A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see on my list of Netflix recommendations, a tile for Rocko’s Modern Life, with a 2019 release date attached. Naturally, I stopped and watched the trailer, with extremely mixed feelings. If you’re a cannabis-loving Millennial, I would be willing to wager you might have grown up enjoying Rocko’s Modern Life. For readers in elder generations, or youths just learning about the irreverent Nickelodeon comedies that graced the 90s and early 2000s, Rocko’s Modern Life was a cartoon that originally ran from 1993 to 1996, about a shy, sweet wallaby, trying to live in a twisted world not dissimilar to our own. A world where corporations own everything, and anxiety is a common affliction amongst the working public. His best friends are an even more nervous turtle, Filburt and a dumb but fun bovine, Heffer. After recent years of constantly hoping the original series would be offered on Amazon Prime viewing, which for a brief glorious period I believe it was, as a solid, “just turn on the TV to get high” show.
Without besmirching my preferred adolescent TV viewing, I will say that many Nick shows were written in what is now known as a vein of stoner-viewing. The art style, suggestively adult themes and jokes all combine into a delightfully weird, mature, but hilarious to a range of age groups, makes it peak high-viewing. There was part of me that assumed any reboot of such a uniquely singular show would never be able to live up to the original, which was sad enough because I had never enjoyed it as an adult who smokes a decent amount of marijuana. After a few days of scrolling past it, I finally took the 45 minutes (wow, what a commitment) to watch the special in its entirety.
I was more than pleasantly surprised, I was sincerely laughing, all alone in my apartment. Granted, with a pretty good bowl of Wedding Cake cannabis in my pipe, but even high- it takes a lot for a program to make me laugh aloud with no one else watching it with me. The special, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Clink has kept everything that made Rocko amazing in the first place, but just updated. The equally watchable Invader Zim reboot (probably also worth a review) interestingly took the same approach as Rocko, in addressing each show’s unceremonious removal from the air, and lengthy absence from media, with actual plot points. By involving the real-time delay in cartoon worlds where characters are ostensibly frozen in time, never aging or permanently resolving problems, the self-awareness gives us hardened Millennials the thinker-humor we crave. Marketing directly to the nostalgia-hungry is clearly a smart move for Netflix, but also wise is to allow the original creators free reign of their shows. They have been enabled with the power to tell stories with those same characters, but in 2019, where new phone upgrade rollouts never seem to end, and the only original content is just a new episode of something that premiered in 1992.
That may sound like a critique, but it really is not. There will be people my age showing this to their kids to laugh together at TV that now spans generations, but honestly? I think they really made this show for us– the functional stoners who understand Rocko better than ever, now that we share more of his problems than we did when the original was on.