Rocko's Modern Life was the fourth Nicktoon, which aired from September 18, 1993, to November 24, 1996. The show concentrated on the life of a wallaby named Rocko trying to survive everyday modern life in the city of O-Town. It was created by Joe Murray and based on his own childhood in Australia (hence the main character being an Australian animal).
The show was renowned by many as one of Nickelodeon's freshest, most offbeat offerings, as well as being laden with suggestive double entendres. It is also credited for being the precursor to SpongeBob SquarePants, and Camp Lazlo. Since SpongeBob's creator, Stephen Hillenburg, worked on Rocko's Modern Life, the show has been credited as being probably the first Nicktoon to be popular among adults (excluding Ren & Stimpy, whose popularity with adults only peaked after the show ended, Adult Party Cartoon season excluded).
- Rocko Rama (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui): a wallaby who has emigrated to the United States from Australia (changed in the 3rd season to a native-born citizen with Australian heritage); works at "Kind of a Lot o' Comics" (although he had other jobs, including being a product tester at Conglom-O and being an underwear model). A running gag is that other characters assume that Rocko is another kind of animal (usually a beaver, kangaroo, rabbit, or a dog), and then he goes into a lengthy (and often unconvincing) explanation that he is a wallaby. He has unreasonable bad luck and treatment from others in most episodes.
- Heffer Wolfe (voiced by Tom Kenny): Rocko's best friend, a happy-go-lucky and not-too-bright steer whom he met in high school. Heffer loves to eat and party. His favorite food is "Pasture Puffies." Though he is normally portrayed as being jobless, he has worked in a number of professions including a waiter at a coffee shop, a salesman at a tree farm, a mail carrier, a security guard at Conglom-O (which induced him to go insane), and he worked at his favorite restaurant, Chokey (later Chewey) Chicken, also a newspaper delivery man. Strangely, even though Heffer is male, he has been shown on a number of occasions to have udders. As his last name suggests, he was raised by a family of wolves who decided not to eat him as a child.
- Filburt Turtle (voiced by Doug Lawrence): Rocko's other best friend, a neurotic turtle; started out as a background character and became a main character in the second season. His current age is 20 years old, lives in a trailer and has no job (he earns his money by collecting cans "here and there" and then sells it to the recycling factory). He also has a hobby of snatching the wigs of wild birds. Filburt has an extremely weak stomach and even the slightest wrong movements can give him indigestion. Filburt also seems to have an obsession with fishsticks. He was married to Dr. Hutchison in the third season, with whom he had four children: Gilburt, Shelburt, Norburt, and Missy. Among Filburt's catchphrases are "Oh fishsticks!" and "I'm nauseous... I'm nauseous... " Philbert changed his name to Filburt Shellbach, however he disliked the name and returned to his given name.
- Spunky (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui): Rocko's dog; he looks similar to a chihuahua. He willingly eats almost anything he sees (this has repeatedly gotten him and Rocko in trouble).
- Edward Bighead (voiced by Charlie Adler): A grumpy old toad who is Rocko's neighbor. He hates Rocko (even though Rocko normally acts nice to him). Ed works at the large corporation Conglom-O (the company's motto is "We Own You"). His position with the company is usually in middle management, but it can be anything from assembly-line worker to an executive role, depending on the needs of the episode: according to his nameplate at Conglom-O, his job title is "Toad". Ed seems to have very bad luck wherever he goes and thus is very cynical. He hates his life.
- Beverly "Bev" Bighead (voiced by Charlie Adler): Ed's wife, a boisterous redhead (whose voices sounds close to that of Harvey Fierstein) who enjoys flirting with other men -- a blasphemy to their marriage. In the controversial episode "Leap Frogs", she unsuccessfully attempted to seduce Rocko.
- Ralph Bighead (voiced by Joe Murray): Ed and Bev Bighead's estranged son. He was disowned by Ed when he revealed that he wished to move to Holl-o-Wood and become a cartoonist, rather than follow in his father's footsteps and work for Conglom-O. Ralph's career found success with the creation of his hit cartoon The Fatheads which starred a married couple that appeared to be a highly unflattering parody of his parents, depicting them as ugly, loudmouthed and brutally stupid. He and Ed finally reunited at Ed and Bev's anniversary party with the help of Rocko and his friends, ending the long-standing rift. Ralph eventually grows tired of working on cartoons, and attempts to bring a quick end to his career as a cartoonist by enlisting Rocko, Heffer and Filburt to create and develop a new series for him, certain that their mishandling would result in a show that would fail so badly that the studio would fire him. To Ralph's dismay, the show they create, dubbed Wacky Delly gets greenlighted for production and ends up a runaway success, forcing Ralph to resort to increasingly drastic measures to get out of his contract.
- Chuck and Leon (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui and Tom Kenny): Two chameleons who, like their species, adapt very well to many situations — usually to make a quick buck. They run a variety of businesses throughout the show. Both have Swedish accents but use American accents in their scams.
- Paula Hutchison-Turtle: (voiced by Linda Wallem) Dr. Hutchison is a cat. She married Filburt in the third season of the show, much to their respective families' annoyances. She soon gave birth to four children: three sons and one daughter. She has a variety of jobs, including being a dentist, a surgeon, and a canine nutritionist and has a hook for one of her hands, possibly from an accident that caused that hand to be amputated. Despite that handicap, Dr. Hutchinson is surprisingly level-headed and is prone to chuckling hysterically like Dr. Julius Hibbert from "The Simpsons".
- Gilbert, Shelbert, Norbert, and Missy: The four children of Filburt and Dr. Hutchison, who all came from the same egg. Gilburt and Shelburt (voiced by Doug Lawrence) look exactly like Filburt while Missy (voiced by Linda Wallem) is a miniature version of Hutchison. Norburt (voiced by Tom Kenny), on the other hand, has Filburt's eyes but oddly resembles Heffer (most likely because Heffer had sat on the egg for a while before it hatched). He also believes that Rocko is his mother and constantly follows him around. For most of the series, the four are featured only as babies; however, they do appear once as teenagers in the episode "Future Schlock." In the episode, the four teens address their dad as "Father" and request him to tell them a story on their dad finding something in the driveway. Missy's hairstyle, when she is a teenager, is the exact hairstyle of Leia from Star Wars.
- Mr. Smitty (voiced by Tom Kenny): Rocko's boss. He is a smoldering old toad who owns "Kind of a Lot o' Comics." He detests his employees even be a second late, and fires them for repeating this act. He apparently became the way he is through the "red button" on his office chair, which turns the user into a nasty boss. He apparently lives next door to the comic shop, but drives there anyway to take the parking space in front of the store. When his employees ask for a raise, he convinces them to accept Employee of the Month instead.
- The Wolfe Family: The Wolfe family adopted and raised Heffer. As their name suggests, they are all wolves, yet Heffer spent most of his life not realizing they weren't his real family. Virginia (voiced by Linda Wallem) is the Mom, who always treats Heffer like a little kid (until the episode "Mama's Boy", in which she stopped). George (voiced by Charlie Adler) is the father, who would like Heffer to "grow up and get out of the house". There is also Peter and Cindy (brother and sister, Peter is voiced by Doug Lawrence and Cindy is voiced by Linda Wallem), but not much is known about them, except that Cindy doesn't like when her parents fight and that Peter is, surprisingly, a cheerleader. They have a grandfather named Hiram (but called Willie on the main series, voiced by Charlie Adler), who hates Rocko to the point of obsession and frequently calls him a "beaver". His full name might be Hiram William Wolfe. Their grandmother is Winifred (possibly deceased, voiced by Carlos Alazraqui)
- Mr. Dupette (voiced by Charlie Adler): The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Conglom-O, he is the self-described "slimy boss" of Ed Bighead and enjoys picking his nose. He is almost never seen without his assistant, Noway Jose. He was also once the owner of the "Super Lot o' Comics" store where Rocko worked before moving to "Kind of a Lot o' Comics." In one episode, he decides that Ed should be on waste disposal after everyone in O-Town starts a rally to end the pollution in the whole city.
- Bloaty and Squirmy (voiced by Tom Kenny and Carlos Alazraqui): Two parasites who live on and in Spunky. Sometimes, entire episodes revolve around their odd couple relationship. It is often done as a parody of The Honeymooners.
- Really Really Big Man (voiced by Tom Kenny): An insectoid superhero who lives in O-Town. He is very big and depicted as a kind of political drawing.
- Melba Toast: An unseen female character whom Rocko has a crush on (à la the Little Red-Haired Girl from Peanuts).
- Wallace (voiced by Tom Kenny): A large elephant who works at the Pizza Face restaurant. He once almost got into a brawl with Heffer but was stopped at the last moment by his boss. Seemingly aggressive, he has a meek voice.
- Peaches (voiced by Tom Kenny): Works for Satan; he's in charge of "Heck." He has attempted to lure Heffer into "Heck" several times but has repeatedly failed to do so. Due to his failure at letting Heffer be released, he was punished by being forced to star in his own cartoon show: Peaches' Modern Life.
- Gladys (voiced by Charlie Adler): a large female hippo. Rocko apparently has a bad habit of accidentally crashing into her at public places (upon which she screams "How dare you!" and proceeds to pound him, quite literally in fact).
- The Hopping Hessian and Gordon the Talking Leg: a one-legged ghost from the Revolutionary War who lurks beyond the old Foto-Hut and a talking leg with a face on the foot who portrays his lost limb. They parody the Headless Horseman and his pumpkin.
- Flecko (voiced by Tom Kenny): a fly with a glass eye who lives in Rocko's house.
- Earl the Dog: A mutt, initially homeless, who enjoys mauling Rocko, Ed Bighead, the mailman, and basically anything else that is alive. He was adopted by Bev Bighead in the second season; Ed hates him. First seen used as a drawing for an MTV ID in 1989,just like Heffer.
- Granny (Voiced by Carlos Alazraqui) is Rocko's grandmother.
- Widow Hutchinsen (Voiced by Kevin Meany) is Dr. Hutchison's mother
- → Main article: Rocko's Modern Life episode list
Censorship of material
- The episode "Leap Frogs" was eventually removed from television due to sexual innuendo (Bev Bighead tries to seduce Rocko) during the show's rerun cycle on Nick, replaced with "Wallaby on Wheels" for future airings. Another episode, "Heff in a Handbasket" was also removed eventually from television due to satanic overtones throughout the entire episode during the show's rerun cycle on Nick, replaced with "Bedfellows" for future airings. However, "Leap Frogs" with its original episode partner is available on the DVD releases and digital services like Amazon Video, Vudu and iTunes. For "Heff in a Hand-basket" with its original episode partner, it is available on DVD and digital services like Amazon Video and iTunes. The episode where "Bedfellows" is paired with "Wallaby on Wheels" is also available on Amazon Video and iTunes, though that is not the case on the DVD sets.
- A scene was edited out of the episode "Road Rash" due to sexual innuendo. Rocko and Heffer go on a road trip on a motorcycle and want to share a room at a hotel letting rooms by the hour (to couples).
- Additionally, three other scenes were edited out of two other episodes. "The Good, The Bad, And The Wallaby" had a scene where, while being confused for a cow rather than a steer, Heffer is milked by the Milk-O-Matic and being first shocked then enjoying it, hinting that was he wasn't being "milked" after all, and also Heffer saying goodbye to the Milk-O-Matic in the same episode is also removed. Today it is removed from the DVD releases, reruns and digital versions, yet they are intact on the VHS release With Friends Like These, and the German DVD release by Turbine Media Classics, and were also officially posted on one of Nick's official Facebook pages. The second edited scene is from "Hut Sut Raw" due to violence, in which after the gang loses their food they decide to split up and find some. Rocko starts gathering some berries, then he grabs a hold of one and hears a loud roar and a bear clutching his testicles leaps out of the bush, which is also intact on the German DVD release by Turbine Media Classics.
Association with SpongeBob SquarePants
Rocko's Modern Life is perhaps most famous with today's cartoon goers (and fans of the series) for being the main precursor and basically, the closest relative and ancestor of SpongeBob SquarePants. A good portion of the former cast members for Rocko's Modern Life now work on SpongeBob, including SpongeBob creator, Stephen Hillenburg, who was a writer, director, and storyboard artist for Rocko. Others include Derek Drymon, Tim Hill, Mark O'Hare and many more. This has sparked a new popularity in Rocko's Modern Life in younger SpongeBob fans who did not grow up with Rocko, and this show has helped spark SpongeBob's popularity, many of the adolescent fans of which (most of which are now between the ages of 16 to 30 years old) watched Rocko's Modern Life as young children. There was even a rumor that the main cast of Rocko's Modern Life would make a cameo appearance in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. That rumor turned out false, though Rocko and SpongeBob did eventually appear together in the home console versions of Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots.
While Rocko is "related" to many other Nickelodeon shows in one way or another (mostly through Derek Drymon), its second real "descendant", Camp Lazlo (created by Joe Murray himself) came out in 2005, this time airing on Cartoon Network, as Murray and many ex-Rocko crew members thought Nickelodeon was too conservative for their tastes.
Several Rocko cast members, including Tom Kenny and Dan Povenmire, later worked on Family Guy for Fox. Carlos Alazraqui (who did the voice of Rocko) later went on to voice other Nicktoon characters such as Denzel Crocker on The Fairly OddParents and Carlos Casagrande on The Casagrandes, (as well as doing other voices, such as the famous Taco Bell chihuahua). Carlos is also a stand-up comedian, and stars in the hit show Reno 911. Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh (who were storyboard directors and directors for Rocko), later created the hit Disney series, Phineas and Ferb in 2007.
- Joe Murray: Creator, Director Executive Producer
- Martin Olson: Writer
- Andy Houts: Writer, Production Coordinator
- Stephen Hillenburg: Creative Director (Season 4), Writer, Director
- Mark O'Hare: Storyboard Artist, Director, Writer
- Derek Drymon: Storyboard Artist, Writer
- Doug Lawrence: Director, Writer
- Robert Scull: Storyboard Artist, Director, Writer
- Dan Povenmire: Storyboard Artist, Director, Writer
- Jeff "Swampy" Marsh: Director, Writer
- Timothy Bjorklund: Director, Writer, Main Title Animator
- Jeff Myers: Storyboard Artist, Writer, Director
- John McIntyre: Storyboard Artist, Writer, Writer, Animation Director
- Rob Porter: Character/Prop Designer, Background Designer, Storyboard Artist, Writer
- Roger Chiasson: Director, Writer, Supervising Art Director
- Vince Calandra: Writer
- Tim Hill: Writer, Story Editor
- George Maestri: Writer
- Kevin O'Brien: Writer
- Suzanne Benton: Script Coordinator
- Mary Harrington: Executive Producer
- Paul C. Fabela: Associate Producer, Production Coordinator
- Melinda Wunsch: Associate Producer
- Ken Kessel: Line Producer, Supervising Art Director
- Krist-Ann Pehrson: Line Producer
- Richard Leroy: Post-Production Producer
- Kimberli Karnatz: Production Coordinator
- Jim Leber: Production Assistant/Coordinator
- Quinn Kitmitto: Production Coordinator
- Tony Ostyn: Technical Coordinator
- Louise Soper: Production Assistant
- Tammy Jo Mariani: Production Assistant
- Cricket Stettinius: Production Assistant
- Nicola Gayle: Production Assistant
- Matt Hary: Production Assistant
- Jenetta Kelley: Production Assistant
- John Magness: Production Assistant
- Joe D. Suggs: Storyboard Artist
- Conrad Vernon: Storyboard Artist
- Don Spencer: Storyboard Artist
- Bert Ring: Assistant Storyboard Artist
- Perry Kiefer: Assistant Storyboard Artist
- Shawn Murday Assistant Storyboard Artist, Main Title Assistant Animator
- Karen Heathwood: Assistant Storyboard Artist
- Antoine Guilbaud: Character/Prop Designer, Background Designer
- Martin Ansolabehere: Character/Prop Designer
- Chris Savino: Character/Prop Designer, Background Designer
- Joe Pearson: Background Design Supervisor
- Cotty Kilbanks: Background Painter
- Raymond Zibach: Background Painter
- Nick Jennings: Background Painter
- Timothy Barnes: Background Painter
- Adriana Galvez: Background Painter
- Artin Aghamalian: Color
- Carol Wyatt: Color
- Brad Carow: Editor
- Kent Holaday: Lip Sync
- Alan Smart: Animation Director
- Robert Hughes: Animation Director
- Howy Parkins: Animation Director
- George Chialtas: Animation Director
- Pete Michels: Animation Director
- Roy Meurin: Animation Director
- Sarah Frost-Goetz: Main Title Music, Animation Timer
- Pat Irwin: Music Composer, Animation Timer
- Tom Yasumi: Animation Timer
- Gary McCarver: Animation Timer
- Juli Murphy: Animation Timer
- Carlos Alazraqui as Rocko/Spunky/Leon/Granny Rocko/Grandma Wolf
- Tom Kenny as Heffer Wolfe/Chuck/Mr. Fathead/Mr. Smitty/Peaches
- Doug Lawrence as Filburt Turtle/Peter Wolf
- Linda Wallem as Dr. Hutchisen/Mrs. Wolf/Cindy Wolf/Tammy the Pig
- Charlie Adler as Ed Bighead/Gladys/Mr. Wolf/Grandpa Wolf/Bev Bighead
- Joe Murray as Ralph Bighead
- Richard Simmons as Aerobics Instructor
- Dom Irrera as Slippy
- Kevin Meaney as Widow Hutchison
- Jill Talley as Nosey
Home video releases
- → Main article: Rocko's Modern Life videography
Sony Wonder released two VHS tapes of the show, Machine Madness and With Friends Like These..., both containing three regular episodes from the first season, on February 14, 1995. A third VHS of the show's Christmas episode, "Rocko's Modern Christmas!", followed in August 1995, and also included the "Yak Shaving Day" interstitial from The Ren & Stimpy Show as a bonus short. In addition, a shortened version of the episode "Bedfellows" appeared on the clip video Nickelodeon Friends Variety Pack, and the episode "Road Rash" was included on the Nickelodeon Roads Trip compilation VHS.
After Nickelodeon's home video license moved to Paramount Home Video in 1996, Sony's VHS tapes of Rocko's Modern Life were re-released, with two later episodes each being added to the Machine Madness and With Friends Like These... tapes, and the episode "Snowballs" replacing the "Yak Shaving Day" short on the Rocko's Modern Christmas! VHS. Paramount released one more Rocko's Modern Life VHS, Modern Love, in January 1998.
When Amazon.com began releasing manufacture-on-demand DVD sets of various Nickelodeon shows in 2008, Rocko's Modern Life oddly was released in three two-disc sets, each containing only six episodes each. Afterwards, Rocko's Modern Life, along with several other Nicktoons, was licensed to Shout! Factory in 2011. Shout! would release full season sets of the show from 2011 to 2013, and also included two Rocko episodes each on various Nicktoon compilation DVDs from 2015 to 2017. However, in 2018, the Rocko's Modern Life license returned to Paramount, who re-released Shout!'s season sets in a Complete Series set.
Unlike other Nicktoons, Rocko's Modern Life spawned only one video game - Rocko's Modern Life: Spunky's Dangerous Day, released for the Super Nintendo in 1994. However, the series was represented in multiple NickToons crossover games made long after the show's cancellation:
- Rocko was a playable character in the home console versions of Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots, he was a master model in the Nintendo DS version. Spunky appeared as a master model in the Game Boy Advance version.
- Rocko and Heffer appeared in one of the loading screens of Nicktoons MLB for Wii, Nintendo DS, and Xbox 360.
- Rocko and Heffer were playable brawlers in the mobile game Nickelodeon: Super Brawl Universe.
- In the pilot, Rocko was colored yellow. He was changed to beige at the request of a toy company that wanted to produce Rocko toys, since they "already had a yellow character." However, the company did not end up making the merchandise line that they promised.
- The series' last episodes, "Turkey Time" and "Floundering Fathers", were not intended to be the last episodes. After they were aired, the show's status was put on hiatus—and cancelled a week after that, possibly because Joe Murray wanted to spend more time with his family.
- It is rumored that Rocko was originally supposed to have an older sister named Magdalene, but was discarded from the cast or turned into a younger sister Rose, however, evidence suggests Rocko did have a brother and sister in "Trash-o-Madness", originally intended to be the first episode, where Rocko looks at a picture of his family, and his mother has a baby wallaby in her pouch and there is an accidental identical copy of Rocko, suggesting that Rocko has a twin brother.
- The pilot episode "Trash-O-Madness" was the only episode made in 1992.
- Joe Murray did the voice of Ralph Bighead in four episodes and voiced a cartoon version of himself in "Story Time".