What The Funny #4: Who’s For Dinner?

It’s that time again! Time for another breakdown of one of my favorite Rocko’s Modern Life shorts!

Before we start, let me once again apologize for the loooooong wait. I planned to do this one last month (December), but I never got the time and space to sit down and work on it. Also, I wasn’t able to find a ton of images for this one. Even GIFs for this particular short are scarce, so I’m just going to have to make my descriptions of certain scenes as entertaining as possible.

Now that’s out of the way, on with the fun!

Who’s For Dinner?

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This short’s title is a play on the title of the 1967 movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? starring Sidney Portier.

sidney-portier

“Been there, done that.”

Synopsis: In this episode Heffer invites Rocko to have dinner with his family. Rocko accepts, much to Heffer’s relief. When he arrives Rocko is stunned to find out Heffer lives with a family of Wolves.

Highlights:

Heffer: My grandfather hates wallabes, but don’t worry, because he’s really nearsighted.

That should have been a red flag right there.

When Rocko meets Heffer’s family, he (along with us, the audience) is surprised to discover that Heff’s family are a pack of wolves, and they’re a colorful pack, to say the least. The Wolfe family consists of…

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Heffer’s grumpy father George…

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…his perpetually upbeat mother (with a nervous tick) Virginia…

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Trivia Tine: Heffer’s parents get their names from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” – a 1962 play by Edward Albee, examining the breakdown of a marriage of a middle aged couple, Martha & George.

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…Heff’s teenage siblings; sardonic, rebellious brother Peter and over sensitive drama queen sister Cindy…

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…and his cantankerous, racist (or would be “speciesist”) grandfather, who we learn in a later episode that his first name is Hiram.

Rocko, expecting Heffer’s family to be bovine rather than lupine, gets a gift for Virginia, and udder warmer, which Virginia puts on her head and is seen wearing it for the remainder of the short.

Initially, Heff tries to pass off Rocko as a coyote, but Grandpa Wolfe insists that Rocko must be a beaver, which he goes on believing for the remainder of the series.

Virginia initially continually calls Rocko’s by the wrong name, reffing to him as “Jocko”, “Crocko”, etc.

Inside, we get a glimpse of the Wolfe family’s home life, such as the following exchange:

George (to Peter): So, son, how was school?

Peter: I quit school two years ago.

George: What?!? VIRGINIA!!

Virginia: We were afraid to tell you.

Peter: See? I told you he’d get mad.

Cindy: Stop fighting! I…can’t…TAKE IT!!!!!

Virginia: No one’s fighting, dear.

Grandpa: Eh, sounds like fighting to me!

George (to Peter): You’re a loser! Why can’t you be more like Heffer?

Peter: What? a 500 pound cow?

George: He’s a steer!

bundys

Putting the “fun” in dysfunctional! Yahoo!

Grandpa: I hope you’re not lettin’ the beaver eat off’n the good china, otherwise we’ll have to smash the plates!

Evidently, He’s not crazy about beavers either.

The wolf jokes continue as Rocko excuses himself to go the bathroom, where he opens the closet door and notices a group of Little Red Riding Hoods being kept there. Then he discovers the Three Little Pigs bound and gagged in the family’s medicine cabinet!

While the family chows down on their meal (a dead moose), Virginia asks Rocko (finally getting his name right) if he and Heffer have known each other for a long time. Rocko responds with…

Rocko: Yes, and it’s quite interesting. In all the years that I’ve known Heffer, he never once told me that he was adopted.

We then hear the sound of a record scratching and everything does grimly silent.

Heffer: Is that true???

Virginia: Well, yes. We found you under a tree in Brandwynn Farm. You were skinny, so we decided to fatten you up, but then we grew to love you!

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But what about my birthmark?

Peter: Dad used to call you “steak”.

Basically, the Wolfes were originally going to eat Heffer before they grew found of him and later adopted him. What’s really funny is that Heffer never knew that he was adopted until Rocko inadvertently spilled the beans at that particular moment.

Confused and hysterical with emotion, Heffer runs out of the house to parts unknown. The family (plus Rocko) set out to find Heffer.

I’ve always liked the following line:

Rocko (on the phone): The Bigheads haven’t seen him (Heffer) either. What’s that? And they don’t care!

Heffer is seen drowning is sorrows in a bar that looks suspiciously like the one the Nighthawks painting. Eventually, he comes across what he believes to be his biological father’s tombstone (in actuality, it belongs to a big wet cat). Heff gets a vision of his real father over the tombstone.

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How he’s able to astral project like this when still alive is anyone’s guess.

Heff’s Real Dad: That’s not my tombstone! I’m not even dead! I’m living in Canoga with Joyce here.

Joyce (who looks and talks like Heffer in drag): Hi! You should visit some time!

Heffer: Mom??

Heff’s Dad: That’s not your mom! Your mom’s a car seat in Illinois! Listen, I’m sick of you kids coming around here looking for your daddy! I’ve had a million kids that look just like you, UGLY! Joyce come here and clean up after me!

It seems as though Heffer’s real dad is crankier than George and Grandpa Wolfe combined. A farmer notices Heffer “Hey, aren’t you that guy on the milk cartons? There was a family of Wolves lookin’ for you. Seemed real upset. Matter of fact, they had a beaver with ’em!”

Eventually, Heffer comes back to the Wolfe’s house. The short ends with a shot of the Wolfe family on top of their roof howling (or in Heffer’s case, mooing) at the moon in silhouette.

“Who’s For Dinner?” is one of Joe Murray’s favorite episodes, and one of mine too. In addition to delivering a lot of laughs, this short actually manages to be pretty touching, albeit in a sick, twisted way. Murray said that he partially based Heffer on an adopted friend and used his friend’s emotions to sculpt Heffer’s role and actions.  I liked how the premise of Heffer being adopted by a family of wolves was never altered throughout the course of the series. You don’t get too many adopted children in cartoons, and I like how this premise was handled here.

My Rating: 5 out of 5.

Next Time: We wrap up our Rocko’s Modern Life celebration with Popcorn Pandemonium. Stay Tooned.

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