The Best Nickelodeon Series Masquerading As A Kids Cartoon On Streaming

By Robert Scucci | Published

The best kids’ shows are the ones that are actually meant for adults, and Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life has to be the most subversive series in this category to come out of the ‘90s. What sets this raunchy cartoon apart from shows like Ren & Stimpy is that you have to read between the lines to fully unpack all of the adult humor. At face value, Rocko’s Modern Life is a slapstick, slice-of-life cartoon that kids can enjoy, but watching it as an adult will make you wonder how you were ever allowed to watch the series as a child or if you should even be showing it to your kids. 

Rocko’s Modern Life Is Surreal

I will be introducing Rocko’s Modern Life to my 5-year-old sometime soon, but not without screening the episodes for questionable content first. After all, I turned out fine (though that’s up for debate), but definitely got in trouble for unknowingly quoting some of the show’s more questionable exchanges while attending grade school. By the same token, it’s a show that the whole family can enjoy because much of the adult humor will fly right over your kids’ heads because of its expertly placed double entendres.

A Simple Concept Soon Goes Off The Rails

First, we should talk about why Rocko’s Modern Life works for a younger audience. The series centers on its titular character, Rocko, a wallaby who works at a comic book shop and lives with his faithful and energetic dog, Spunky. Rocko is often joined by his two friends, a binge-eating steer named Heffer, who’s a slave to his impulses, and a hypochondriac turtle named Filbert, who sounds like Woody Allen.

Nothing Ever Goes Right

Rocko, Heffer, and Filbert embark on a series of misadventures ranging from ill-fated fishing trips to mundane everyday life events like trying to find the right theater at the GoogaPlex Cinemas to go see a movie. Through this premise, Rocko’s Modern Life is a show about how friendships can be tested when plans fall apart, and its central characters are subjected to injuries, scams, and sometimes, Gladys the Hippo Lady, with whom Rocko has frequent questionable run-ins.

All of the above scenarios are fertile ground for an amazing kids’ show, but now we need to get into the adult humor.

The Adult Jokes

Rocko and his friends frequently dine at a restaurant called the Chokey Chicken (renamed the Chewy Chicken in Season 4 for obvious reasons), the gang’s favorite tabletop game is called Spank the Monkey, and Rocko once briefly worked for a “one-on-one hotline” without realizing that the caller on the other end of the line was his neighbor, a middle-aged cane toad named Bev Bighead.

Mr. Bighead Is Now Very Relatable

Double entendres aside, Rocko’s Modern Life paints a very bleak picture of adult life through Rocko’s grumpy neighbor, Ed Bighead. Ed Bighead works at a massive corporation called Conglom-O, whose identifying slogan is “We Own You.” Younger audiences will think of Ed as one of the series’ primary antagonists, but when they grow up, and adult life begins to take hold, they will eventually identify with Ed Bighead, whose monotonous yet relatively peaceful life is frequently disturbed by Rocko and his friend’s antics. Parents watching the series with their kids will certainly enjoy how the series takes shots at corporate America without being too heavy-handed.

Catch Up With A Classic

At the end of the day, Rocko’s Modern Life is definitely a kids’ show. But if you, like many parents, are tired of watching episodes of Bluey and Blippi on repeat, then you might want to slip a couple of episodes of Rocko’s Modern Life (available on Paramount+) into the mix because it’s unbelievable how much adult humor slipped past Nickelodeon‘s censors. If you’re okay with having a couple of crucial conversations with your kids about some of the series’ more questionable moments, then you’re in for a treat.