Rocko’s Modern Life & Unwitting Longevity

The good people at Shout! Factory recently sent over a copy of the complete Rocko’s Modern Life on DVD and while slowly working my way through it, something struck me: it was totally unwitting in its longevity! Don’t believe me? Check out these reasons why.

It Was Created in a Time Before DVD

Yes, VHS was about, but at a time when feature films were selling for $30, the notion of putting an entire series out on home media was barely a glimmer in an executive’s eye. Animated TV shows were put out with the understanding (especially on cable networks) that their lifespan was limited. Once they ended production, there was hope for only a few years of reruns before new content took over.

Thankfully, that situation didn’t last forever, and the dominance of DVD was spurred on by consumer demand for content that previously never had a release. That trend continues today. Even with the transition to digital distribution already well under way, DVD continues to offer features not found in online streams or even torrents. Things like commentaries, shorts and the 2012 live recording with Joe Murray and crew,  give the Rocko DVD the edge it needs to make it worth your while.

Joe Murray Admits the Production Was A Roller Coaster

If you read Joe Murray’s (quite excellent) blog, there are plenty of posts where he discusses the production of Rocko’s Modern Life and how comical it was in many ways. The shoddiness of the studio building itself, the late, late nights, the arguing with the network. None of these indicated at the time that the show would be the massive success that it was. Neither did they indicate that it would surpass the quality of many subsequent productions by a country mile.

Oh sure, the animation isn’t as fluid as today’s shows, but that’s because it’s traditional animation; the awesome kind! Done without computers nothing much more than a pencil and paper. This time-tested method of animation production also gave Rocko the looseness for which it is known for.

Despite all these apparent setbacks, Rocko’s Modern Life managed to reach the pantheon of excellence simply by being a great show. As an almost-original Nicktoon, it’s immediate success was all but assured, and its long-term popularity was burnished by some fantastic plots, subtle and not-so-subtle innuendo and a fantastic cast of characters that could be universally related to.

It’s More Than 20 Years Later and We’re Still Talking About It

Why the reason for this post at all? Well contemporary culture is notoriously fickle and forgettable; a quick visit to your nearest 3 for $10 bin will provide ample evidence of that. Any show that manages to not only warrant a release on DVD after its original audience has earned the right to sign contracts is noteworthy. Such a show is particularly so if it continues to provide entertainment for legions of new fans who could well be the kids of original viewers.

This is important to note because Joe Murray and crew didn’t sit down during production and try to figure out how to make their show appeal to audiences 20 years into the future. They just didn’t in the same way that the crews at Termite Terrace didn’t for one second think that what they had to crank out on a weekly basis would still get the same laughs from audiences more than 50 years later.

Such is the power of both comedy and a commitment to quality. Thankfully Rocko’s Modern Life has plenty of both.

So what are you waiting for? Enjoy the madness for yourself with the complete, 8-disc set from Shout! Factory today!

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