|“That was a hoot!”
Nickelodeon added to its stable of oddball cartoons with Rocko’s Modern Life, the story of an amiable Australian wallaby trying to fit in with suburbian America. Created by animator Joe Murray, the show was like a kinder, slightly less insane version of Ren & Stimpy, another Nick hit.
Settling in small-town O-Town with his stupid, hyperactive dog Spunky, Rocko did his best to make sense of America. He took a job at Kind-Of-A-Lot-Of-Comics, settled into a home, and befriended neighbors Heffer Wolfe (a hungry cow) and Fliburt (a nerdy turtle). Heffer was the only steer in a family of wolves, although he never caught on that he was adopted until Rocko tipped him off. Heffer told his wallaby-hating grandfather, Willie, that Rocko was a coyote, although Willie thought he was actually a beaver, which he equally despised. Filburt appeared in a variety of roles before becoming a regular friend of Rocko’s. The turtle dated and ultimately married a multi-talented cat named Dr. Hutchinson, who appeared as a surgeon and a pharmacist, among other medical-related positions.
With his new friends, Rocko set about discovering the joys of a modern American lifestyle-health clubs, garbage day, discount airlines, etc. Many of the episodes were based around a single, simple premise, like going grocery shopping, attending traffic school, or getting fired. Regardless of the situation’s simplicity, something would always go drastically wrong and chaos would ensue, setting Rocko up for one crazy, bizarre adventure after another.
Rocko’s next-door neighbor was the unpleasant Mr. Bighead, who worked at mega-corporation Conglom-O (slogan: “We Own You”). Bighead’s son Ralph had moved to Hollywood, where he created the cartoon-within-a-cartoon “The Fatheads.” Other regulars and semi-regulars included superhero Really Really Big Man and Spunky’s resident parasites, Bloaty the Tick and Squirmy the Ringworm. The latter characters had yet another show-within-a-show, a classic TV-style sitcom titled “The Bloaty and Squirmy Show.”
It was bizarre, it was grotesque… it was perfect for Nickelodeon. Rocko’s Modern Life was an instant hit on the green slime network, an alternative for those who liked their cartoons nutty but didn’t have the stomach for the barrage of booger and flatulence jokes on Ren & Stimpy. Nick ordered 26 new episodes for the second season (along with a new theme song performed by The B-52’s), and the show even spent some crossover time airing on MTV. By making both Rocko and Ren & Stimpy into hits, the masses had voted with their remotes, and anarchic humor was the new king of the cartoon realm.