It has been a long wait, but the naïve dingo and his equally bizarre friends will be returning to our screens for a one-off episode later this year.
A lot has changed since Rocko’s Modern Life last aired and most programmes that return to the world they left behind fail to recapture the magic that made them great. Often these programmes make numerous tweaks in order to address its absence or modernise the formula for a new audience, causing it to fall short.
For this reason, I am unsure whether to greet the news with excitement or cynicism.
In Rocko’s own words: “fellas, I don’t think we are in the 90s anymore”. A clever reference to the fact that times have moved on and, perhaps, an understanding that things may need to be adapted to work in 2017.
Yet, creating a new episode that is contemporary isn’t necessarily an issue. Yes, even during the short two-minute trailer, they made done to death jokes about people being obsessed with new iPhones, food trucks and a smattering of other passing fads, but the apathy that permeated through every episode during the 90s wasn’t present in the trailer.
This quality marked the show out from almost anything else on TV at that time, especially for a cartoon. Much like Ren and Stimpy, its odd, dry humour made it a joy to watch. The darkness was refreshing and a much-needed break from the cloying sentimentality that was almost ubiquitous with 80s and 90s television.
The trailer for the new episode appears to be more upbeat – not to be confused with high-energy as Rocko’s Modern Life has always ebbed up and down. This time all the characters seemed unusually chirpy even if their enthusiasm was used to mocked the culture that surrounded them.
Perhaps this is momentary euphoria brought on by exposure to mindless consumerism but it could also indicate that the episode will have a similar tone.
Even smaller changes such as the crisper, brighter computer animated graphics detracted from what made Rocko’s Modern Life great. The changes, rather than enhancing the experience, diminished from the rough around the edges art style that I loved during the 90s.
On a more positive note, the level of absurdism appeared to be in the same such as giant Akira-like monsters and drones with giant cameras. Equally, the voice acting, music and art style feel consistent with the old series.
While most reboots tend to fall short, the references to modern culture did not feel out of place in the world of Rocko’s Modern Life – you know, the modern part of Rocko’s Modern life, I guess – and so it may be able to make the comparisons between the 90s and the present work if the absurdism is matched by equal doses of apathy.
It is possible that the reboot could turn out to be great, but it depends on how effectively the director manages to intertwine the old with the new.
Back in August, the creator, Joe Murray, said to EW:
“I have found by bringing these characters back is that it’s not so much about nostalgia, but a sense that they still feel relevant and fresh to me, and after 20 years, they can’t wait to comment on modern life in the 21st century. They still have a lot to say.”
The above quote indicates that Murray intends to keep much of the programme intact and, indeed, the trailer highlights that the look and feel is the same, so there is hope that the magic of the original series can live on in 2017.