Welcome to Top 5 Fun Friday, a regularly-occurring blog feature where I give you a list of extremely specific pointless shit from my life no one asked for. Why? Because it’s now 2022 and I still find myself BEGGING the internet for fun little diversions to read, so I have to create some of this shit myself. This week’s list…
Top 5 Favorite Episodes of Bluey
Oh God, here we go again. I’ve gotten sucked into another children’s program thanks to my damn wiener kids and their ability to run literally anything into the ground through sheer relentless repetition. I complain about that fully recognizing that I have a long history of rewatching things to the point of absurdity including a stretch when I was like 9 that a friend and I rented Look Who’s Talking and watched it five times in like a day and a half. So yeah, dose of my own medicine, blah blah blah. Unless you’re a parent you’re living this way, feel free to cram it.
The truth is, among the interminable heap of shit that is most children’s programming, there exists a handful of gems that frequently make me smile. Once upon a time I ranked the characters of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (this show, despite its scripts being 90% template and looking like it was animated on Windows 98, is somehow still the recent highwater mark for Mickey and pals considering all the other iterations of their shows are unwatchable dogshit). And I went to that well again when I ranked the characters of the Muppet Babies reboot. That show is still fun as hell and has an antic sensibility that rewards an off-kilter approach to the world.
My newest sentimental favorite is Bluey, the Australian show centered around the title character, a 6 year-old Australian Cattle Dog (or Blue Heeler) and her family, which includes her 4 year-old sister Bingo, father Bandit, and mother Chilli. I myself have a nearly identical family structure, and according to the Wikipedia page, “[Series creator Joe] Brumm drew inspiration for scripts from his own experiences in watching his daughters play, which he described was ‘as natural to them as breathing.’”
Man, is that true. My girls seem to be in an endless series of improv exercises all day, every day that sometimes exhausts me just thinking about it. As an illustrative example, we had friends over one night, and Grace had set up a hostess stand to check everyone in when they arrived. She had their names written down, dutifully checked them off, then had Sloane show them to the living room and take their coats. She kept a book on her hostess table for the down times between guests, even though at the time she could not read. She took our orders later, even though we were all just making our own Cuban sandwiches and drinking beer. It was adorable. And it’s sort of like that at all times around here.
Especially on the television considering Bluey episodes are roughly 8 minutes long, and I probably see at least 4 of them a day. Obviously they can’t all be winners, but most episodes are at least decent. Here are the five that stand head and shoulders above the rest.
It was this episode that made me wonder if Joe Brumm was secretly retconning my exact life. If you want to know what it’s like to go to the movies with Grace and Sloane, this episode might as well be a documentary. Bluey asks if the movie has any scary bits, and the usher mentions there’s a thunderstorm near the end that might make little ones a bit nervous. First of all, the way this show incorporates dog jokes into a human-like world never fails to slay me. Second, I’m not sure I’ve been to a movie yet that Grace hasn’t asked to leave in the middle of. Kristin had to spoil Frozen 2 for herself so she could coach Grace through the scary parts. And sure enough, Bluey asks to leave about four times before finding some inner strength and powering through the thunderstorm at the end.
Then there’s Bingo. Holy shit. Bingo’s bouncing on the seat, putting the popcorn bucket on her head, getting begged not to touch the toilet brush in the bathroom, gyrating under the hand dryer and just generally obliviously dancing to the beat of her own drummer. That’s my younger daughter, too! Poor Bandit is trying to manage Bluey’s feelings, corral the slippery eel Bingo, AND tolerate this animated piece of crap they have to watch featuring singing monkeys.
During Frozen 2 I had Sloane on my lap, and pretty much anything that happened onscreen just bounced right off her. Since it was an Alamo Drafthouse, she was enamored with the giant bowl of popcorn they put in front of us, adored the fact that our seat had a light, slips of paper and a pencil, and had her face melt clean off when some guy appeared out of nowhere in the dark to deliver us chocolate chip cookies.
Everyone likes seeing themselves reflected onscreen, so it’s weird that this one is one of my faves because there’s no Bandit in it. In fact, there’s no Chilli or Bingo either. In this one, Bluey and her classmate Mackenzie are visited at school by their older buddies, Mia and Captain, respectively. Bluey and Mia go off to build a fairy garden while Mackenzie and Captain play “barky boats” which is really just racing some pieces of tree bark down a channel of water.
It’s clear early on that Captain and Mia have budding feelings for each other (as they’re represented to be about 12), but don’t know exactly how to express them, or even what to do about it. So they contrive reasons to interact with one another to the annoyance of Bluey and Mackenzie. Eventually they wander off alone leaving Bluey and Mackenzie by themselves, where Captain and Mia share fears about entering high school, stare at the sky together, and lose track of why they’re supposed to be there.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of romantic awakening in adolescence – the ache, the exhilaration, the innocence, the wonder, the mystery, and the possibility of it all – yet, here I am watching a children’s television show featuring animated dogs and I’m transported to that time in my life in a way more profound than I’ve probably ever seen captured in a piece of pop culture. Bluey and Mackenzie are naturally clueless about what’s happening, and a bit annoyed, but their teacher Calypso does an incredibly poetic job of explaining it using the barky boats. It’s really something.
This one is best explained in a text I sent to my fellow dad friend Jeff, whose daughter is Sloane’s little bestie. We’ve become good pals. Here’s the text:
This Bluey episode called “Café” is about how weird is its making new friends as an adult and parent. Bandit (the dad) has to get comfortable enough to ask this guy Fido and his daughter to breakfast after several “dates” at the park with Bluey. It’s essentially the condensed plot of the movie I Love You, Man and breakfast is clearly a bromantic stand-in for fucking. It took me some time, but this show is shockingly great with tone and subtext.
Men are fucking weird when it comes to platonic friendship. Women seem to be ready to be friends nearly instantaneously, will share intimate details from their lives right away, and they’re almost certainly better off for it. Men have a dumbass wall to crawl over first, and why? We don’t know! But this episode is the one I relate to on a personal level most, and also provides some honest-to-God laugh out loud moments like when Fido and Bandit share a (fake) piece of toasted banana bread they ordered from their kids and lament, “They forgot to toast it.”
One of the hardest things about parenting is remembering to keep a sense of joy about it all, even when you’re exhausted, which is pretty much always. The kids desperately want you to play with them, and you desperately want them to just be quiet and leave you alone for a bit. Bandit is a true model of the first rule of improv “Yes, and…” where the kids invent whatever cockeyed game, and just jumps right the fuck in.
In “Octopus,” Bluey and her friend Chloe try to steal the octopus’s (played by Bandit) treasure while he dangles his arms, makes his eyes all vacant and googly, and attempts to catch them. Sometimes he does, and sometimes the girls outsmart him. It’s all very charming. When Chloe attempts to recreate it with her own dad, his rhythms, play instincts and overall sensibility are just… off. He’s not exactly a sourpuss or a killjoy about it, but he definitely misses the spirit of the game entirely and frustrates Chloe to the point where she tells him, “Aw, Bluey’s dad is way more fun than you” which stings him. No shit! If I heard that from my own kids, a piece of me would undeniably wilt.
I’m probably not as fun as I used to be. Adulthood will do that to you, and I’ve loathed adults who fancy themselves cut-ups for some time. But this episode is a nice reminder that kids just want you to get on their wavelength once in awhile and try to slot into whatever temporary imaginary universe they’ve miraculously conjured out of thin air. Chloe has a talk with her dad, they figure it out together, Bluey comes over, and they have what appears to be an even more fun round of playing “Octopus.” I watch this one and I remember not to be such a stick in the mud about a harmless game of pretend.
With that said, I cannot imagine allowing my children to put me into “dance mode” at their own discretion. When Bandit mistakenly eats Bingo’s last fry, she’s sad and they agree to let Bingo put them in dance mode three times, which means when there’s music playing somewhere, she can tap their tails, shout “Dance Mode!” and whoever she taps has to dance on the spot.
The first one Bluey steals and puts Chilli in dance mode while they cross the street causing the stopped cars to honk at her. The second one Chilli steals and puts Bandit in dance mode at a UPS-type store thanks to a musical greeting card while Bandit tries to fill out a change of address card. The third Bandit just buys right off of Bingo to avoid a public music performance in the town square, of which Bluey tells Bingo to buy a “Yes/No Button,” and then promptly uses it herself.
Bingo is still sad, and we figure out that while Bingo did agree to all of those things, everyone was prodding her to make decisions she didn’t actually want to. My wife tells me this captures what it’s like to be a younger sibling beautifully with everyone speaking for you and trying to make your decisions. I love the way this show gives everyone a relatable arc and no one falls into some predictable, cliché behavior pattern that was passe even by the time it got to Three’s Company.
But more importantly than that is that the dance modes are undeniably hilarious, and the voice of the “Yes/No Button” is in the Hall of Fame for shit from this show that makes me laugh. Seeing this tiny dog press these buttons where a voice that’s best described as masculine morning radio DJ crossed with voiceover artist for a car dealership commercial belts out assertively “Yes!” and “No!” always makes me smile, and Sloane asks me to do the voice whenever this is on. She thinks this is my favorite episode because of that silly button.
My favorite episode is actually “Café,” but does she need to know that?