Rocko’s Modern Life is one bizarre show. When my daughter was an infant I recall waking up with her in the wee hours of the morning and catching episodes while trying to lull her back to sleep. Perhaps that’s the best way to enjoy the show, sleep deprived. Or maybe that’s just the best way for me to enjoy the show. Rocko’s Modern Life was a successful series when it aired on Nickelodeon during the early 90’s, lasting four seasons. After it’s cancelation, the animated world was gifted with several other shows thanks to the men who worked on it.
Creator Joe Murray went on to create the critically acclaimed Cartoon Network series, Camp Lazlo, and regular director and eventual show runner, Stephen Hillenburg, went on to create the pop culture phenomenon known as SpongeBob Squarepants. You can look at the crudeness and gross out factors of Rocko and see the blueprint of these future shows, as well as plenty of the cartoons that make it to the air each year.
The star of Rocko’s Modern Life is a wallaby named Rocko, who lives in a rundown house with his dog, Spunky. The great Carlos Alazraqui, who would later appear as a regular on Reno 911, as well as a long career in voice over voiced Rocko. Rocko’s best friend was Heffer, a cow (no kidding) and some actor named Tom Kenny voiced him. The poor guy never made a name for himself after Rocko. Huh? He’s “SpongeBob?” Oh, my bad. Rocko’s other friend was Filburt, a turtle, voiced by Mr. Lawrence (who also went on to work on SpongeBob). Rounding out the central cast was Charlie Adler, a voice over legend. Adler’s most popular characters were Ed and Bev bighead, a couple of toads. Adler, like the rest of the actors, played multiple characters throughout the series run.
Season one is full of ridiculous adventures: an episode devoted to the DMV, a day at the beach, dinner with the Heffers, and a trip to the mall, to name a few. There are many adult themes being dealt with (such as credit card debt and weight issues) that in rewatching some of these episodes I wondered, “who thought this was a kid’s show.” Alas, it was a different time for Nickelodeon. The network was young and willing to take more risks. Remember, this was the channel that introduced us to Ren & Stimpy. In the day and age, I wonder if some of the suggestive jokes and potty humor in Rocko would never make it to air.
This two DVD collection is distributed by Shout! Factory and Nickelodeon. Shout! Factory has a long history of creating beautiful packaging for any DVD release they put out, whether it’s an Academy ward winning film, a cult classic, or a piece of crap. Rocko’s Modern Life is a definitely a beloved series by the people who grew up with it. Shout! Factory has once again done a nice job creating a wonderful box and physical DVD’s.
Sadly, there are no bonus features included with this set. This amazes me since there is a rich history behind the show and I know that all of the artists involved with it are proud of it. I can only imagine that there must be a hold up on Nickelodeon’s end of things. I hope that they remedy this for future season releases as there is definitely a market for discussing the history of animation and influential shows like Rocko’s Modern Life.
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