DVD Review: Rocko’s Modern Life (Season Three)

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Is there a time requirement before you can declare an animated TV show a classic? Is it like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where a band can’t get nominated until 25 years after their first release? Or a sports hall of fame that requires you retire for five years? Rocko’s Modern Life is 20 years old and yet seems like it aired last week. Rocko the Wallaby (Carlos Alazraqui) is tossed about in a universe that’s out to complicate the simple things. The mild nature eventual gives to either a catatonic state or pure marsupial insanity. Rocko’s Modern Life: Season Three gives another 13 episodes contribute to the legacy of a cute cartoon that had teeth.

“Bye Bye Birdie” makes Rocko and Heffer (Tom Kenny) the cow petsit Filbert (Mr. Lawrence) the turtle’s bird. The small caged animal turns into a holy terror. He pecks everything. He destroys walls. He’s a ready for his own special on Animal Planet. After destroying everything in the neighborhood, the worst happens to it. How will Rocko and Heffer cover their tracks? “Belch of Destiny” has Filbert and Heffer still part of a boy scout troop since they refuse to grow up. Heffer displays an amazing talent to burp speak. “The Emperor’s New Joe” pokes fun at the world of elite coffee shops. Strangely enough that this topic is still hot. “Schnit-heads” is another food cult cartoon. Heffer joins a group that worship sausage. It’s just a shame this pork based cult isn’t real. “Sugar Frosted Frights” is the Halloween special.

“Wacky Delly” is the self-reflective masterpiece of the season. Ralph Bighead has finally completed all his episodes of The Fatheads. He’s ready to get back to creating art. Unfortunately the network reminds him that the contract calls him for him to make them another pilot. He feels trapped until Heffer jokes that it’s easy to make a cartoon. They could make a show about coldcuts. Filbert fears such an idea would ruin Ralph’s career in animation. Raleigh immediately hires Heffer, Filbert and Rocko to make their lame-ass cartoon. He wants to set his career on fire. Trouble is that people dig their Dada weirdness. Even when Ralph gives them tips in hopes of sabotaging their success, their ratings go up. Can anything stop them? Ralph hires his dad to destroy Rocko. “Zanzibar” turns a corporate protest into a musical number.

Rocko’s Modern Life: Season Three wraps up creator Joe Murray’s time at the helm of the series. He would turn over production to Steve Hillenburg (future creator of SpongeBob SquarePants). Murray truly created a series that didn’t feel like a goofy kid show airing on Nickelodeon. There’s biting adult humor mixed in with the animal hijinks. Rocko’s Modern Life ranks up with The Simpsons as animated comedy.

The Episodes
“Bye, Bye Birdie / Belch of Destiny,” “The Emperor’s New Joe / Schnit-heads,” “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 / Fatlands,” “Fortune Cookie / Dear John,” “Speaking Terms / Tooth and Nail,” “Wacky Delly,” “The Big Question / The Big Answer,” “An Elk for Heffer / Scrubbin’ Down Under” and “Zanzibar / Fatal Contraption.”

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers bring out the weirdness in Rocko’s world. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. The mix is fine for an animated show. You get the ears filled with the quirky theme song done by the B-52s.

Selected Scene Commentary by Creator Joe Murray (30:24) lets him talk about his favorite clips. There’s bonus footage from the production studio. He’s got cool Rocko and Heffer stuffed toys on his shelf.

Shout! Factory present Rocko’s Modern Life: Season Three. Starring: Carlos Alarzraqui, Tom Kenny, Mr. Lawrence and Linda Wallem. Boxset contents: 13 episodes on 2 DVDs. Released: July 3, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.