I was surprised by how much I remembered from this show. While doing my standard bit of research, the various sketches, running jokes and catch phrases came flooding back. It’s odd because I never really thought much of Rocko’s Modern Life, writing it off as a bit of a Ren & Stimpy clone. How could I not? Being the fourth Nicktoon, behind Doug and Rugrats, with its own bit of gross out humor, I oftentimes could barely stand it. In retrospect, the subtext and humor was far greater than my adolescent mind gave it credit for.
Rocko’s Modern Life starred Rocko, a Wallaby immigrant from Australia. Living in O-Town, he is friends with Filburt Turtle, who’s completely neurotic, Spunky, his pet dog, and Heffer Wolfe, a gluttonous cow. The show was a parody of American life, playing off how corporations own everything (as with Conglom-O) and just general American consumerism tendencies. It was this part that was a bit lost on me at the time.
Created by Joe Murray, the show ran for four seasons starting in 1993, totaling 52 episodes. Murray was inspired by a visit to the San Francisco Zoo for Rocko’s creation. He saw a wallaby, oblivious to the noises around it, go about its business. Much like Dexter’s Laboratory, the other people behind Rocko are just as interesting. Stephen Hillenburg, who was the first director of the series and creative director for season four, went on to create a little show called SpongeBob SquarePants. Most of the crew from Rocko joined him, including the voice of Heffer, Tom Kenny, who took the role of SpongeBob. When Murray returned with Camp Lazlo in 2005, most of the crew joined him. (This explains why SpongeBob took a nose dive in quality around that time.)
Thinking back, there’s plenty of gags I remember fondly while others make more sense with an adult perspective. Heffer proclaiming how he doesn’t want to be a “glue-ton,” Really Really Big Man, Rocko’s various jobs, Heffer going to Heck and meeting the ruler, Peaches, are all but a small sampling of the many gags. One of my favorites had Rocko driving with Mrs. Wolfe and seeing a sign stating “Slow Children Playing,” only for the kids to be moving in slow motion.
This was a show developed more for college students and adults rather than kids, an audience Nick was trying to capture, and it shows. Still, there was enough gross-out humor to be off-putting. Spunky would eject some random garbage from his body that he would proceed to eat, or Rocko filling his mouth with bugs. There was some odd moment like this every episode.
Watching Rocko’s Modern Life now shows how little was meant to appeal to kids. There’s plenty for them to latch on to, but most will fly over their heads like it did mine. As an adult, this speaks to the rampant capitalism that still plagues the country. Though there’s plenty of icky moments, an episode or two will tell you if it’s for you. If it is, the humor holds up wonderfully, though some of it will have you asking questions.
What’s your favorite gag from the show? Did anything turn you off? Comment below!
In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ’em hi.
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