Those hoping for a nostalgia kick when they pop in the season one DVD of Rocko’s Modern Life will not be disappointed. This Nicktoons-loving ’90s kid blazed through all 13 episodes in no time, and I was pleasantly surprised to find all sorts of odds and ends from the show loosening in my subconscious, despite the fact it’d been more than a decade since I’d seen it last.
Joe Murray’s series, which originally ran on Nickelodeon from 1993 to 1996, is part of the longstanding tradition of ostensible children’s programming that toes the line (and sometimes, just jumps over) of more adult sensibilities. There are double entendres littered throughout the series, not to mention the fact that Rocko’s problems and the twisted, surreal situations they place him in aren’t really part of most kids’ lives. I mean, what kid has to deal the temptations of credit cards, the minutiae of the DMV, or the advances of his or her sexually aggressive toad neighbor?
The good-naturedness of wallaby Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui) is matched by the dimwittedness of his best friend Heffer Wolfe (Tom Kenny), a steer, and the pressures of the modern world. Rocko can count on Heffer and his similarly dense dog Spunky, but it can seem as if everyone else is against him, including perpetually irate neighbor Mr. Bighead (Charlie Adler).
A great deal of the charm of Rocko’s Modern Life comes in its exquisite grotesquerie — the bodies of its characters are constantly being squished and squeezed into bizarre shapes, with various bodily gunk usually being squirted out as a result. The animation is often viscerally unpleasant, which works out as the perfect match with the show’s dark sense of humor. I’ll probably always associate Rocko’s Modern Life with childhood, but I think I appreciate it now more as an adult.
The season one DVD from Shout! Factory splits the 13 episodes onto two discs. A number of Rocko episodes were trimmed by network censors after their original airings, and by some accounts, original materials for the offending segments no longer exist. To my knowledge, the only season one episode that suffered this fate is “The Good, The Bad and The Wallaby,” which had a scene of Heffer getting pleasured by a milking machine. The episode presented here is the censored version with this scene cut.
Otherwise, it’s a solid set, with picture quality that’s wavering and occasionally artifact-laced, but certainly watchable. There aren’t any extras, but some chatter over at the Shout! forums hints at some special features for future seasons.