Rocko’s Modern Life series review

I’ll admit, I was kind of looking for a verbal fight when I got into a little discussion with CryptDaddy on Twitter. When he took the position of, “The Tiny Toon Adventures reboot will probably be good.” All I could think was, “Yeah, sure, like the Teen Titans reboot, the Doug sequel, Powerpuff Girls sequel, Dexter sequel, She-Ra reboot, Thundercats reboot (Roar, not that anime-lookin’ 2011 reboot which may actually be good albeit unfinished), and Hey Arnold Jungle movie.” Not to mention I’m not getting my hopes up with the Animaniacs reboot, given that they’re already going into girl power mode with the advertisement.

Hence to say I’m not expecting any “Hellooooo nurse!” lines, let alone nurses that are actually attractive, without some reprimand on Wacko and Yacko for even attempting to utter that line.

But I consider myself fair and honest. So I’m willing to give defenders a shot if they know something I don’t. So I asked CryptDaddy for some examples of good reboots (honestly, if he wasn’t a cripple, I’d think he was trying to be like the Crypt Keeper from Tales from the Crypt; though considering the crypt keeper is usually sitting down anyway…). He responded with three that he claims are good. Well, two of them were basically epilogue movies to shows (so like the Hey Arnold Jungle Movie), while one of them is an actual reboot of a show. Let’s see if they’re up to snuff, shall we? And see if my slow-wits can compete with CryptDaddy’s quick-wits regarding television shows made for half-wits.

And honestly, I’ve been looking for an excuse to dive head-first into these shows anyway. Starting with Rocko’s Modern Life.


Rocko’s Modern Life, the Series

Rated:

  • Season 1: 3.5 / 5
  • Season 2: 3.5 / 5
  • Season 3: 3 / 5
  • Season 4: 2 / 5

Right from the first episode, this has some solid satire on consumerism. How credit cards are bad, and what’s most important (friendship). How a healthy body is important, but the cons may outweigh the pros if getting involved with a special in-group (with a good social credit score) means you have to leave behind your out of shape friend. Friendship, the central theme to the first episode. They’re handled rather well, with some surprising violence (and sexual innuendo) that can be attributed to the shows controversial status (alongside Ren & Stimpy, except I enjoy this show better).

The tricky thing about this series though, it’s difficult to get a hold of it uncut. They edited a respectable number of episodes. More about what they edited can be found on the Rocko’s Modern Life Fandom Wiki.

But anyway, you watch enough episodes from different shows during this time period, you eventually start to see patterns. It’s like there’s either a mandatory requirement to have specific episodes covering specific topics, or because these shows can’t be THAT indistinguishable from one another. There’s always some episode about the power of friendship, some episode warning about the dangers of drugs/addiction (which is hypocritical considering what the animators must’ve been smoking to come up with some of this shit), some episode about the importance of family, a holiday special, a pro-diversity episode (because we can’t take that for granted regarding the diverse amount of wacky and zany characters), how women can be just as good if not better than men at certain tasks (including corporate jobs), and something kosher. But in all fairness, the kosher stuff was subtle enough to be considered absent.

Anyway, some notes on the episodes that stuck out:

S1 E1: No Pain, No Gain / Who Gives a Buck: Pretty damn good start to the series. With episodes covering getting your body in shape, being apart of a special in-group and what you would have to sacrifice (friendship), and the dangers of credit cards and credit and the addiction of spending without care.

S1 E5: To Heck and Back: One of the few episodes where it’s directly addressed how shitty of a friend Heffer is at times. How he’s such a leech and a glutton, whose value in friendship is only seen occasionally. So then he goes to “heck” after choking to death on a bone at the Chokey Chicken restaurant (whose name would be edited to Chewy Chicken in Season 4), and gets a reality check. Which he practically forgets about afterwards. Ha.

S1 E11: Rocko’s Happy Sack: This is the one episode I remember from when I was a kid. Going around a Supermarket while everything is 99% off, the turmoil that comes from shopping amidst that (like Black Friday), and desperately trying to get to the cash register before the sales time expires. Similar to why I never do Black Friday shopping.

S2 E3: She’s the Toad: Hey Arnold had an episode similar to this. Where the husband is unable to work at his corporate job for reasons, so the wife not only fills in his role, but ends up doing a better job than the husband. In Hey Arnold, she ends up quitting and getting the husband back into work partly because her daughter misses the initial family dynamic around the house, which has to do with how miserable of a state the husband is in while being jobless; how he loafs around lazily with no purpose and does nothing constructive. And the mother is never around to do the things she usually does, make breakfast/lunch/dinner, drive the kids to school, etc. Granted, this simplified things considerably, and makes the husband out to be a major bum who couldn’t possibly function normally without his work (let alone trying to find work elsewhere, though that might be more accurate to today than back then), but at least the importance of having a family dynamic is acknowledged. In the case of this episode on Rocko’s Modern Life, she just quits and gets her husband back into the job because she knows this is best, because “she’s never wrong.” Hey Arnold handled it better, but this is still decent as-is.

S2 E4 Down the Hatch, they do a bend the spoon mentally moment which makes me think the Watchowski’s ripped this off for The Matrix.

S2 E6 Rocko’s Modern Christmas: Actually a fairly good Christmas episode, better than Hey Arnold’s Christmas episode.

S2 E7 Kiss Me, I’m Foreign, illegal immigration episode done in a similar style as Born in East LA where a case of mistaken identity (or something like that) threatens deportation for Rocko. Except it ends up turning into I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, without the gay angle and just being a metaphor for how marriages disintegrate. And a subtle indication on how immigration officials are metaphorically married to judges. Never bashes you over the head with the messages as hard as either of those movies do (let alone as hard as anything made today).

S2 E11 Junk Junkies: There’s this really great moment in this episode where this guy is trying to buy a pogo stick off of Rocko, but Rocko has sentimental attachments to it, some nostalgic memories that mean a lot to him. And then the guy trying to buy it off of him says this line to him: “It’s just a pogo stick, nothing more! It’s the memories we attach to it that are important, not the pogo stick itself.” Such a good line, even if the toxic money and a bit of the aftermath indicate it was the wrong choice selling that item. A surprisingly thought-provoking moment in a show like this. And then this one moment with Heffer comes afterwards that is absolutely shocking and hilarious at the same time. Just wish it went a little further about the necessity of letting go of past materialistic items, like how Tibetan sand art is created and destroyed to illustrate this very message. Regardless, just the fact that the episode even has this line, making one seriously wonder, even if just for a moment, how valuable something can really be.

S2 E12 Frog’s Best Friend: This was the episode where I couldn’t ignore this trope that’s been plaguing sitcoms since forever. How the wife (Bev) gets the better end of the stick than the husband (Ed). The husband, always the butt of the jokes, always the one taking the physical hits and damage. All the stuff that the wife never takes. Of course the wife can intimidate the evil dog into submission, while it brings harm and terror to everyone else who is incapable of doing the same. I wouldn’t mind this so much if there was an episode where the same thing happened to the wife. And given how Bev has a deep manly-ish voice, that can’t be asking for too much. The reason this trope annoys me so much now is that it has evolved in modern times into being a film/television tradition of women having the upper hand over men in virtually all aspects. I mean, I know Ed is one of the main asshole characters of the show, but still, it’s not like he’s shown to be completely heartless throughout the series. Back in the 90s and earlier, this trope was more accepted because it was a parody of the stereotype (and real life fact) of men being superior to women, of being the ones women relied on for financial income, support, and family, while the men had to rely on women for companionship, love, and being an integral part of the family unit. Nowadays, thanks to tropes like this and bullshit feminist movements, women are considered too good for any of that. Maybe when all that changes I’ll look more fondly on stuff like this episode. Until then, it’s more pain than pleasure. Though it was hilarious to see the dog eat the fairy.

S2 E13 Eyes-Capades: Just another episode I remember from when I was a kid. Glasses, eyesight, and a jackhammer competition.

S3 E8 Fortune Cookie: Another episode I remember from childhood. Fun maniacal episode (aren’t they all) that pokes a bit of fun at itself regarding the intro sequence of each episode.

S3 E10 Wacky Deli: Oh man, talk about an episode predicting how fucking dumb cartoons would become. And a sad testament to the fate of certain animation creators. The mindless low common denominator viewers it caters to. The dumbing of a nation. And the corporation that couldn’t care less so long as they get the views and the dollars.

S3 E11 The Big Question / The Big Answer: I knew something like this was coming, I was just wondering what it would look like when it arrived. Inter-species marriage as a metaphor for interracial marriage which subliminally promotes having each race of humans to intermix. The idea being “we can all get along,” while ignoring the downsides of the melting pot and “browning” of species, among other stuff. Let’s just say white nationalists, black nationalists, asian nationalists, whatever-other nationalists, have strong opinions about this sort of message that many were somewhat oblivious to back in the day. I won’t go much further into it than that, and just fall back on the unreliable, “But it’s just a kids show,” argument, partly out of laziness, but mostly out of “it’s just not worth it for this.” But I will bring up that I felt the show already covered ground on this sort of thing, with Heffer, the retarded steer, being raised by wolves. And with one of the wolves in Heffer’s family transitioning from deadbeat to crossdresser/tranny deadbeat (among some other characters), you’d think they had the diversity quota’s covered too. But anyway, this episode pretty much goes the way you expect. The turtle and the cat get married and live together happily.

S3 E12 An Elk for Heffer: Now this is interesting. It’s similar to the previous episode, except it’s more of a boyfriend/girlfriend issue than a marriage issue. And it ends on the opposite note, indicating a steer and elk are better off separated. As if too much inter-species mixing, wolves and steers and elks, ends up causing too much conflict and ends up being a bad thing. While also leaving off on the note of, “But we can still be friends, kind of.” So while it’s true there was an amount of wokeness in these 90s shows, they at least had a sort of balancing act going on with them. On that note, big missed opportunity with the 2nd act of this episode titled Scrubbin’ Down Under when they mentioned “brainwashing.” If only they actually did something with that.

S4 E2 From Here to Maternity: This is fucking hilarious when, despite how the episode handles this, it implies the Dentist/Doctor/Teacher/cat hook lady (Dr. Paula Hutchison) had an affair with Heffer.


Unfortunately, what I heard about this series before (re)visiting it is true. There’s a dropoff in quality (not animation quality) during the second half of this series. It’s not too bad in season 3, as there’s still some decent noteworthy episodes. But by the time it got to season 4, it was clear this show was past its prime and should’ve ended earlier. Thankfully they didn’t drag this carcass around after that, except for one final short film.

Final film aside, the first two seasons are good enough. Consistently wacky and zany (though I say the first season is the best), and fairly good social commentary that takes enough wildshots in every direction that it can be said it satirizes everyone and everything. Excessive in everything, from the violence, the sexual innuendos, how over-the-top it makes any and every situation. It’s a prime example of what cartoons are made for, especially hand-drawn 2D animation which computerized animation can never replace (it’s just not as fluid as something like this requires, at least for this style). But as the series goes on, and I can’t believe I’m saying this is a downside, it becomes more focused. Like it went from 1080 drugged out hippy rainbow colors and unicorn space odyssey vision to something more, well, normalized and mellowed out. It still has energy and over-the-top situations, but they’re more typical and dialed down a notch. It’s like they wanted to recreate the wild west of the first couple seasons in a controlled environment while remaining drug free, which just isn’t possible. Even when the earlier seasons covered a topic that I’m normally against I still couldn’t help but enjoy this stuff because of how scattered and dialed to 11 everything was (I couldn’t stay irritated). Not so with the later seasons, especially the fourth season.

On top of that, the character of Rocko changed a bit between seasons 2 and 3, and even more-so in season 4. Initially, as the intro to each episode indicates, Rocko is just some young blank slate innocent wanting to experience all the things there are in the world. He means well with much of what he does, but almost always winds up in these crazy situations (partly out of naivety). He acted as a conduit for the intended audience of young impressionable viewers to experience the world, to have an introduction to lessons they were likely to experience in the real world (albeit in a less crazy over-the-top fashion, hopefully). While the other intended older audience could laugh their asses off at the themes and metaphors and references that would fly over the heads of said impressionable viewers. He was a perfect main protagonist for the show. But then in later seasons, he became more bitter and angry overall. I mean, I guess that’s a natural progression for how the real world can transform the once innocent and impressionable minds, but it was still less entertaining overall as a result. Hell, even Heffer became more of an asshole in the later seasons. So did Filburt for that matter, who became less shy and more easily angered and bitter.

Plus there were no more “How Dare You!” moments.

As for the overall woke factor, I’d give the first two seasons a 1/5, maybe 2/5 at worst. The last two seasons though, they alter between 2/5 and 3/5. They became more about delivering the message in whatever metaphorical way they can so long as the message is clear enough, as opposed to just twisting those metaphors every which way they can and squeezing as much fun out of them as possible in the first two seasons. I’d just settle for 2/5 if judging the entire series as a whole.

As for the movie…

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