Sunday, September 05, 2021

All the episodes of Bluey ranked (4 of 4)

(Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here)

In this installment, we get Brisbane nighttime psychedelia, a cartoon-based Theory of Evolution, a Daddy Robot and a Mummy Robot,  a visit from The Fwamingo Queen, and THE TOP TEN! 

18. The Creek 

Sometimes the best episodes of Bluey are the ones in which nothing really happens at all. So confident are the show’s creators in their commitment to nothing really happening, that they actually have one scene in which Bluey and her friends do the same thing twice – on the play equipment, once with a happy and excited look on their face, once with a bored look on their face. Responding to repeated imprecations – ‘Will you play with us, Dad?’ ‘Yeah, will you play with us, Bluey’s Dad?’ – Bandit takes them all on a walk to the creek. A lovely score and the usual excellent illustration give this episode some magical moments. 

17. Fruitbat

An unusual episode, which starts off with a typical minimalistic Bluey plot – Bluey is struggling to get to sleep – and which ends with an extended surreal fantasy, in which Bluey dreams she is a fruitbat. What’s the point of it, I don’t know, but I still kinda like it. This episode is notable for the amazing artwork and animation – the dream sequence is one thing, but check out the art of Bingo sleeping, completely out of it, just after the 3 minutes 30 seconds mark. The accompanying 70s-style psychedelic music is spot on. 

16. Sleepytime

This extremely strange episode starts with a short chat between Bingo and Chilli and then goes straight into Bingo dreaming. There’s almost no real plot, or even dialogue, from then on. The dream looks and feels totally bizarro – a big outerspace scape, basically; Bingo is floating around between the planets and the sun with her cuddle toy, Fluffy – (a pink bunny) – who, nicely, gets a character of her own in this episode. I really appreciate the commitment of the Bluey makers to occasional shows like this that are so out there that you just wonder, whoa, where did that come from? At any rate, it’s effective; while this dreaming is going on, the characters of the house are wandering around, and even end up in all sorts of different beds (there’s a plot there, of sorts). So two basic childhood questions end up being answered: what am I going to dream about? And what happens to everyone when I go to sleep? Typically, and excellently, the soundtrack composers know exactly what music to borrow – okay, steal – from, segueing into a reference to Holst’s The Planets for the sublime ending.


15. Flat Pack

Bandit and Chilli have just brought the family back from IKEA, or whatever it is they call it in the Bluey universe. Chilli is enthused – ‘I could live in that place!’ but Bandit, not so much: ‘I’m not taking advice from a cartoon dog!’ he exclaims, tossing away the instructions, setting the scene for what’s to follow. Plenty of comedy routines have been built around people unsuccessfully putting together kit models and badly following instructions, but part of the genius of the Bluey writers is the way they combine this with that special focus of the program, kids’ games: as each piece of equipment or wrapping is discarded on the lawn, Bluey and Bingo start a new make-believe game – ‘Let’s be fish!’ ‘Let’s be frog dogs!’ (The games get so elaborate that by the end of them they seem to be on the verge of inventing their own language, culture and religion). Two different kinds of chaos take place, and that special blend of humour and family sentiment that you get in a few of the best episodes takes place. 


14. Daddy Robot

Very much one of the ‘Dad plays the game so hard he makes trouble for everyone’ episodes, showing off Bandit-voice David McCormack’s talents quite well in the weird Daddy Robot ‘beep boop’ sounds and the rap the Daddy Robot has to do. In one pleasing twist, Bandit readily agrees to the Daddy Robot game (rather than his usual dramatic ‘oh no’ sighs when a game is suggested to him) because he seems to be gobbling up something he’s not supposed to from the fridge. There’s a continuation of the Bandit-Chilli romance when the malfunctioning Daddy Robot meets Mummy Robot – ‘you’re the most beautiful robot I’ve ever seen in my life’. We even get to see the world from the Daddy Robot’s eyes, as they open first thing after an operation. There’s quite a lot going on here!

13. Blue Mountains 

For sheer originality and immersion in a striking concept this episode has to be one of the very best. It’s pretty simple; the hands/paws of Chilli and Bluey and Bingo have googley-eyes stuck on and go walking in the Blue Mountains – that’s Bandit’s chest – where they meet a ‘kindly-looking fox’. So you get two stories at once here – the story of the family out for the day and having a game together, and the story of the story they tell one another. This is excellent lighthhearted entertainment, and all the more impressive that it was one of the very first episodes of the show – the producers are fearless! If I hold back from placing it as one of the very top episodes, it is only because it lacks the emotional depth some others bring.

12. Favourite Thing

Is an episode called ‘Favourite Thing’ my favourite thing about this series? It’s a strong contender! This is all deceptively simple, just banter around the dinner table. It’s given emotional weight when Bingo becomes depressed, thinking a joke is making fun of her – Bluey repeatedly tries to cheer Bingo up, but nothing seems to be working. This is a fundamental dynamic between the two Heeler sisters that comes out in this episode. Bandit, meanwhile, just wants to eat his steaks – ‘Woo hoo! T-Bone!’, but is repeatedly interrupted by his kids. The beautiful simplicity of the plot, some very funny lines and a killer ending make this one of the best Bluey episodes. 


11. The Sleepover

This episode is quintessential Muffin. Bluey and Bingo are excited when their cousin Muffin comes over for the night, because Chilli has said they get to stay up late. ‘A little later’, specifies Chilli. Only Muffin is completely out of it when they come round, she hasn’t had her ‘day sleep’ (she’s in the process of learning to only sleep at night). Uncle Stripe quickly scarpers, leaving an unimpressed Chilli to explain to Bluey and Bingo that there’s been a change of plans. Zonked out Muffin is completely hilarious (‘I am the fwamingo qween!’), alternately running into things and falling asleep in inappropriate locations; Bluey and Bingo want to keep the game going (mostly) so they can stay up late; and the ‘sleepover’ soon devolves into something like a late night bender at Fortitude Valley, in an excellent parody sequence starting with a game of ‘restaurants’. There’s something with this show and the restaurant/café game – many of the best episodes (Café, Fancy Restaurant) seem to be built around it. It’s a classic setting for comedy, I guess. Combining the excitement of ‘staying up late’ with the ‘toddler who just needs to go to sleep’ dilemma, this one earns an Episode of Excellence badge in my book. :) 



10. Dunny

The episode that introduced the word ‘Dunny’ to generations of Americans. Is ‘dunny’ really an Australian-specific word? Turns out (from my extensive research on those most authoritative places, internet forums) Americans don’t even know how to spell it (‘Duny’!) Anyway, it’s a word that Chilli doesn’t want her kids to say, as she doesn’t think it’s nice. Trouble is Bandit didn’t hear that rule - when he comes back from the toilet and announces that the ‘Dunny’s free’ Bluey and Bingo giggle uncontrollably. ‘Dad said it, dad said it!’ This is an episode of considerable charm, a personal favourite, and again one of the ones in which nothing really happens. It’s just four dogs having a banter in bed. 


9. Bike

Part of the recipe that makes Bluey such a special show is the way each episode is structured around a small, believable emotional crisis that all kids have. In this episode, Bluey – and all of her friends – are struggling with something at the play park and just want to give up. The structure here is the height of simplicity – Bluey falls off her bike, curls up at her dad’s feet, and they watch her friends struggle with their games. Maybe it is a bit cheaty, because the episode would be nothing without the soundtrack – starting off with some subtle pizzicato, then building to a glorious climax as the pups overcome their challenges to the tune of Ode an die Freude (that’s Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’). Shut up! I’m not crying, you’re crying!  


8. Bingo 

This one is full of role reversals. It starts off with mum Chilli playing the whacky game – ‘whoa, it’s raining! Better get under the Mumbrella!’ and Bluey is hardly there at all, so the show named after her gets renamed – ‘This episode of Bingo is called Bingo’. An affectionate tribute to Bluey’s younger sister Bingo, who finds herself at a loose end when Bluey goes away with her dad for the day, and who has to find out how to play on her own. She even has troubles with the fridge – ‘I just miss my sister.’ ‘I know.’ ‘And the fridge doesn’t like me.’ ‘I…. know?’ 


7. Shops 
Just how long can the show keep one gag going? This deceptively simple episode manages to keep everything running on the force of one joke, a perennially-delayed game of Shops. Mackenzie just wants to start the game, Bluey keeps on telling everyone to wait until she works out another detail. There’s so much good about this episode, not least the experience of seeing a cartoon dog (Mackenzie) roll their eyes in impatient incredulity. A special mention must go to the show’s composer, who chooses the perfect piece of music to create the sense of delayed expectation (a version of the Can-Can, written to hold off on the famous theme music until just the right time). 


6. Sticky Gecko

It’s another episode in which nothing really happens, but that nothing happens at a very very frenetic pace. Chilli just wants to get the kids out the door, the kids keep on getting distracted by, well, stuff, the sticky gecko toy just doesn’t want to drop down from the roof, and anyway, Bluey seems weirdly reluctant to go. ‘Mum, what was that thing that granddad said again?’ ‘Hurry up and wait.’ We’re getting a glimpse into Chilli’s family history here – her Dad was in the army; she works in airport security – there’s a history of family service. As the normally-patient Chilli’s frustration at this most impossible of tasks builds – ‘The door is right there!’ – the comedy builds as well. There’s even an extended dialogue built around that most successful debate gambit of kids – ‘But why?’ Nothing happens, but this show really is everything. 


5. The Weekend

This one originally appeared as the pilot episode of Bluey, and you can tell the show knew what it was doing from the get go. Bandit just wants to watch the cricket, the kids just want to play games with him, and Bingo gets upset when Bandit doesn’t notice her. It’s difficult to explain the magic that happens in this episode, but do take time to appreciate the gorgeous illustration/animation of a Brisbane night (also happens in episodes like Daddy Putdown) and the pitch perfect soundtrack (well, you’d hope it would be).  


4. Daddy Putdown

As we have all learned from that stirring modern classic Go the fuck to sleep, a story about the kids going to bed is mostly not about the kids going to bed. Bluey doesn’t want her dad to put her to bed, but it’s really about her anxiety about her mum being away from home. There’s a kind of beautiful suburban blissfulness about this episode; look at how gorgeously Bluey’s backyard is depicted, with the long evening light and the dreamlike soundtrack, halfway between a lullaby and a meditation. There’s a very funny joke towards the end, but it’s just a very sweet episode, really. 


3. Hairdressers

Aw, isn’t that sweet, the whole family is bonding by being violent to Bandit. (Consensually. Sort of.) When Bluey and Bingo decide to play hairdressers, Bandit gives himself some dodge name and joins in the fun – only to be told he has nits. Oh no, bring out the cold showers, bring out the bats! All of which makes the concluding line ‘Hi. I don’t have nits. Would you like to have coffee with me?’ very funny indeed. It shouldn’t be funny, but it so is. To quote Homer Simpson – ‘It’s funny because it isn’t happening to me.’


2. Rug Island

‘Hey kids, I got you some new pens. ’’Yay, Rug Island!’ ‘Huh?’ Chilli is not the only that ends up confused about this concept; by the end of this episode I have lost track of reason, time, and even reality itself. The idea is simple enough – the island is a rug in the middle of the backyard covered with pot plants, the pens become fish and spears and vegetables and animals, all is going well when a grown-up (Bandit) becomes washed up on Rug Island. Bingo wants to make him welcome, but Bluey doesn’t even bother holding back on her inner cannibal – ‘It’s a grown-up! Eat him!’ There’s a montage of scenes with Bandit finding out how to live on the island, and here’s where reality really starts to warp – the episode starts with Bandit saying, ‘I’ve got to get to work’, and the rest of the episode is basically him not getting to work. Was it all just an elaborate ruse? Doesn’t he normally work at home? It’s hard to believe that all the material in this episode happens in the five odd minutes or so before he leaves home for work. And then Lucky’s Dad appears, apparently fully immersed in the game as well. The emotional movement of this episode is sweetly paralleled by a lyrical score, making it one of the high points of the whole series. While most episodes are about children’s games, this one is really more about Bandit, looking nostalgically back at childhood and a life without all his adult cares.


1. Fancy restaurant 

Oh, this episode has got the goods. The set up: Bluey and Bingo want Mum and Dad to ‘smoochy kiss’ because ‘it’s so romance’. (‘Where did you learn that word?’ ’TV.’) But Chilli is reluctant without a romantic occasion. So they all play Restaurants; Bluey becomes the waiter, Bingo the chef, and Bandit gives himself the name ‘Romeo McFlourish’ before promptly forgetting it. He tries to urge Bluey and Bingo to make it a more romantic setting for the date (baked beans aren’t very conducive to smoochy kisses). Everyone gets great lines here; we find ourselves more in sit-com territory rather than the suburban realism-with-a-hint-of-childhood-whimsy territory more familiar to the series. Bluey urges Bandit ‘Well, toughen up, Romeo! We want to see a smoochy kiss!’, but the magic doesn’t seem to be happening – ‘I guess I have forgotten how to be romance’ Bandit, AKA Romeo McFlourish, tells his date. Simultaneously sending up the romantic love genre while reaffirming the love affair between Bandit and Chilli, this is a great example of the two-way appeal of the show – amusing the kids and the adults, all at once. 

All the episodes of Bluey ranked (3 of 4)

(Part 1 here, part 2 here, part 4 here)

In this instalment, we have talking garbage bins, a wholesome capsicum salad, a visit from Evil Claw, and a Giant Peanut. It's basically a normal morning at home. Let's get into it! 

46. Bin Night

Bin Night really does raise deep philosophical questions, doesn’t it. ‘Hey, is it yellow bin night tonight or not?’ ‘I don’t know, I just copy what you do!’ Each week as Bingo, Bluey and Bandit take the bins out, we learn a bit more about what’s going on in Bingo’s class at school, and the problems she’s having with fellow classmate Banjo. The concept is so simple, even minimalistic, but there’s so many characters who get a part here: from the Heeler family, to Doreen across the road and her friends, ‘the ladies from Mah Jong’, to Bingo’s class, to the neighbourhood crow. Even the bins have personalities! Great fun.  


45. Dad Baby

Does what it says on the cover. When Bandit finds an old baby carrier, Bingo climbs in so he can be pregnant with a Dad Baby. ‘Wait until you feel the first kick,’ suggests Chilli helpfully. And so the episode moves gradually but inevitably towards the birth scene – you knew there was going to be one. No more from me on this one, you’ll have to find out for yourself. 


44. Swim School 

Starting off with a discussion about dobbing, this episode segues into a series of lessons from Bluey, who becomes ‘Karen’ – the kindly teacher of ‘Little Fish’ swim school – and ‘Margaret’ – a much meaner old biddy who teaches ‘Big Fish’. As Margaret, Bluey engages a time-honoured tactic of teachers and plays her students off one another, encouraging them all to dob. You won’t find an obvious moral in this. Should you dob or not? It really depends on the circumstance. Maybe the moral is more like, it doesn’t really matter so long as your family is loving and supportive. But then, this episode at least is basically The Simpsons principle in action: there’s nothing like a dysfunctional family unit to entertain us all. There’s comedy, there’s slapstick, it’s quite a tight little episode!    

43. Dance Mode

It’s hard to tell if this is a game or an elaborate form of revenge: Bingo – who is sad because dad Bandit snaffled her last chip – gets three chances at Dance Mode, where she can make her parents dance whenever and wherever she chooses. Inconvenient for some – Bandit gets sprung into Dance Mode at the front of a long queue. ‘Hey, Wiggletime, get a move on!’ Only everyone else keeps on persuading Bingo to use the Dance Mode when she doesn’t want to: her ‘outside voice’ sometimes says ‘yes’ when her ‘inside voice’ says ‘no’. Of course the dance mode is infectious and of course this episode ends with a techno beat and mega dance off. This is a classic for both Bingo, the less confident of the Heeler sisters, and for Bandit, who gets a few chances here to bust a move. 

42. BBQ 

There’s a lot of fun in this episode with Bingo, who announces ‘this is my relaxing chair. This is where I get to do my relaxing’, and then is sent on a quest to make salad for her play BBQ by her ever-hypo cousin Muffin. As is often the case, Bandit is the butt of most of the jokes, though Uncle Stripe is in for it as well. Ahhhh, nothing like sharing the pain around. 


41. Escape 

A bit of a stand-out, this, it contains both one of those complicated ‘plot within a plot’ tricks, and a whole new style of animation, developed for this episode and this episode only. This in spite of the fact that, basically, it’s just Bluey and Bingo in the car with their parents. How does the show do this! It all hinges on the concept; when Bandit and Chilli tell the kids that they’re going to Nannas and that they’ll get some time off in the meantime they all invent elaborate fantasies about what they’ll be doing and how one pair will escape from the other. Good fun. 


40. Squash 

Bluey and Bingo take the controls as they ‘play’ their Dad Bandit and their Uncle Stripe off in a game of squash. In this episode I end up a little confused as to whether Stripe really does beat his competitive brother Bandit in squash or whether Bandit is just pretending to play badly. Is it just a game or is it just a game? The computer game conceit (complete with appropriate music) is clever though it does make me feel a bit uncomfortable – I don’t really want to believe these dogs are digital blips on the screen even if they are, um, just digital blips on the screen. To steal a line from another episode: ‘Can you please pretend that they’re pretend real?’ But it’s good to see Uncle Stripe get his victory in the end. Or is it Bingo? Or Bandit and Bluey? This has all turned out to be unexpectedly complex.


39. Early Baby 

Bluey’s friend Indy and teacher Calypso both play significant roles in this episode – Indy wants to play one of those weirdly specific games with Bluey, where they’re about to have a baby, but it’s an early baby. Okay, Indy! But then Rusty causes trouble by barging in with a game of his own and taking the doll – sorry, early baby – out of its special crib. What the hell, Rusty! A well-crafted little episode, this, approaching a difficult subject in a tactful way. 


38. Daddy Dropoff

‘You just like making more work for yourself, don’t you?’ says Chilli to Bandit as they lie in bed at the start of the morning, the pups dangling off his feet. ‘At least I get to lie in bed’, says Bandit, which is when you know this episode is one of those in which Bandit is going to get run off his feet. Will he get the kids to school on time? Bluey and Bingo are more interested in playing games with him than stupid old schedules. Cleverly structured so that a new character introduced briefly at the start becomes part of an emotional high point at the end, this is altogether quite worthy of your time. 


37. Hospital

In this episode, Bluey becomes the worst doctor in the world to ailing patient Bandit Heeler (BANDIT: Why did you stick a needle in me before you knew what was wrong with me? BLUEY: I’m very busy.) Bingo plays the kindly nurse – ‘leave it with me, dearie’ – which Bandit needs when he finds out he’s pregnant with a cat (we’ve all been there). Plenty of comedy in this episode.


36. Teasing

So, we start off the show with a bit of naughtiness. (Bluey dangles Bingo’s toothbrush in front of her, chanting ‘OOooOOooOOoo!’ Honestly, I have no idea how to transcribe some of the jokes of this show.) Bandit tells her not to tease her sister, but Bluey can’t see why she shouldn’t – why, when their dad teases them all the time? ‘I never tease!’ says Bandit, which of course means the show will be a series of quickfire jokes about Bandit teasing his kids. The jokes seem unconnected at first, almost like ideas for Bluey episodes that didn’t make it, but then weird things start happening – Bandit objects that ‘As usual, you squirts only told half the story!’ And we get the other part of the teasing, where his kids tease him right back; a cascade of more jokes, riffing on the first ones, follow. So - diagram time, kids! - here we have Bluey teasing Bingo, Chilli and Bluey and Bingo teasing Bandit about his teasing Bluey and Bingo, and Bandit teasing Chilli and Bluey and Bingo about their teasing of his teasing. So sometimes teasing is…. good? Yes. Yes it is. And this episode – it’s good too! 


35. Takeaway

In which Bluey and Bingo cause various kinds of chaos outside the Chinese takeaway while dad Bandit waits for the spring rolls – ‘your dad and the spring rolls!’ sighs Chilli over the phone. Chaos is always fun and this show thrives on it; relieved occasionally by Bingo’s questions of Bandit – ‘if only grown-ups have babies, where did the first baby come from?’ Haha, take THAT Bandit. 


34. The Claw

The exaggerated disappointment of Bluey and Bingo at not winning at one of those crappy mechanical claw games you find in supermarkets causes Chilli, when they get home, to become a claw herself. Only she doesn’t play it very well at all – she keeps on giving the kids things, the game becomes much too disappointing. So Bandit, who shall henceforth be known as Evil Claw, takes over. ‘This is great’, Evil Claw says to Chilli while the kids are off making a bed to get money to play again, ‘The house is getting cleaned, and they’re learning a valuable life lesson.’ ’Neither of those things are happening.’ There’s a lot of bargaining happening in this episode, not all of Evil Claw’s doing. What’s it’s message? Capitalism is bad? Capitalism is good? Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit? I don’t know, I had a laugh at this one, and you will too. 


33. Library 

‘Muffy’, Uncle Stripe says to Bluey and Bingo’s cousin Muffin in the car on the way to their house, ‘You’re the most special girl in the world.’ BIG MISTAKE, Stripe. Muffin (who is even wearing a princess tiara) toddles off to play with her cousins, but she thinks she doesn’t have to play ‘Library’ by their rules. And because she’s the guest, well… Chilli kind of lets her. It’s not just a Muffin episode, we get a glimpse of Uncle Stripe’s parenting style as well. 


32. Asparagus

This one’s a little mind boggler. The premise is simple; at a family dinner Bluey gets hold of a magic asparagus – of course it’s magic, Chilli tells her so! – that can turn anyone into animals – even, er, a dog family that kinda sorta represents a human family. Righto then. There’s some visual magic from the animators here, managing to make this family of dogs look not only like, well, dogs, but dogs acting like they’ve been turned into other animals AND dogs that actually have been turned into other animals (because the acting is successful) (or the magic) (we’ll get to that). And then there’s the cleverness in the scripting and the directing because, at the end there, the script kind of just leaves you hanging – was the stalk magic after all? The end joke, which is very good, depends on you actually accepting the asparagus actually was magic. ‘Don’t worry Tim’, I hear you whisper soothingly to me, ‘it’s not really real’. I know they’re not real, they’re just animated characters – I just want to know how not real they are! 


31. Camping

A very sweet ep, this one, that manages to capture many of the positive aspects of camping (family closeness, fun in the bush) and none of the negatives (tents are too small and are leaky when it rains). I don’t like camping much but I suspect the Bluey makers do. Anyway, while Bluey’s out in the bush with her family at a campsite, she makes a new friend, Jean-Luc, only she has to find new ways of communicating with him; he speaks French and doesn’t speak English, she speaks English and doesn’t speak French. Conveniently, there’s always an adult they can beat up on – hello, Bandit! In a recapitulation at the end, we even get to see a teen Bluey, sitting under a tree, reading a book. I can’t even understand half the dialogue here but there’s a lot packed into the episode – family, friendship, loss, growing up, and more. 


30. Postman 

When Bluey walks in on Chilli and Bandit having a minor disagreement – ‘I don’t like it when you squabble!’ – she decides her dad has to write a letter to her mum apologising and telling her he still loves her. Only problem is, not only does she end up playing postman, but she has to play ‘The Floor is Lava’ with Bingo at the same time. It’s a clever concept for an episode, and leads to several amusing altercations between her and Bingo – ‘No I don’t.’ ‘Yes you do.’ ‘No I don’t.’ ‘Yes you don’t.’ ‘No I…. AH! WE’RE SQUABBLING! We have to agree on everything!’ Both the sisters have to display their wits and agility in this episode to get round this two-games-at-once hoodoo. 


29. The Quiet Game

Annoyed by his kids being shouty, Bandit dares them to play the Quiet Game, where they compete to see who can stay silent for the longest. I suppose it’s a bit like that movie A Quiet Place, only this time it’s horrifying for real life for Bandit – he ends up having to take the kids to the shops to get a present for Muffin. He has to get the right present because Muffin will chuck a tanty if he doesn’t, and, well, only Bluey and Bingo know what the right present is. The soundtrack does some excellent work here – Joff Bush, always knowing what musical cues to take, this time goes to the old silent movie serials and vaudeville mime acts, almost becoming an extra script for the show. This great concept brings just the right amount of suspense to the show; the jokes work wonderfully well, and make the joyous shouting when it happens – you KNOW it’s going to happen – all the more joyously shouty. 


28. The Pool

Can any backyard pool games be sweeter than games in Backyard Pool of Relative When They’re Away on Holiday? I think not. Bandit, Bluey and Bingo all head off to Uncle Stripe’s house on a hot day to get some pool action, only they forget all the stuff they normally take along, so they can’t play any of the pool games. Bandit finds himself resorting to the oldest of conversational gambits: ‘I’m bored.’ ‘Oh, hi Bored! Nice to meet you!’ ‘Ugh.’ ‘I’m HUNGRY.’ ‘Oh, hi Hungry! Meet Bored!’ ‘Grrr!’ ‘Tough crowd!’ This one has some very funny and original jokes and some excellent dialogue, strikingly capturing the family fun on a hot summer day feeling.


27. Chickenrat

This unique episode actually finds the narrative moving backwards through time as the show progresses. Bingo, with Bluey in tow, is looking for her beloved toy Floppy before she goes to bed, only she can’t remember where she put her; so Chilli asks her to think back to what she was doing before she came to bed. And just why is Bandit now a Chickenrat? And what on earth is a Chickenrat? A pleasing detective story with a twist, and a clever structure to this episode makes this one satisfying little televisual unit. 


26. Road Trip

Something something something Necessity is the mother of invention something something but sometimes Mum is the mother of invention something something. Yep, when they’re stuck on a long road trip, without their video games, Bluey and Bingo turn to their parents to stave off boredom. So Mum keeps on coming up with suggestions – Eye Spy? (Nooooo!) Why not use your hands to play video games with the passing scenery? In the meantime, Bandit has his own battle against boredom – he keeps frantically moving the family along, so they don’t get stuck behind the Grey Nomads. (Grey Nomads? What are ‘Grey Nomads’? The kids have no idea what this means, so this little Aussie colloquialism attains semi-mythical status in their mind). So there’s a lot here! Bandit’s comic urgency, the Aussie reference to ‘Grey Nomads’, the common experience of a long road trip, the video game jokes, and more. Plus, the animation is absolutely gorgeous – even in passing, the Australian landscape is positively glowing with detail.  

25. Baby Race 

Spurred on by Bluey’s natural competitiveness – ‘Am I faster than Judo?’ ‘Yeah, but am I faster than Judo today?’ – Chilli tells her kids a story about the time when she was a new mum, and became determined to have Bluey walk before Judo. ‘It’s a baby race!’ shouts Bluey. Yeah! Ooh, there’s some good stuff in this episode, a lot of it for parents – you can wince sympathetically (Bandit changes a pooey nappy) or laugh (as baby-Bluey lies drooling on the floor, Bandit lies drooling on the floor as well, completely exhausted). Of course the moral is ‘it’s not a race’ even though the title says it is, so it kinda sorta is. 


24. Burger Shop 

When Bandit, whose parenting style is relaxed at the best of times, announces that he’s reading a book about relaxed parenting, and from now on he’s going to let the kids make their own decisions, Chilli is sceptical. The kids should have been in bed by now, and they’re still in the bath! But Bandit reckons he can handle it. It’s a fine little comic set up they’ve got going on here. Bluey and Bingo are playing Burger Shop, would Dad like to buy a burger? They just want to keep playing – when Bandit says ‘okay, just one’, they keep talking him up to ‘just one more’. Bandit keeps on telling the kids to get out of the bath without actually telling them to do it at all: ‘Kids, I need you to make a good decision right now….’ And Chilli keeps on coming in and threatening to pull the plug. And just whose side is Bandit on, anyway? He gets more and more desperate in his bargaining, and the game gets funnier and more fast-paced as it goes on. There are some excellent visual gags here – the cartoonists, in keeping with the typical minimalistic style of the show, turn the plastic letters stuck on the side of the bath into burgers, chips, and even, at one point, a moustache and top hat. 


23. Double Babysitter

They come up with the best names on this show, often puns on dog names (‘Lucky’s Dad’ is actually called ‘Pat’. ‘Pat the Dog’. Suitable for his omnipresent role as the butt of jokes). This episode we get two perfectly named characters – Uncle Rad (he’s the fun uncle on Bandit’s side of the family) and Frisky (she’s the normal babysitter). Because of a miscommunication (yeah, right) they both end up babysitting Bluey and Bingo, and they hit it off very well indeed. There’s a great sequence where they play ‘Twenty Questions’ with the kids – ‘Why don’t you have a wife?’ ‘Well… how do you know I don’t?’ ‘Well, do you have a wife?’ ‘Well…. no.’ ‘Well, why don’t you have a wife?’ ‘Uh…. her turn!’  Meanwhile, in kid world, Bluey is worried about going to sleep while the babysitter is there – it’s only after very patient discussion and some fun bedtime games that Uncle Rad and Frisky are able to find out what it’s all about. Several great comedy sequences and games are packed into this tight little seven minutes, and if you’ll skip forward to the Christmas Swim episode, you’ll find out how well the Frisky and Rad pairing went. (Well? Yes, as a matter of fact, it did.)


22. Copycat

Everyone likes the copycat game when they are doing it, not so much when they are the ones it’s being done to. Bandit wakes up to Bluey copying him and there’s not much he can do about it so he decides to run with it, making fun of Bluey (and Bluey managing to make fun of him as well). Then there’s a sudden change of tone when Bandit finds a sick budgie – ‘A cat must have gotten to it’ – and he and Bluey have to take it to the vet. So what we get in this episode is actually a nice subtle look at two kinds of copying – the annoying copycat kind, and the deeper sort – kids learn from their parents by copying. But what are they copying? This show sometimes has such a light touch – in the seven minutes it manages to pack in several scene changes, and a couple of the Big Questions – how do we react to death? How do kids react to it? Where does copying stop and acting normally begin? Does it? 


21. Handstand

I was a bit stunned when I first saw this one – somehow the producers manage to have almost the entire show run on no real script, but with action going all over the place, all at once. And it all makes sense, because they hang it around this simple central idea – it’s a party, Bingo is trying to do a handstand, and when she actually succeeds, she can’t get anyone to watch her. They’re all too distracted – playing games, making food, setting the table. She keeps on doing this for over half the episode! Then we cut to Nanna. She’s at the party too, and she just wants something to do – but everyone keeps telling her that, no, she doesn’t have to worry, sit down and rest. You can see the denouement coming, but it’s no less satisfying for all that. A satisfying episode about the problems faced by the littlest child in a family, a follow up to Duck Cake, and a successful experiment all in one, which somehow, by focusing on only one thing, manages to be about everything. 


20. The Doctor

Things get really weird when Bingo is the Doctor and Bluey is secretary. How does the triage process work? Honey’s bumped knee just can’t seem to compete with stuff like ‘Arrrrgh! There’s a crocodile on my nose!’ And how on earth do those egg beaters get used in the surgery? I have questions. There’s plenty of comedy here; Honey’s anxiety about not being seen by the doctor gets neatly resolved in a joke ending that almost seems too pat, though there’s another anxiety Honey is displaying – is she really creative enough to take part in the game? – that is also resolved. I can’t say anymore about this episode – I’ve probably said too much already – but do watch it, it’s one of the good ones (they’re all one of the good ones, dammit!)


19. Café

Bluey is mystified that Bandit doesn’t become friends immediately with another father he meets at the playground, Fido. ‘We just need to get to know each other a bit better first.’ ‘How long will it take?’ ‘It’ll take as long as it takes.’ ‘You sure do take a lot of time making new friends!’ Truth is, Bandit and Fido obviously do like one another, but their shyness from an adult perspective is understandable. They’re both the sort of jokey, blokey dads who like to get involved in their kids’ games, make fun of their kids and occasionally become the butt of their kids’ jokes. Cutting several times between Bluey’s house and the playground, this is another episode making excellent use of minimal materials to build up the comedy and dramatic… well, there’s not so much dramatic tension in this episode, but there is dramatic, well, sweetness. The music, also, is lovely, a playful riff on bird song, suitable for the two dads and their kids, in that slightly vulnerable time of making new friends. 

(Stay tuned for the final post - including the TOP TEN!) 

Saturday, September 04, 2021

All the episodes of Bluey ranked (2 of 4)

(See part 1 here, part 3 here, part 4 here).

In this installment, a Dancing Work, a Muffin Cone, an unexpected use for a Viking hat, and more, more, GIVE ME MORE!


Another Bluey episode completely without Bluey! This time new kid at school Jack – a distractable, fidgety Jack Russell – teams up with Rusty, who basically puts him to military school, and the two play army. One interesting subtext in this episode of a show that’s all about play and free expression is that, you know what, sometimes kids need that discipline and order after all – in fact, in this episode, it doesn’t come from the adults at all; it’s the kids imposing the discipline and order on themselves. Rusty is always likeable, though Jack doesn’t feature heavily in other episodes. 


70. Mum School 

It’s playing with balloons again, but, unlike in Keepy Uppy, the balloons get a personality, and Bluey is their mum. Actual Mum Chilli gets a clipboard and has to go around marking Bluey on her successful mumming. There’s a lot of fun here and the plot rounds out nicely. 


69. Calypso 

This episode is basically an introduction for the character of Calypso, Bluey’s teacher – who is doing the rounds of the classroom while the children are playing games. That’s pretty much it! Calypso spots problems the students are having, and solves them, one by one, as she continues going round the classroom. It’s a simple concept, given sweetness by the various children’s games, and heart by singer Megan Washington, who voices the titular character. (The name Calypso comes from Greek mythology – she was the nymph who held Odysseus ‘captive’ on her island for seven years, not letting him go home. Make of that what you will.)


68. Piggyback

This one is simplicity itself, they’re all working from the holiday house to the waterside, but Bingo doesn’t want to walk – she keeps complaining that her legs don’t work – and Bandit and Chilli keep on coming up with distractions to keep her walking. It’s another example of that genius the show writers have of structuring programs around recognisable parts of childhood that you never would have thought would have had the potential for drama or comedy. It’s also another episode in which you keep noticing the little details – the dogs having a picnic to the side while the Heeler family walk past, for instance. I can’t comment anymore on this one – you just have to see. 


67. Grandad 

We get to meet the ‘Grandad’ here – Chilli’s dad – who is always saying ‘hurry up and wait’ (see the reference to this in Sticky Gecko). He’s just had surgery, and Chilli is adamant that he has to stay at home and rest – but turns out he’s all hurry and no wait. As soon as Bluey and Bingo arrive with their mum, he whisks them away into the bush with Chilli in hot pursuit – ‘I will find you!’ So this episode serves as an introduction to another family member, and a tribute to not acting your age – as with so many other episodes of this kids show, it turns out it’s one for the adults, too. 

66. Bus 

Just imagine it, you spend years working with the band, driving around to gigs all over the country, playing late nights in seedy bars – and where are you now? You are the voice of a cartoon dog, sitting on a play cartoon bus, singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’. This is the fate of David McCormack, voice of Bandit Heeler, on this episode. It sets the tone nicely for the family chaos that follows. It’s a cute little episode that works in a lot of little jokes, at one point it even seems to segue into a Speed style segment. 


65. Seesaw

Do we meet Pompom in other episodes? I don’t think we do; she’s certainly memorable – a small, white fluffball – ‘Pomeranians are a small breed!’ she insists when she encounters obstacles to her size. Seeing her miserable at not being able to take part in some of the games, Bandit takes matters (and the seesaw) into his own hands and sits heavily down on one end, before the appalled gaze of Bluey and Bingo. So what we get in this episode, then, is a lesson in physics, similar to the one in Pamela Allen’s ‘Who Sunk the Boat’. And, like in Allen’s book, the physics is actually kind of crazy. ‘Hey, Coco, is your hair heavy?’ (She’s a poodle, with that ridiculous poodle hair thing happening.) ‘Yes!’ No prizes in guessing who finally gets to tip the seesaw the other way, joining forces with the others. A pretty simple episode with some great lines. ‘Pomeranians are a small but hardy breed!’


64. Fairies 

The concept for this one feels a little fey but what are you going to do when the subject is the fey folk? Thankfully, in this episode we don’t get fairies of the prettified, Disney variety; they’re much closer to the capricious, fearsome supernatural beings of folk tales. After Bandit (who’s on the phone to someone at work) raises his voice at Bingo, the whole family has to atone to the fairies, who have apparently been deeply offended on Bingo’s behalf. You might think that there’s a reason for that, but then, things seem to escalate far too quickly for them to be orchestrated by Bingo alone. Fairy rings appear (Bluey ends up in one and can’t stop dancing) all over the place. How will Bandit ever atone for his crime? Somehow the writers even manage to work in a Riverdance and Gladiator reference, at the same time. So the concept works, though the writers do have to go to some weird stretches to make it happen. 


63. Mr Monkeyjocks

What do you do when you have so much stuff it seems to take over your whole life? That’s what happens with Bluey and Bingo, who have so many toys, and they don’t want to chuck out any. ‘Okay,’ announces Bandit after they clean up, ‘So in the keep bin is…. Everything. And in the chuck out bin is…. A monkey wearing jocks.’ ‘Not Mr Monkeyjocks!’ Turns out Mr Monkeyjocks is ‘special’, so special that he ends up running the house. We can all be grateful that the makers of Bluey speak in fluent hyperbole. This is a great episode. 


62. Backpackers

When Bandit and Chilli put on Bluey, Bingo, Muffin and Socks like backpacks, we kinda enter into a dreamtime world, at once a game and a backpacking adventure. So much of the camera – okay, there’s no camera, it’s an animation, shuddup – focus is on the faces of Bandit and Chilli, and the world from their perspective, that we seem to be experiencing a younger couple here, before they had the kids, backpacking around the world. I’ve seen this episode a few times and it only consciously registered on me that the long pans of the travels here are just shots of their backyard. Such are the strange enchantments this show casts – you get so distracted by the jokes, which are plentiful and hilarious, that you hardly notice the atmosphere being woven by the animation and the music.  


61. The Dump

It’s awkward as a parent when you get busted by your own kids. Even more awkward when you set yourself up for getting busted, like Bandit does here when he takes the kids on a trip to the dump. ‘Dad, do you know everything?’ ‘I do!’ Whoa, time to scale back there Bandit, but no: ‘Are you the best dad in the whole world?’ ‘I am.’ Inevitably his ego gets punctured in front of the ever-inquisitive Bluey and Bingo, but this dog is man enough to admit it. Good one, Bandit! I’m always going to be fond of a cartoon that takes its characters on a trip to that most unromantic of settings, the local dump, and this episode carries off it all with panache. 


60. Work

You might have thought ‘work’ was the opposite of ‘game’, but not in Bluey world, where Bluey and Bingo show up for a job interview with Bandit. ‘So, this is the dancing room’, says Bandit, showing them around. ‘No, you make drainpipes’ says Bluey. ‘Yes boss’. ‘I’m not the boss, you’re the boss.’ Master power move there from Bluey, but Bandit – who secretly loves dancing, there are jokes about it all through the show – says wistfully ‘I once dreamt of running a dancing work.’ This is a funny little episode with a good balance of Bluey-induced chaos and plot to round things off nicely. 


59. Hide and Seek

There’s nothing more eminently distractable than a five year old child, in this case Bluey, except when that eminently distractable child is teamed up with an eminent distraction, in this case the loudly shouty jumpy and altogether Really Annoying Toy ‘Chattermax’. I don’t know what Chattermax is really and I don’t want to know, though she appears in a number of episodes. ‘Why was Chattermax hiding under the kitchen sink?’ wonders Bluey about said Really Annoying Toy, simultaneously forgetting the game of Hide and Seek she was supposed to be involved in. As she carries the shouty little thing around the house wondering what she was doing, not noticing any of her family hiding right in front of her face, there’s that stretching of reality and credulity that happens in good farce and slapstick. Distraction is always an interesting subject and this episode has some very good distractions in it. (Watch out for ‘Carrot Horn!’) Ah, this show always delivers the goods. 


58. Trains 

Bandit really gets put through the paces here, as the train driver (he’s pushing a bunch of chairs around). Seems simple, but around him the whole house becomes an elaborate set up for this game of trains. Bingo is a vet, who catches the train each day to work; Chilli is her secretary, and Bluey is an irritable train passenger, and it just gets more complicated from there. Bandit finds he has to face some unusual problems (what happens if someone’s train ticket is actually a poo?) You know how it happens. 


57. Markets

We’re off to the market, and it’s one of those cool outdoor ones with poffertjes (those delicious Dutch pancakes), and pony rides and all that stuff. This is kind of the signature episode for Bluey’s friend Indy, whose mum has a stall at the market – she goes around with Bluey as Bluey tries to find a way to spend her $5 so she can share something with Indy. ‘Does this [poffertje] have milk, wheat, or sugar?’ she asks. ‘Because I can’t eat those.’ ‘That’s all that it contains!’ says the guy selling them to the crestfallen Indy. There’s an interesting explanation of market economics going on in this show, in the characteristic upbeat way Bluey has. 


56. Featherwand

Bingo’s magic feather turns everything heavy, so this episode is basically Bingo running around saying ‘heavy’ at everything. Not only do the whole family get involved in this immersive game, but that ever-reliable dramatic foil Lucky’s Dad (who seems very willing to play along with this weird stuff) turns up too. There are some convenient breaks of continuity here (Bandit gets stuck under a broom so heavy no-one can help him, but the next scene he’s running after Bingo to stop her turning Bluey and Chilli heavy?) But then again, apparently the magic is so real that Lucky’s Dad needs ‘a little help here’ after Bingo forgets to unheavy his hat. As a nice touch in the later scenes, you see the cockatoo that the magic feather came from perched on the roof. 


Choice quote: BLUEY: What are you doing? BANDIT: Nothing. Eat your floor breakfast. BLUEY: (Eats breakfast out of bowl on floor) This day is great!


55. Kids

This one has got kinda New Testament vibes. Remember ‘the first shall be last and the last shall be first’? No? Well, neither does Bandit, who, put on the spot by Bluey asking ‘Which one of us is your favourite’, answers with a statement at once diplomatic and self-contradictory, ‘You’re both my favourite!’ So Bluey and Bingo play ‘Kids’; Bluey is the parent (adults start referring to her as ‘Mrs Heeler’), and dad Bandit becomes the son. In this weird reverso world we get plenty of good jokes (Bandit even has to do a time out – ‘sit on that toilet roll chair!’) The dynamic between Bandit and his ‘mum’ and ‘little sister’ is interesting – Bluey and Bingo are (partly) learning about growing up when playing ‘Kids’; what does Bandit get out of it? Is it the opposite of growing up? But then, you can see him subtly challenging Bluey’s expectations of the world as he has fun with the game too. 


54. Charades

This is a great one for the supporting characters – Bluey and Bingo are sitting around at Nanna’s house with Muffin and Socks, and they all play a game of charades (using cues from a pack of cards designed for the purpose). Of course, Muffin totally and wilfully misunderstands the game – ‘She’s going to blow her top!’ whispers Nanna to Bluey at one point. Look, I’m not saying that a toddler having tantrums and behaving badly is good or entertaining, but what I am saying is that when that toddler is a cartoon dog it…. kinda is. 

53. Ice Cream 

I know that one of the Bluey things is to build each episode around a simple moral, but then again, ‘I don’t want a valuable life lesson! I just want an ice cream!’ This great little ep builds the drama around another one of those iconic childhood scenes, the Getting of the Icecream. Notable for its clever script – riffing on the immemorial chant of ‘It’s not fair’ to produce ‘It’s highly fair!’ ‘It’s fairly fair!’ ‘It’s about as fair as it gets!’ and more – and for its music, once again spot on, bringing a fun Latin dance beat to the opening stages and segueing into a waltz. 

52. Taxi 

It’s a rainy day at home, so the family are playing inside again. This time they’re not on a bus, they’re on a taxi, and Bluey is the driver. There’s a lot of great visual and musical jokes here – Chilli becomes the SatNav (her nose is the little talking box in the front window of the taxi) and a flute (or synthesiser flute sound, whatever) imitates the digital sound of a SatNav voice. Bandit plays the impatient and flustered passenger – ‘Good day to you sir!’ And so on. It’s riffing on similar lines to ‘Bus’, though maybe just a little bit more focused and successful than that one. 


51. The Beach

I can never get over how far Bluey walks on her own in this episode. Bluey’s walk – from one end of the beach to the other, to go from her dad to her mum – goes past a lot of sights and sounds, and we are of course seeing everything from her eyes, so it all looks huge and potentially terrifying, though her mum and dad are probably much closer than it seems to us (and her). There’s a lot of magical details here, like the sand crab army, and the sandcastle palace. Like a couple of other episodes – PiggybackRoad Trip – at least one cultural reference point seems to be video games, the sort that go on the horizontal from left to right and have the protagonist encounter various obstacles. ‘Why do you like going for walks on your own?’ ‘I don’t know. I just do.’ Bluey asks her mum the question at the start of the show, and her mum asks her the same question at the end; their answers are the same, but, of course, they so aren’t the same at all. As thoroughgoing a working out of a simple concept as any of the episodes in this show, it’s also a spot-on depiction of what independence means for a small child, and just what those first, terrifying steps out on your own might be.


50. Barky Boats

When Bluey and Mackenzie get paired up at school with their buddies from year six, Mia and Captain, they’re excited. Turns out, though, Mia and Captain want to spend more time with one another. Mackenzie is appalled, and Bluey is bored, so they exchange the traditional courtesy of their kind, blowing a raspberry in the other’s general direction. Many of the episodes of Bluey, while being about kids, are covertly about the adult dramas, but this one is also about teen – or maybe tween - angst. What is big school going to be like? How do you feel about leaving a friend who has been with you all through little school? And – for Bluey and Mackenzie – are we supposed to be, like, friends like those two? If there’s one thing that this show excels in it is finding the right metaphors for childhood experiences, and there are two in this episode – the stream in which Mackenzie and Bluey and their buddies play Barky Boats while contemplating the mysteries of time and growing up, and the pulsing, lyrically optimistic theme music that plays while this happens. All in all it’s a very touching episode. 


49. Bad Mood 

When Bingo finds herself in a Bad Mood, in capital letters, she gives Bandit a Viking hat, climbs on to his feet, and they stomp around the house causing various kinds of chaos. Chilli and Bluey have to try and get Bingo out of her Bad Mood, though there are surprising philosophical problems – ‘Oh, I know what’s happening. She wants to be in a bad mood.’ ‘Why would anyone want to be in a bad mood?’ ‘Dunno.’ It’s quite a striking visual representation of the experience of fuming through one of those day-long grumps, and I’ll probably have it in mind from now on when getting into an ill-advised internet argument. 


48. Yoga Ball

There’s a lot of good Bandit jokes here, starting off with the elevator game (don’t ask me to explain, you just had to be there) and his delivering two parcels (that is, Bluey and Bingo) to Mogadishu, but it’s not about his games with the kids. It’s not about the yoga ball, either. Or…. not just about those things. You only find out gradually – and it’s clever the way the show does this – that it’s really about what Bingo does when her dad plays too rough with her (but she still wants to keep playing). So maybe this show is about that one thing in the end. Or maybe it’s about all three of them. The tale is well told and it’s a good show for the character development of both Bingo and Bandit.  


47. Muffin Cone

Muffin, with her toddler’s propensity to ‘do her block’, to test limits, and to take joy in the simplest of games, makes a great character. So, when her mum Trixie tells her she has to stop sucking her thumb (otherwise she’ll have to wear a cone while visiting her cousins), her argument is an irrefutable ‘I want to do what I want’! Alternating between Muffin learning to play with Bluey and Bingo in her ‘cone of shame’, and Chilli and Aunt Trixie as they gossip over a bowl of chips in the dining room, this episode manages to riff successfully on a funny visual gag and deliver insights about the psychology of toddlers and adults, at once. 

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