Rocko’s Modern Life: A Retrospective


It was twenty years ago today that this show premiered on Nickelodeon. At that time, I was too young to even understand most of the humor and just paid attention to the pretty colors. Now that I’m older, and such is the fashion for people my age waxing nostalgic, I can watch the show and understand more of the adult humor that flew over my head. Sure, you can do a Wikipedia search and get the basic history of the show but there’s nothing personal about it (unless you helped edit that page). Instead, this is more about the legacy and the impact I’ve witnessed in my social circles.

For a while, the show had vanished from my memory. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found a book on the Nicktoons, complete with a slime book jacket at my library. I checked it out and flipped through it, looking at all that had come before it. Back then, I was set on being an animation major but that’s another story for another time. I came across the section on this show and it started to jog my memory; a hotel room, channel surfing, five years old. That’s all I got. I felt like it was something I was supposed to remember.

It was about that time that Nickelodeon had planned to launch a block for 90’s shows. Locally, everyone in my grade was on a nostalgia trip with college on the mind. I would be the one to casually ask about the shows we watched as a kid. Interestingly, this show did not come up in discussion.

It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I found a good friend who was also into the show. I was on the creator’s blog, killing time between classes, when he came up to me and asked me if I liked the show. I responded and from there, we became friends. Later on, I learned that he collected autographs and movie props, one of them being a sketch from the censored episode “The Good, The Bad, and the Wallaby.” You can look at what he has here.

Now that I’m in college, I can better relate to some of the subject matter in some episodes. Take “Skid Marks” for example. In the episode, Rocko is required to retake his driver’s license test because of a missing gas cap on his car. While I didn’t have a bad experience with driver’s ed, I appreciated the humor about the short film featured called “Red Concrete.” Or in “Commuted Sentence” where Rocko has to find new ways to get to work on time after his car is impounded. I haven’t had that happen yet (knock on wood), but in an effort to get to wherever I need to be on time, the hardest part is trying to find a space, one close by and away from any danger. Of course, there’s “Wacky Delly,” the episode where Rocko and his friends make an animated show, unknowingly that they’re being used to help someone out of his contract so that he can achieve his dream of making the world’s largest still life. The show turns out to be successful, even after multiple attempts at sabotage. The most memorable scene is where “Wacky Delly” presents an episode that is ten whole minutes on a jar of mayo. This gag would later be used on April Fools Day earlier this year as a “lost” episode of the show would air late that night, this time extended to a half hour.

Twenty years later, what has the show done? Well, it scored an ecological award for the musical episode “Zanzibar.” The award was accepted by the creators of Phineas and Ferb. Some would go on to work for Spongebob Squarepants. Joe Murray, creator of Rocko, would make 2005’s Camp Lazlo on Cartoon Network. Joe has also made a comic book, Frog in a Suit, that you can get in the App Store. He’s currently working on his own film, Fish Head.

Well, I’m off to O-Town. Later.

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