Sunday, September 05, 2021

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. CafĂ©

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!) 

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