Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series DVD Review

Rocko’s Modern Life was one of those Nicktoons that mixed child and adult tastes alike, thus creating a show that appeals to both demographics. It’s the kind of series that sports a brightly colored, and overall endearing outward appearance, only to reveal its more adult attitude upon re-watches. And with today marking its official Complete Series release, you can now check just how much of the show’s humor actually makes sense to you now.

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STORY

To describe the literal premise of Rocko would be similar to doing so for Spongebob Squarepants (coincidentally, some of the Rocko cast did move on to Spongebob in later years) in that the literal goings-on in both shows don’t come close to describing their appeal. Rocko is a young-adult wallaby that lives with his less than intelligent pet dog Spunky, works at a comicbook shop, and has two offbeat friends in Filburt and Heffer. But while Rocko plays the straight man in most situations, nearly everyone else around him gives the series its quirky, comical, attitude. From Filburt, the odd-job worker dating a dentist, to Heffer the steer adopted by a pack of wolves, the series is definitely defined by its supporting cast.

When most people speak of the show, they always refer to its adult humor and are surprised by the kind of material they were able to get away with in a children’s cartoon. And while I don’t fully disagree, I will say that Nickelodeon, along with other networks at the time, were in an era of experimenting with what works and what doesn’t and thus were able and willing to take more risks with what they were airing. And while we don’t exactly have shows featuring superheroes shoving their nipples into the eyes of a pigeon to prevent it from crapping on a statue, we have shown that humor that doesn’t speak down to their audiences proves to have a strong, lasting factor. Such lastability may not always be in the form of episode count, but it will be guaranteed in the form of a loyal fanbase.

PACKAGING/PRESENTATION

Rocko consists of four seasons total, with 13 episodes per season and the set totaling at 8 discs. While each season does have its own separate release on DVD, this release repackages the discs from those releases into one convenient thick-pack transparent DVD casing slightly thinner than two standard-sized DVD cases. DVD art takes what looks to be old promo art from the series re-drawn, while the DVD cover (both the front and its reversed side) features new art drawn by series creator Joe Murray himself. The art between those on the discs and those on the cover is distinctly different in style, but bringing in Murray for the release of this set was a nice touch.

dmncap00003DVD menus are standard, static images coupled with off-vocal versions of the Rocko theme (season 1’s theme song is different from 3-4 and such is reflected on the menus). The one exception to this being season 4’s menus, which start off by a slight animation of a character bouncing in front of the screen before the actual menu kicks in.

My only complaint here is the complete lack of a physical listing for which disc has which episodes and special features. Having to pop in a disc before knowing which episodes are on it is a pain. Thankfully, from what I’ve seen so far, the episodes themselves are in the same order as on Wikipedia, slightly makes up for the inconvenience. And for future reference, the special features are on the second disc of each season, with exception to season one which doesn’t have any.

In terms of video quality, it’s more or less what you’d expect from a ’90s cartoon. There’s some noticeable wear near the top of the video at times, but is otherwise good enough quality and definitely a step up from your old VHS tapes. In some cases, the opening animation will cut to Nickelodeon’s ’90s logos before cutting to the series’ title card, which I’m assuming is the way the episode originally aired.

dmncap00001Another complaint to note would be the still apparent censoring in certain episodes. I’m not sure on absolutely every edit made, but the one that most fans are aware of is in the Season 2 episode “Road Rash,” in which Rocko and Heffer end up sleeping at a love hotel. Sadly, for the purists out there, the scene is only hinted at with a shot of the hotel, but the rest cut. Still, other episodes seem to be intact, innuendos and all. And in the case that they aren’t, it doesn’t detract from the episodes in the slightest.

EXTRAS

Although the majority of the series’ more defining episodes comes from season 3 and 4, the appeal of having the complete series (besides the completionist’s impulse) was the poster signed by show creator Joe Murray that came with pre-orders—all for the low price of $30 + ~$10 shipping. Autographed copies have since been sold out, but if you act now, Shout Factory’s site may still have unsigned posters available with the order of the set.

Considering how bare bones most DVD releases for shows from this era are, I was surprised to find this set having any kind of bonus features on them. Again, my only complaint is the lack of indication as to which feature is on which disc, so I’ll break things down accordingly:

  • “Trash-O-Madness” Original Pilot Version (Season 2, Disc 2): As the name implies, it’s the original pilot for the series. Skimming through it, the main differences are audio, and a different opening sequence (some bits from this old opening clearly being re-done for the opening used for the main series).
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  • Behind-The-Characters Shorts (Season 2, Disc 2): Murray goes over the inspiration behind select characters, followed by him actually drawing the character in question. These clips are actually available on his YouTube channel along his extensive collection of other videos.
  • Season 3 Selected Scene Commentary (Season 3, Disc 2): Murray goes over fan-sent questions about the series, mainly covering general behind-the-scenes info about fan-favorite episodes. His commentary itself tends to ramble at times, but is an interesting watch nonetheless.
  • “Wacky Delly” Live 2012 with Joe Murray and the Cast (Season 4, Disc 2): Perhaps the best extra in the set—a complete script read of the episode, “Wacky Delly, part 1” with the original cast (Rocko, Filburt, Heffer, and the Bigheads). Each actor still carries the same level, if not more, of enthusiasm in their line deliveries, and their voices for their according characters remains spot-on. The script read is followed by the cast reflecting on how they came to be involved with the show. Clocking in at slightly under an hour, it’s quite the treat to see for those that missed out on the actual event (though the audio does seem to switch between a more natural, to a microphone-echo-ey sound at times).

OVERALL

As a whole, Rocko’s Modern Life remains one of those stand-out animated works of the ‘90s when the Wild West that was cable TV let so much more slide. It’s not a perfect release, with the “Road Rash” episode still edited, but that isn’t enough to take away from the show’s comical punch. Definitely a worthy purchase.

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About daemoncorps
Gabe (daemoncorps) has been writing about anime and the like since 2005, but has been babysat by it for much longer. He primarily spends his days distracting himself on twitter or writing for Fandom Post until he realizes he has a weekly webcomic (tapastic.com/series/scramblebouquet) to work on. He also just finished writing his first full-length graphic novel about unemployment (https://tapastic.com/episode/293804).

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