In 2011, Shout Factory finally began releasing Nickelodeon cartoons from the 90s on DVD in official, boxed format. Rocko was a huge beneficiary of that, having only been given "best of" DVD releases through Amazon's MOD service. The first season was a great release, but it was fairly bare bones. Season 2 fixes that. We'll get to the extras later on, but the biggest improvement in this set is that Joe Murray, the creator of Rocko, was actually involved in this set.
The artwork on this set is all brand new, hand drawn by Joe Murray. While there was nothing inherently wrong with the first season's artwork, this is a very, very nice touch. The cover art has something of a comic book style to it. The spine has a style to the first set, so they look natural next to each other, but the image of Rocko on the spine is a different picture from the front. There's yet a third Rocko on the back. Disc 1 features the same image of Rocko that appears on the back, and Disc 2 features a new image of Heffer.
The DVD case is clear plastic (and not a dreaded "eco-case" thankfully). On the reverse of the sleeve is a picture of Spunky on the left and one of Filbert on the right. The discs look similar to the back cover. Like the first set, there are episode summaries for each and every episode listed in white bubbles, with purple and yellow shading in the background.
One little note is that this set takes something the first set had and builds on it. On the first set, there was a little orange sticker trying to associate Rocko's Modern Life with other Nickelodeon shows, particularly SpongeBob Squarepants. On this set, that orange sticker was replaced with full blown text on the back of the case. However, it's somewhat less obtrusive despite being part of the packaging. This is because it doesn't focus as much on SpongeBob; instead, it mentions other, less mainstream shows like CatDog and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, both of which would tend to appeal to the tastes of the nostalgia-driven consumers who will be buying this set.
Overall, the packaging is excellent and exactly what one would expect from this sort of set.
Like the first season, the menus are easy to navigate. The episode listing is bright and clear, there is a Play All feature, and you can select individual segments to watch. Disc 1 features images of Rocko and Spunky on the side of the menu; Disc 2 has Heffer and Filbert. The extras are on Disc 2.
There are 13 episodes in this set, most of which consist of 2 short segments. The first, sixth, and eighth episodes on this set are longer, single stories. This set has some memorable episodes such as "I Have No Son!" (featuring Ralph Bighead, the creator of `The Fatheads'), "Boob Tubed" (Heffer's brain gets sucked into the TV and Rocko and Filbert have to go to TV Central to retrieve it), and "Eyes Capades" (Rocko' glasses break the day before the jackhammer competition). Rocko's a great show in its own right, but the real value is in the nostalgia factor for adults who used to watch it as kids. This set of episodes doesn't disappoint.
One minor disappointment, though not completely unexpected, is that the censored bits from the show were not restored to the DVDs. This set has the final 2 instances of censorship in the show. The first is in "Road Rash," where Heffer and Rocko go to the "No Tell Motel" (a clear reference to prostitution). In the original airing, they are seen to go inside and ask to stay the night, which prompts the proprietor to respond in shock, "All night!?" On the DVD, we see a still image of their motorcycle and sidecar parked outside of it still playing bagpipe music from a tape that's stuck in the player with the volume knob broken off. The outside of the building has a sign in the window that says, "Hourly Rates." As such, the scene is basically removed, but part of it still exists.
The final censored piece is from the episode "Hut Sut Raw" where Rocko is picking berries. There's an awkward cut on the DVD that goes from showing Rocko picking and eating some berries to the next scene involving Filbert. In the edited part, Rocko grabs a pair of berries which prompts a bear to run from behind the bush whimpering and holding his crotch.
The absence of these two scenes is far from unexpected, and Shout Factory isn't responsible for it, but it's a shame Nickelodeon wouldn't provide the original footage for those scenes for a DVD release, especially where, as noted above, the clear target audience is nostalgic adults, not so much younger kids.
The picture quality of these sets is about what would be expected. On a bigger television with an upconvert DVD player, artifacting is more visible. There's a little grain in the image as well. That said, the episodes certainly don't look bad by any extent of the imagination. To the contrary, they look about like they did when they originally aired back in the early 90s, which is a good thing.
On the audio end, the soundtrack is stereo with some minor panning, but nothing overly noticeable. It doesn't sound like any remastering was done, but the audio quality is acceptable all the same. The episodes are also closed captioned, but the extras are not based on my attempt to get them to work.
Here's where this set absolutely shines. There are 2 extras here. One is a series of videos where Joe Murray draws each of the show's major characters and talks a little about them as he does so. There are some absolutely great pieces of trivia here. While drawing Heffer, he makes reference to the banned "milking machine" segment that was cut from the last disc (where Heffer decides to sleep with other cows, but ends up getting hooked up to a milking machine. However, since he has no udders to hook up, something else is hooked up to said machine). Joe also talks about the characters' origins. For instance, while drawing Filbert, he explains that Filbert was given glasses because "he touched himself too much when he was younger." These are fantastic and, in some cases, hilarious segments.
The other major extra is the unaired, original pilot episode, "Trash-o-Madness." It's a really fascinating look at the original version of the episode, especially as compared to the version contained on the last set that actually aired.
Shout Factory should be commended for getting Rocko out in the first place, but to get Joe Murray to contribute some great materials as extras for this set just pushes it to the next level. This is absolutely fantastic, and fans of the show will really appreciate these bonuses.
In sum, this is an improvement over Season 1 in terms of presentation. The episodes in this set are of generally equal quality to those in the previous release. The real advantage this set has is in its extras. The mere presence of anything resembling an extra is an improvement, but what we got was excellent. There are 2 more Rocko Season Sets to go, and hopefully Shout Factory can get some more cool bonuses for those sets. Even something like episode commentaries with Joe Murray and anyone else from the production team would be great. Nonetheless, for what we have with Season 2, this is a great set and any fan of Rocko's Modern Life should certainly pick it up.