As one of the many bright spots in 1990s animation, Rocko's Modern Life (1993-96) picked up a strong following during its time on Nickelodeon. 52 two-part weekly episodes starred Rocko the wallaby and a small cast of supporting characters, including his dog Spunky, friend Heifer and neighbors The Bigheads. Rocko's Modern Life was a true "cartoon's cartoon", chock full of wacky plots, questionable physics and very little running continuity...and fans wouldn't have it any other way. Created by animator Joe Murray, this wasn't the first animated series from that era with a semi-regular dosage of off-color sight gags (see also: Ren and Stimpy, Animaniacs, etc.), but Rocko certainly got away with plenty of close calls during its original broadcast run. Though many of the syndicated episodes trimmed away some of Rocko's more "offensive" bits, what's left is still a sterling example of animation for immature children of all ages.
Rocko's Modern Life differs from most cartoons of the era, in that it's unquestionably aimed at adults... but kids still came along for the ride. Creator Joe Murray has admitted to not writing Rocko with younger audiences in mind, aiming for unexpected stories that didn't rely on conventional cartoon methods. By and large, this four-season run is remarkably consistent in quality: though Murray and members of his creative team felt that Rocko hit its stride during Season Three, there's very little dead weight in any of these 52 episodes. Even during Season Four, after Murray handed the series over to producer Stephen "Spongebob" Hillenburg, the subversive, surreal spirit of Rocko was still present. It's as much a testament to the talented voice actors, writers and artists as it is to the commitment of Murray's original vision.
Shout Factory's continued efforts have ensured that all four seasons of Rocko's Modern Life have now seen the light of day on DVD, though a stand-alone release of that fourth season is coming very soon. This eight-disc collection serves up all 52 episodes in one handy package...and if that wasn't enough, it'll only cost you about the same price as your average one-season animated release. It's worth noting that the first six discs (Seasons One, Two, and Three) are identical to the stand-alone sets, from the disc art all the way to the bonus content. This means, of course, that these episodes are still the slightly edited syndication versions; from what I understand, this is only because Shout Factory wasn't able to nab the original cuts from Nickelodeon. An unavoidable problem, but one that's worth mentioning... and if you're that interested in seeing a few cut scenes, just head over to YouTube. Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby.
Each of these four seasons includes just 13 episodes, and they're divided neatly between all eight discs. The bonus features often include direct input from Joe Murray, who also created a few pieces of all-new artwork for this collection (including the top image, which serves as the interior packaging spread).
List of Episodes
Disc One: "No Pain, No Gain" / "Who Gives a Buck?", "Leap Frogs" / "Bedfellows", "Jet Scream" / "Dirty Dog", "Keeping Up With the Bigheads" / "Skid Marks", "Power Trip" / "To Heck and Back",
"The Good, The Bad and the Wallaby" / "Trash-O-Madness", "Spitballs" / "Popcorn Pandemonium"
Disc Two: "A Sucker For the Suck-O-Matic" / "Canned", "Carnival Knowledge" / "Sand In Your Navel", "Cabin Fever" / "Rinse and Spit", "Rocko's Happy Sack" / "Flu-In-U-Enza", "Who's For Dinner?" / "Love Spanked", "Clean Lovin'" / "Unbalanced Load"
Disc Three: "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"
Disc Four: "Cruisin'", "Born to Spawn" / "Uniform Behavior", "Hair Licked" / "Gutter Balls", "Junk Junkies" / "Day Of The Flecko", "Snowballs" / "Frog's Best Friend", "Short Story" / "Eyes Capade"
Disc Five: "Bye Bye Birdy" / "Belch of Destiny", "The Emperor's New Joe" / "Schnitheads",
"Sugar Frosted Frights" / "Ed is Dead", "Fish 'n Chumps" / "Camera Shy", "Nothing to Sneeze At" / "Old Fogey Froggy", "Manic Mechanic" / "Rocko's Happy Vermin", "I See London, I See France" / "The Fatlands"
Disc Six: "Fortune Cookie" / "Dear John",
"Speaking Terms" / "Tooth and Nail", "Wacky Delly", "The Big Question" / "The Big Answer",
"An Elk for Heffer" / "Scrubbin' Down Under", "Zanzibar" (The Recycle Show) / "Fatal Contraption"
Disc Seven: "With Friends Like These" / "Sailing the 7 Z's", "Pranksters" / "From Here to Maternity", "Ed Good, Rocko Bad" / "Teed Off", "Wimp on the Barbie" / "Yarn Benders", "Mama's Boy" / "Feisty Geist", "S.W.A.K." / "Magic Meatball", "Closet Clown" / "Seat to Stardom"
Disc Eight: "The High Five of Doom" / "Fly Burgers", "Heff in a Handbasket" / "Wallaby on Wheels", "Dumbells" / "Rug Birds", "Hypno-Puppy Luv" / "Driving Mrs. Wolfe", "Put to Pasture" / "Future Schlock", "Turkey Time" / "Floundering Fathers"
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in their original 1.33:1 format, these episodes look a little rough...but for the most part, some of the problems can be easily overlooked. Color levels seem to vary on many occasions, and this doesn't always appear to be an intentional thing. Black levels are also very inconsistent, while image detail leans heavily towards the soft side. Frequent amounts of interlacing can also be spotted along the way, which may hamper your enjoyment of certain episodes. More than likely, the source material given to Shout Factory was in less-than-ideal condition, so it's doubtful that some of these problems could be fixed up. In any case, what's here is still marginally better than what the average broadcast version looked like.
The audio presentation is a bit more satisfying; each episode is presented with the original Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix and sounds just fine. Music cues feel dynamic without overpowering the rest of this presentation, while the dialogue and other effects are generally free from hiss, distortion and other such problems. Unfortunately, no optional Closed Captions or subtitles are included during these episodes.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the static menu designs offer simple, problem-free navigation. Each two-segment episode has been divided into halves and a handy "Play All" option is included for each disc. This eight-disc set is housed in a clear double-width keepcase with multiple hinges. Colorful artwork by Joe Murray adorns the inside and outside of the keepcase, as well as each of the eight discs. Unfortunately, no episode list is printed anywhere...so unless you're watching these chronologically, use the handy list provided above.
The same as before, if you're familiar with the individual releases. Season One includes no extras, while Season Two (Disc Four) serves up the vintage 1992 "Trash-O-Madness" Pilot
(featuring Rocko's original yellow appearance, below left) and four brief but enjoyable Drawing Featurettes
with creator Joe Murray. Season Three (Disc Six) includes a nice chunk of Selected Scene Commentary
with Murray; this relaxed interview includes clips from his favorite episodes including "Wacky Delly", "Bye Bye Birdy" and more.
New to fans (and undoubtedly included with the forthcoming Season Four collection) is a 2012 Script Reading of "Wacky Delly" (Disc Eight, below right) recorded at LA's Downtown Independent Theater on October 6th. Hosted by voice acting legend Rob Paulsen, this event also features Joe Murray and voice actors Carlos "Rocko" Alazraqui, Tom "Heffer" Kenny, Charles "Ed Bighead" Adler, Doug "Filburt" Lawrence and a burping audience member. After the reading, our group participates in a relaxed Q&A session and shares plenty of memories. Overall, it's a nice inclusion that die-hard fans should enjoy checking out.
Some of the 1990s' best animated shows have received little or no exposure on DVD, but Shout Factory finished up their run of Rocko's Modern Life a little sooner than expected (unless you're waiting for the stand-alone Season Four release, of course). This compact and inexpensive eight-disc set doesn't add anything to what we've already gotten, so it's aimed squarely at those who haven't picked up all of the previous releases. Though the A/V presentation remains dodgy and we still don't get the uncut episodes, what's here should satisfy anyone looking for a cheap classic Nicktoons fix. Firmly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.