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YMMV / Rocko's Modern Life

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  • Accidental Innuendo: Several viewers interpreted the character Crappie Jack's name to be another innuendo. While this show is no stranger to these kinds of jokes, a crappie is an actual fish, and the character in question was a sailor/fisherman.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • In "Kiss Me I'm Foreign," was Filbert taking his roll as Rocko's fake wife too seriously, or was he just playing it up because he knew the department of immigration would be watching?
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    • In "Power Trip", Smitty's warning to Rocko was to not push the green button, which transforms whoever's sitting in the chair into a rude, abusive, Bad Boss. Was Smitty trying to save Rocko from a fate much like his because he wanted Rocko to remain a good person, or did he simply not want to return to work and find out he could no longer bully Rocko?
  • Ass Pull: Played with in "Manic Mechanics". Rocko breaks his car, and all seems hopeless....until he notices a "Broken/Fixed" switch on the engine.
  • Anvilicious: The Boom! Studios comic book leans towards a rather overbearing anti-consumerism and anti-corporations angle in its final arc, with Conglom-O depicted as a bunch of greedy jerks who can't stop manipulating people into buying their useless products until they're poor, the consumers retaliating to the CEO of Conglom-O's being tricked into publicly calling them easily manipulated idiots by burning down Conglom-O, the entire town descending into anarchy because of this, and all the chaos apparently being depicted as a good thing.
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  • Awesome Art: Though not quote on par with the more viscerally-detailed animation of Ren & Stimpy's, this show still had some incredibly appealing designs and crazy colors (if anything, the solidity of its animation made up for any lack of subtle visual details).
  • Awesome Music: The main reason why the Musical Episode "Zanzibar" is so beloved. The Spring Cleaning song and the Recycling song are both insanely catchy and keep the episode's Green Aesop from being Anvilicious. And the reprise of the latter towards the end of the episode is especially good.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment:
    • The scene with the naked fairies and the shaved voyeur gopher in "A Sucker for the Suck-O-Matic".
    • Heffer being abducted by aliens who look like him in the episode "Cruisin". Even though they went into the Bermuda Triangle and went through a time warp, this makes no sense in relation to the rest of the episode.
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    • The following exchange in "Bye Bye Birdie" (which might be a quick example of Seinfeldian Conversation). Though they don't move there, Rocko and Heffer do go and visit France in a later episode:
      Heffer: Hey Rock, do you want to move to France? (not taking eyes off TV)
      Rocko: Not really. No. (eyes also glued mindlessly to TV)
      Heffer: Yeah, me neither. (and they just continue watching TV)
    • In "Wacky Delly", when Rachel needs help from her dad, we briefly see what they're doing - Bev is being chased around the house by Ed, who is inexplicably inside a giant hamster exercise ball, both are shrieking and look like they're rolling face on MDMA. The hell?
  • Broken Base: Which theme song is superior? The season one version or the B-52s version?
  • Cargo Ship: Canon: Spunky's forbidden romance with a mop. The Psychiatrist is shown later to be wining and dining said mop. And how does Spunky get over it? He falls in love with a fire hydrant! Static Cling takes his mop obsession Up to Eleven with him watching a 10-hour video of mops and ordering several mops through express delivery.
  • Critical Dissonance: The show received a D+ rating in a 1993 issue of Entertainment Weekly in spite of being one of the most revered Nickelodeon shows to this day.
  • Cult Classic: The show was never quite as popular as The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rugrats or SpongeBob at the time; the best it could manage was this. The cult fanbase, though, was enough so that the show was on MTV for a brief while. As of 2017, over twenty years since the show ended, the dedicated fanbase has become so strong that Nickelodeon greenlit a TV movie that was later released on Netflix.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Dr. Hutchinson, who was actually intended to be this according to Joe Murray and managed it wonderfully. Executive Meddling wanted a strong female character, and even though Murray was reluctant, he complied and she proved to be quite a hit with the staff, the fanbase, and even Murray himself. See? Tropes Are Not Bad.
    • Bloaty and Squirmy. Anytime they show up, someone is bound to be singing their theme song.
    • Sheila is VERY BIG one. Despite only appearing in one episode, she is seen in TONS of fan works! It helps that she served as a love interest for Rocko in her only appearance.
    • Rachel Bighead due to being a self-portrait of the series' creator, Joe Murray (who also voiced the character). Bighead's shows, Meet the Fatheads and Wacky Delly are well-liked among viewers. Her coming out in Static Cling both increased her popularity tenfold and was thematically relevant.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: The Boom! Studios comic's conclusion is supposedly intended to be seen as a happy ending because it has Rocko see himself as an equal to the other inhabitants of O-Town after exposing the underhanded business strategies of Conglom-O, but the fact that he incited the other denizens to destroy Conglom-O in a riot and caused the town to descend into anarchy as a result makes it a bit of a stretch to call the ending a happy one.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Out of all of Rocko's love interests depicted in the series, the majority of the fandom prefers him to be with Sheila. After Static Cling, however, many fans (especially newer ones) prefer to ship him with Rachel over any of the canon love interests.
  • Friendly Fandoms: Tuca & Bertie has been called this show's direct successor by many of it's fans, being another Zany Cartoon about navigating adulthood set in a World of Funny Animals. Humorously enough, in one episode Filbert has a pet bird named Turdy, why kind of sounds like a portmanteau of "Tuca and Bertie."
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • Heffer's eating habits are mostly Played for Laughs, but then you realize that that aspect of the character was inspired by Joe Murray's struggle during his teen years with binge eating.
    • If you believe the theories about SpongeBob SquarePants' Seasonal Rot being deliberate in order to get the show cancelled and if you read the articles about the creator resenting the show becoming a cash cow, you could see "Wacky Delly" as this with Rachel Bighead standing in for Stephen Hillenburg.
  • Genius Bonus: In Static Cling, Rachel was revealed to be a trans woman. It was partially based off of the fact that frogs can change their sex. After all, it wouldn’t be Rocko without a Furry Reminder.
  • Growing the Beard: While the first half of season one was certainly funny, it was much more low-key, as it focused more on its Vanilla Protagonist Rocko. The show's evolution into an ensemble comedy not only brought the much funnier side characters center stage, but provided some of the funniest jokes, eventually leading to the excellent third season which even Joe Murray agrees was the one where the show was really firing on all cylinders.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In "A Sucker For the Suck-o-Matic", Heffer is channel surfing and is implied to be watching JFK's assassination ("The official motorcade is just coming around the corner now, and... oh my God! There's a burst of gunfire!"). This was already in rather poor taste in 1993 but is completely unfunny after the epidemic of gun violence in the 21st century.
    • O-Town being all rainy on Christmas Eve in "Rocko's Modern Christmas" and Ed's comment on how it hasn't snowed on Christmas in O-Town for decades becomes a lot more relevant after the 1990s, as very few areas in the USA generally have snow around Christmas nowadays due to global warming.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • On April Fools' Day 2013, The 90s Are All That announced they'd air a lost episode of the series, which turned out to be a picture of mayonnaise (ala the "Wacky Delly" episode). 3 years later, the sequel special Static Cling was announced. Looks like Rocko is back for real.
    • Before production on season 1, Joe Murray's first wife tragically killed herself. Murray later revealed that she was the one who made him more environmentally conscious and encouraged him to recycle, meaning that she was the inspiration for the much-loved Musical Episode "Zanzibar" three years later.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • In one episode there's a plumber named Dr. Phil. In the fourth Scary Movie Dr. Phil claims he's really an electrician.
    • Episodes written by Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh like to feature characters named "Ferb".
    • "Heff in a Handbasket," the episode where Heffer sold his soul to be on a game show, was once pulled due to its blasphemous content. Eventually, the episode did air again on June 6th, 2006 (6/6/06) on Nicktoons TV. Guess the Nickelodeon censors didn't see why this would be inappropriate.
    • In one episode, Filburt has a tube of a toothpaste-like substance called "Spirit Away". It's also funny if you're a Touhou fan, as Ran has a spell card called "Yukari's Spiriting Away".
    • One episode features Heffer choking to death, and the Grim Reaper comes and mockingly tells him he was killed by his own gluttony. Heffer cries, "I'M A GLUTEN!!!" This was a good long while before the anti-gluten diet craze.
    • The entire episode of "Fish-N-Chumps" seems to be writers Stephen Hillenberg and Mark O'Hare testing the waters for their own nautical-themed show. In fact, a 2002 episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, "Clams", was based off "Fish-N-Chumps".
    • The "Wacky Delly" cartoon short made by Rocko, Heffer and Filburt can be seen as a Spiritual Predecessor to your average YouTube Poop. The episode is also about Rachel Bighead; voiced by Joe Murray creating an audacious cartoon that is accused of polluting the minds of children but maintains a cult following years after its cancellation.
    • Considering that Dr. Hutchison's voice actress eventually came out as a lesbian, it's pretty amusing to see Filbert being told that Hutch would never marry him in "The Big Question."
    • Also in "The Big Question", when Dr. Hutchinson's mother lifts up Rocko's car with him, Heffer, and Filburt in it, Heffer mistakes her for a man and calls her "Mr. Crab."
    • "Rinse & Spit" ends with a foot name Gordon, who is a parody of Johnny Carson, talking about visiting the dentist often. 5 years later, PBS Kids would air The Noddy Shop, a series with a character named Johnny Crawfish who sings a song about the Tooth Fairy in one episode that mentions both visiting the dentist and cavities.
    • "The Big Answer" had the boys being drunk on ice cream, not unlike how SpongeBob and Patrick did in The Sponge Bob Square Pants Movie.
    • With Static Cling revealing that the Bigheads' child is now a transgender woman, her debut episode being titled "I Have No Son" takes on a new meaning.
    • One of Rachel’s NEVER! Moments in said episode shows her wearing a dress and an apron, which end as a hint to the future.
    • Also in “Static Cling”, Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt search for Rachel Bighead and end up asking aliens in Roswell, New Mexico. So if you had the three of them in the “Gets in” tier of the Area 51 meme inspired by the “Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us” event, you were right!
    • The vet/pet psychologist in "Clean Lovin'" is named Dr. Katz. Two years later, an unrelated character named Dr. Katz would hit the airwaves.
    • The name of Filbert's pet bird in "Bye Bye, Birdie." See Friendly Fandoms above.
  • LGBT Fanbase: Attracted a large gay and transgender following after Static Cling, which featured a very well-received trans female character. Even before that, the show's many gay moments and and Rainbow Lens jokes made it popular with LGBTQ+ fans.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • "Filburt! Sell some Really Really Big Man comic books!"
    • "Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby."
    • "Never! Never!! NEVER!!!"
    • "I'm a wild pig!"
    • "HOW DARE YOU?!"
    • "You turn the page, wash your hands. Turn the page, wash your hands..."
    • "X Day is a very dangerous day."
    • "That was a hoot!"
    • "My meme is a bathroom!"
    • "Eat steel, Rocko!"
  • Misaimed Fandom: "Who's For Dinner?", the episode where Heffer discovers he's adopted, was lauded upon its premiere as "groundbreaking". Joe Murray was confused as to why everyone but him was taking such a silly cartoon so seriously.
  • Narm Charm:
    • This is the whole reason "Zanzibar" is a musical. While Joe Murray is a self-proclaimed environmentalist, he was reluctant to do an episode about the environment out of fear that it would be too sentimental or pushy. The other writers convinced him that a Musical Episode would allow them to be tongue in cheek without harming their message, with Murray's only condition being that Rocko wouldn't sing, lest it be too silly.
    • The intro is supposed to show us Rocko getting pushed around, but the theme song is just so awesome, you just don’t care.
    • The show in general. The emotional and mature moments are thought-provoking, but at the same time, they fit perfectly well into the show’s bizarre and zany nature. Thats right, folks. The show cleverly dives into adult situations without becoming Darker and Edgier.
  • Padding: The original "Trash-O-Madness" indie short, which is Murray's animated solo, is only five minutes long, so the broadcast version added new scenes from the overseas studio, and it's quite obvious which is which: the Murray animation is looser and has rougher audio, while the overseas animation is more on-model, has cleaner audio and doesn't much affect the plot, with the slight exception of the extra scenes of Spunky playing with the slime ball, since in the original pilot, the slime ball was completely inanimate, while in the extended version, it is completely sentient.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: The only licensed game the cartoon has to its name is Rocko's Modern Life: Spunky's Dangerous Day, which is wall to wall Escort Missions of Rocko having to keep Spunky out of danger as he mindlessly wanders through the levels.
  • Rainbow Lens: The Rocko's Modern Life episode "Closet Clown", in which Ed Bighead lives a double life as a clown before being "outed" to his family and neighbors while performing at a party; the episode had tons of Does This Remind You of Anything? moments. Word of God confirms that this subtext was entirely intentional.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Upon its premiere, "Wacky Delly" was beloved for its sheer unabashed randomness and Stylistic Suck, which is now a dime a dozen on YouTube and [adult swim].
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The Static Cling special lives up to its title by having both Rocko and Mr. Bighead struggling to adapt to change. Mr. Bighead can't accept that his kid is trans (due to the other changes that have been occurring), while Rocko wants his favorite cartoon The Fatheads revived, then reacts with outrage when it introduces a new character. Both have to come to terms with the fact that even though things are different, by looking closely enough they can see the improvements; Rachel is happier for having transitioned and the changes in The Fatheads come from allowing the original creator to helm the story rather than from executive meddling.
  • Squick: The end of the episode "The Fatlands", not only does Dr. Hutchinson give Rocko all of the fat that she sucked out of Spunky... Heffer ends up eating that fat.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: During the Chariots of Fire parody in "From Here to Maternity", the show uses a sound-alike version of the theme from the film.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Although the show itself stays the same, tons of people agree that the season one version of the theme song is much better than the B-52's version.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: In "Power Trip" Smitty had given no indication that the extra help he ordered Rocko to hire would be anything more than a temp, so the expectation that he give a permanent position to Filbert seems a bit unreasonable.
  • Values Resonance: One of the reason's behind the show's lasting appeal is how it's arguably the first cartoon to discuss the struggles of "adulting" (i.e., being self-reliant in your early twenties), a universal concept among young adults in The New '10s.
  • Vanilla Protagonist: Rocko is a deliberate example. The show is about him being the Only Sane Man of the zany world of O-Town in contrast to the much quirkier and inane side characters.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: You would be really surprised to find out that this show gets a TV-Y rating. Aside from the hidden dirty jokes and crude humor (some of which has been cut from reruns), the show's deals with themes you'd find on adult cartoons like The Simpsons (back when it was the sitcom to watch to laugh at jokes about how hard modern life can be), such as infidelity, immigration, racism (shown as "animalism" on the show), death, cults and in regards to the 2019 special: the dangers of the Nostalgia Filter, the ridiculousness of 21st-century life, and trans awareness. This show even helped some modern kids in The New '10s grow up.
  • What an Idiot!:
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Addressed by series creator Joe Murray: "What most people fail to appreciate is that if I was on drugs I never would've gotten anything done."


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