Rocko’s Modern Life - Complete Series
Directors - Joe Murray
Cast - Tom Kenny, Carlos Alazraqui
Country of Origin - USA
Discs - 8
Distributor - Shout Factory
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 02/17/13
The Series (3/5)
Back in the 80's and 90's, I was one of the only people in my circle of friends who actually had cable TV, being a child of that era that meant a lot of Nickelodeon watching in what could be that channels golden era. Nickelodeon to this day maintains the aesthetic of being a channel targeted for kids, and keeps a slightly off-center perspective in mind for their viewing audience. However, the Nickelodeon of the 80's and early 90's seemed like a different beast entirely.
Nickelodeon as a channel pretty much started as a place to show Canadian import programs like Pinwheel or You Can't Do That On Television (where the trademark Nickelodeon slime takes it's origin from). However, in the early 90's Nickelodeon began to pursue less imports, and started to take production into it's own hands. They did this by building a theme park attraction, and fully functional studio facility called Nickelodeon Studios within Universal Studios in Orlando, and they also brought forth the first generation of what would be known as Nicktoons.
The first 3 Nicktoons were Rugrats, Doug, and Ren & Stimpy, and the advertisements tried to cast them in a very oddball Nickelodeon perspective. The former two tried their damnedest to be good, odd kid shows, but even at the age I was able to discern how awful they were. The third Ren & Stimpy was an absolute madhouse of a cartoon show, and was an absolute smash hit for the channel. It also laid the template for most other Nicktoons that would come like Spongebob Squarepants, Ahhh! Real Monsters, CatDog, and Rocko's Modern Life.
Rocko's Modern Life was the fourth cartoon to come from Nickelodeon's stable, and was created by animator Joe Murray. Even at a young age I could tell the show was targeted for a mature audience, not in the same way a show like Beavis and Butt-head was, but the humor felt deeper and more concise, and while it met the trademark Nickelodeon weirdness quotient there was something else going on underneath the surface that made me like the show just a little bit more.
Obviously going an episodic cartoon show from the 90's there isn't much of a story through the episodes, but the basics for those just catching up is this. Rocko is a wallaby who just recently found himself grown up, and in the real world. He lives in his house with his pet dog Spunky, and the series details his day to day misadventures with his friends like the cow Heffer, the turtle Filburt, and his amphibian neighbors the Bigheads.
When Rocko arrived in my mailbox, I was extremely happy to give this slice of my childhood a revisit. I am usually hesitant to go back to shows I haven't seen in so long in an attempt to preserve my fond memories of them, but I watched an episode on Netflix Instant recently, and although the quality of the image on that was quite shoddy, the show still seemed to retain some of it's charms. However, upon viewing the DVD I was less impressed than I had hoped I'd be. I still enjoyed the show, and a lot of the more adult references and humor that probably went over my head as a child made more sense now, but I did not feel as great a connection to the show.
Watching Rocko's Modern Life now, it feels like a significant piece of 90's animation, but it is also very dated to that era, and unlike certain films and TV programs I could not escape that aspect. The part of me that seemed to enjoy it the most was probably working off nostalgic memory for weekend afternoons watching consecutive episodes of it and cracking up at Rocko's misadventures in an exaggerated version of the reality my parents had to experience every day. That being said, Rocko's Modern Life is still much better than other animated series from the era that I've gone back to. Maybe I was expecting too much, and future revisits will reveal hidden layers and a greater appreciation for the show.
Shout! Factory presents Rocko's Modern Life in a series of solid 1:33:1 full frame transfer that preserves the shows original aspect ratio. The quality of the transfer vary greatly throughout the set, but are solid for the most part. I watched a single episode of Rocko on Netflix Instant a few months prior to receiving this set, which looked absolutely disastrous. I must say in comparison to that experience this set looks quite good. That being said colors do fluctuate in quality episode to episode, and for the most part the image quality is quite soft. I cannot imagine much was done to restore these episodes. That being said these are certainly a quality jump from the VHS tapes, and streaming options out there.
Shout! has presented the audio in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix in English. This track is quite good all the way through. The dialogue, music, and sound effects are mixed well, and everything is completely audible throughout. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks ,or hissing on the track.
Shout! Factory's release of Rocko's Modern life has a few extras strewn about the complete series. The first series does not contain anything in the way of extra features, however, the second disc features a few drawing featurettes, and a pilot for Trash O Madness, which gives Rocko a Simpson-esque yellow skin tone. Season 3 includes some selected scene commentary with Joe Murray where he speaks over some of his favorite moments of the show. The bulk of the extras is on the Season 4 material. We get a 2012 script reading of the episode "Wacky Delly" This script reading features the primary cast of that episode who go on to do a Q and A about Rocko afterward.
Rocko's Modern Life was the high point of Nicktoons animation. I was excited to revisit it, and while it did not exactly meet my very high expectations, it still offered quite a bit of a fun time. The A/V restoration from Shout! is decent, and is certainly an upgrade from VHS and Streaming Options, and the set while not comprehensive in the extras department certainly has some interesting and entertaining bits. Rocko's Modern Life the Complete Series comes Recommended.