Rocko’s Modern Life is headed back to television after more than 20 years off the air, and everything has changed.
Polygon sat down with show creator Joe Murray and voice actors Carlos Alazraqui (Rocko) and Charlie Adler (Ed Bighead) at San Diego Comic-Con to talk about Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, the upcoming made-for-TV-movie set to air next year. In the film, Rocko returns to Earth after more than two decades in space, and discovers a world obsessed with technology. While his best friends Heffer and Filburt become enamored with social media and constant online connectivity, Rocko turns away from it, trying to salvage his happiness in bubble wrap packaging made of nostalgia.
Asked if Murray was aware that by satirizing an entire generation’s obsession with nostalgia he was targeting a network that caters to that very mindset, the creator laughed.
“If we’re going to bring this back, I have a vision and a direction of how I want this to go,” Murray said. “To Nickelodeon’s credit, they said ‘yeah.’ I actually brought a lot of the old stuff back so there’s plenty of nostalgia, but I feel like it says something about how we are right now socially. It really resonates with this trend we’re seeing.”
Alazraqui added that nostalgia is a “warm, safe blanket for Rocko” and something that he can cling to when everything around him is changing. It was that mentality, Murray said, that drew them to the storyline in the first place.
Murray believes that the reason audiences have become so obsessed with nostalgia is that everything in their day-to-day life is changing so rapidly. The smartphone, for example, was the biggest disruption in people’s lives since the invention of the personal computer and the arrival of the internet. Rocko, Murray added, is scared like everyone else. He clings to his favorite TV show, The Flatheads, because it’s the only familiar aspect of his new life back on Earth.
“Rocko looks at technology as a necessary evolution, but he’s also very aware of the downfalls that come with technology,” Murray said. “He knows that we’re slaves to it.”
Adler said it’s the emphasis on technology, and the show’s ability to satirize the online world many of us now live in, that older fans of Rocko’s Modern Life will appreciate. Adler describes the movie as subversive, like the original series, adding that Static Cling will get people to step back and consider just how they use their smartphones and various social media services.
“We’re making big statements about technology,” Adler said. “People are going to hear it and they’re going to think about it. It’s satire — and it’s the power of satire. Satire is that circus mirror that takes the truth and makes it palpable. That’s all we’ve ever tried to do with Rocko’s Modern Life.”
Murray pointed out that Rocko would see the internet and think it’s a great tool for looking up the ingredients to something or checking on a showtime for a movie, but that was about it. He wouldn’t understand why there was a need for Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or any of the rest. When Alazraqui made a comment about one specific, high-profile, political Twitter user who could probably learn a thing or two from Rocko’s mentality, Murray and Adler agreed. Adler said there’s never been a better time for a show like Rocko’s Modern Life to make its return. This is an age for people who have something to say, and Murray is already armed with a soapbox and megaphone.
“There’s a great hunger now during these times for the irreverence and satire that holds up a mirror to the circus,” Adler said. “This is the time to do it.”
Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling will be released in 2018.
Correction: The story above has been edited to correct details of the original series finale.