's Modern Christmas
Hut Sut Raw / Kiss Me, I'm Foreign
Born to Spawn / Uniform Behavior
Hair Licked / Gutter Balls
Junk Junkies / Day Of The Flecko
Snowballs / Frog's Best Friend
Short Story / Eyes Capade
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.