Rocko’s Modern Life has become decidedly not modern. After all, the classic Nickelodeon cartoon ended way back in 1996. The world has changed a lot since then. There are people who have graduated college who don’t remember when Rocko was bringing low-key irreverence and illicitness to children’s programming. When I was a lad, it was my favorite cartoon on Nickelodeon, but I have watched it very infrequently in the last 20 years. As opposed to, say, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, which I have two seasons of on DVD. That being said, I was certainly intrigued by the debut of Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, which dropped on Netflix after a much-delayed release. Once again, Rocko, the put-upon wallaby from O-Town, is living a modern life.
The premise of StaticCling is fairly simple. Rocko, Filburt, and Heffer were shot into space at the end of the original series. Twenty years later, they’ve returned to a modern world. In space, nothing changed for the trio, but they didn’t mind. They had their old VHS of The Fatheads to watch. When they land back on Earth, culture shock is inevitable. Well, you would think, but Filburt and Heffer seem pretty cool with smartphones, print-on-demand comics, and radioactive sodas.
Rocko, though, is shaken by the change, so much so that there is just one thing he wants in the world. He wants new episodes of The Fatheads, which was created by the child of his neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Bighead. It will give him a tie to the world he remembers. It will be the hit of nostalgia and the past he needs. So, yes, this is a 20-years-later cartoon special about one man, or rather one wallaby, who desperately wants to see a new episode of a cartoon that hasn’t been on in, oh, about 20 years.
Indeed, Static Cling does turn its light satire on itself, and its viewers, which frankly I admire. This wasn’t an easy cash grab. Clearly, there was a desire from creator Joe Murray to tell another Rocko story, and to do that they had to reconcile how much things have changed. It’s also bold because Rocko in its heyday was one of those cartoons that did two episodes per half-hour. As such, a 45-minute special is basically equal to four episodes. Even with 20 years to stew on it, Rocko isn’t used to telling stories that long and drawn out.
They mostly pull it off, though. If nothing else, Static Cling justifies its existence. It’s got some clever jokes, some fun moments, and a genuine story to tell. Now, it’s not a laugh riot. It’s not great. Rocko’s Modern Life could always get a little gross or grotesque. Some of the characters looks weird. I literally gagged at Mr. Bighead’s boss constantly flicking boogers out of his nose. That’s the low-brow stuff that appeals to a kid’s sensibility, but I was not a fan. On the other hand, I’m glad the poultry restaurant Chewy Chicken is called Chokey Chicken again.
If you watched Rocko’s Modern Life as a kid, I’d definitely recommend giving Static Cling a look. They put effort and heart into it, and it has earned some attention for that fact. I liked it just fine. I will probably never watch it again, but that’s not uncommon for me. It’s a busy world out there, as Rocko just learned. I’ve got radioactive soda to drink.