Rocko’s Modern Life returns after 20 years with an important message about balancing nostalgia and change.
After the end of their series in the 90s, Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui), Heffer (Tom Kenny), and Filbert (Mr. Lawrence) have been stuck in space watching reruns on VHS of their favorite series, The Fatheads. When they finally return to Earth 20 years later, they find that a lot of society, as well as O-Town, has changed, and that Rocko will have to learn to change with it.
Rocko’s Modern Life was and is a nostalgia gold mine for 90s kids. It was edgy, it was poignant, it spoke to a lot of issues for both kids and adults, and it surprisingly holds up well on rewatching. The fact that it was constantly trying to find the dirtiest thing that it could slip by the censors helps, particularly with jokes like the “Jack-All-You-Want” Jackhammer festival.
The characters in Rocko’s Modern Life were always a perfect blend of absurd and familiar. While you might not actually know a wallaby that is best friends with a cow that was raised by wolves, you probably know the neurotic guy who has a slovenly friend that he is simultaneously infuriated by and dependent on. The relationships between the three leads always kept the conversations somewhat understandable, even when the situations would be insane, like when they end up in
Hell Heck being tortured by Peaches, the Devil.
This special brought all of that back, but also added a very poignant message about nostalgia. We follow along as our characters adjust to the changes in the world that have happened over the last 20 years, ranging from the presence of cell-phones to the digitization of comics to the fact that a lot of shows and movies that were formerly popular are now being reimagined and brought back. Strangely, there appears to be no change to the joke about most of the world being owned by megacorporations. Weird how that works. However, Rocko doesn’t handle the changes well and just wants to hold onto one thing that he knows well: his favorite show The Fatheads. So he dedicates himself to getting the show back so that he can at least have something familiar in a world that now scares him. That’s the core of what nostalgia is about, having something familiar to hold onto that reminds you of a time when you thought the world was better.
That’s why most nostalgia is from childhood. When we’re kids, our world is small and simple. We haven’t had to deal with all of the shit that life can throw at us (at least most of us haven’t). However, even when we later go back to things for which we’re nostalgic, the fact that we’ve changed becomes apparent and sometimes those things we want to remember aren’t quite as perfect as we remember. Moreover, when we bring something back for the “nostalgia factor,” even small changes to the original material are going to drive off some viewers, though overall the profitability makes it worthwhile. This special covers all of this in a clever way that I don’t want to spoil here, but it does make the point well.
The truth is that times will always change, and we must change with them. For the most part, despite how scary things can be, times do change for the better in the long run. This special reminds us that we need to be open to it. Also, it’s damned funny. Give it a watch and maybe they’ll make more.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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