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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Children > TV > The Wild Thornberry’s – Season 1 + Rocko’s Modern Life – Season One + Hey Dude – Season 1 (Shout Factory/Nickelodeon DVDs)

The Wild Thornberry’s – Season 1 + Rocko’s Modern Life – Season One + Hey Dude – Season 1 (Shout Factory/Nickelodeon DVDs)


Picture: B/B/C+     Sound: B-/B-/C+     Extras: D     Episodes: B-/A-/B-



Wow!  Shout Factory has finely given me and many others the chance to relive our childhoods.  Here on DVD we have three releases from the Nickelodeon catalog with Wild Thornberry’s –Season 1, Rocko’s Modern Life – Season One, and Hey Dude – Season 1.  Each classic in their own way, though Wild Thornberry’s and Rocko’s Modern Life holding up much better than the live action Hey Dude.


Outside of hits like that of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Real Ghostbusters, He-man and Transformers from the 1980’s Nickelodeon cartoons and its other series ruled the 1990’s and into the 2000’s.  Not only were they popular then, but have been among some of the most demanded DVD releases ever!


Rocko’s Modern Life topped the list, but others have had a similar impact.  Whereas some series like Hey Arnold and Doug had been released limitedly through Amazon.com’s ‘press on demand’ DVD catalog, finally Shout Factory gets these classics to the masses.


The Wild Thornberry’s: Season 1

Out of the three series under review here, Thornberry’s is the one I thought I would remember/favor least, but surprisingly it has held up well over time and remains fun and entertaining.



The series premiered in 1998 and ran new episodes until 2004.  The series had a total of 4 seasons and centered on the daily activities of Eliza Thornberry and her crazy ‘National Geographic’ documentary filming family.  The twist on the series was that Eliza had been enchanted by an African Shaman and now possesses the ability to speak to animals; helping her family out along the way, but occasionally getting them into trouble as well.  The rest of the family is composed of Sir Nigel [dad] (voiced by Tim Curry), Deborah [sister], Donnie [adopted feral brother] (voiced by Flea of Red Hot Chile Peppers), Marianne [mom], and Darwin [the Chimp/friend of Eliza/family pet] (voiced by the great Tom Kane).


The series, though entertaining, is not all too deep.  Each 22minute episode focuses on the zany antics of the family as mentioned above.  Now recalling Seasons 1 (discussed here) through 4, there is not all too much change or development.  Continuity does not become an issue as each episode stands on its own and the creators do not venture too far from the set pattern.  The episode has the family encountering a new animal each week (think of the villain/hero of the week comic series) and getting into or out of trouble.  Eliza again is the main focus as her family acts as background comic relief or antagonist to each situation.


The episodes are funny and tell heart warming tales that kids of any age can enjoy.




Rocko’s Modern Life: Season One

One of my HANDS DOWN favorite series of all time, live action or otherwise.  Rocko was created at a time when Nickelodeon wasn’t afraid to be a bit daring with their animated series; allowing such series as Ren & Stimpy to premiere.  Over the years over protective parents, with nothing better to do, have stunted the ability of animators to express themselves (Sponge Bob perhaps being an exception rather than a rule) on Nickelodeon.


Rocko’s Modern Life features a naïve and friendly wallaby named (of course) Rocko who with his dog Spunky and best friend Heffer (the bull) get into a series of odd and exciting situations.


Modern life is cruel and unusual, with loud/annoying neighbors, bills to pay, mouths to feed, and copious amounts of laundry to tackle it all just seems too much sometimes.  The series premiered in 1993 and ran until 1996 with four seasons in total.  Over the years there have been many rumors and urban legends about Rocko and Nickelodeon’s censorship of the series.  The funny part, however, is that most of those ‘rumors’ are true.


Rocko, though intended for children, definitely catered to adults and teens; in fact over 1/5th the audience was not children during its original airing.  The racier moments had Rocko repeatedly saying “Oh baby” into a phone as a telephone operator, a common food hangout called ‘Chokie Chicken,’ Mrs. Big-Head seducing Rocko, and even Heffer having a certain climactic ‘relationship’ with a milking machine.  So all in all it was meant for kids, but was far from reserved.


Amazingly censors initially had no problem with anything the series produced, consistently giving the green light even after the initial pitch; but it was later, after the episode’s first airing that it would be cut up and censored.


Here on DVD we supposedly only get the censored versions of the episodes, which are better than nothing, but ultimately sad.  There is talk of getting the original prints for a re-release or at least for later seasons, but nothing is solid at this time.


Here on Season One enjoy Rocko as he battles the DMV, makes interesting exchanges with Ed Bighead, toughs out trash day, escapes a murderous vacuum, and even spends a day at the carnival.


Hey Dude: Season 1

A short lived, live action comedy series that aired on Nickelodeon from 1989-1991; was set on the fictional Bar None Dude Ranch and was everything Western…and hokey.


Though short lived the series managed to produce an astonishing Five Seasons with 65 episodes in total! The series featured overworked New York account Ben Ernst, who ventured out West with son Buddy to buy a Dude Ranch.  On the ranch are a set of boys and girls who keep the place running for the guests, as the series focuses on their daily lives.  The cast includes a Christine Taylor as Melody (the now Mrs. Ben Stiller), David Lascher  as Ted, Kelly Brown as Brad, Debra Kalman as Lucy the ranch hand, Joe Torres as Danny Light Foot the Hopi Indian native, Josh Tygiel as Buddy, and David Brisbin and Benjamin Ernst.


The series is good as far as continuity with some of the episodes using prior events to construct storylines and as the series goes on relationships develop.  For a ‘children’s series’ the show holds up well and remains entertaining even if it is a bit hokey.


The actors are young and are just developing their talents (often over acting), being very reminiscent in style to Saved by the Bell with a western theme.  Love triangles and squabbles galore Hey Dude remains interestingly hip, even if a tad outdated.


The two animated series here definitely fair better than the live action Hey Dude.  The picture on both Thornberry’s and Rocko is a 1.33 X 1 Full Screen that demonstrates bright colors, crisp edges, inky blacks and little debris.  Thornberry’s being slightly newer looks a tad better, but not by much.  Hey Dude is a major downgrade from the animated series, with blurred images at times, weak colors and an element of grain throughout.  The sound on the animated series is a step up from Hey Dude as well, with a crisp clean dialogue in a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.  Hey Dude is also in Stereo, but like the blurry picture quality the sound is distant and muffled at times.


The sad part about all of these DVD releases is the lack of extras.  Hey Dude offers up a new (short) interview with Christine Taylor about her time on the series, but other than that nothing exists.


WONDERFUL series that future generations should be exposed to so they know what creativity looks like.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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