With 150 Bluey episodes now available on ABC iView for those in Australia and slightly fewer available on Disney+ for those in other, less Blueified countries, it can be hard to know where to start with this much-loved cartoon about a little blue heeler dog and her family – and then where to start again, and again, and again. Here are my top ten favourites:
A scene from Bluey’s Duck Cake episode.Photograph by ABC TV
10. Duck Cake
It’s never specified that the cake in question is being made from the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book – but let’s be honest, it is. And this episode isn’t really about Bluey and her dad Bandit making her little sister Bingo’s birthday cake; it’s about doing things that aren’t fun because they have, in Bluey lingo, gotta be done.
As Bluey learns the satisfaction that comes with completing tasks, parents will experience the horrified thrill of recognition over the bits of Lego strewn about the Heeler lounge room – a moment of valuable relatabilty in a house that’s otherwise far nicer than most of us will ever see.
It’s also thoughtfully provided a generation of frustrated parents with a perfect ersatz swear when things get too difficult: “Oh, duck cake!”You can try it out with your children six to seven thousand times.
A still from Bluey’s Rain episode.Photograph: ABC TV
Rain features Bluey trying to stop a stream of water from rushing down her front. There is very little dialogue and some of most beautiful sound design and animation of the series. It’s incredibly simple, but powerfully evocative: not only for how it captures those dark daytime storms familiar to anyone who’s spent any time in Queensland, but also in the way that Bluey’s mum Chilli gradually abandons her attempts to stay dry and embraces playing with her daughter. If you want a single episode that sums up the overarching philosophy of Bluey, it’s hard to think of a better example.
8. Dance Mode
Bluey episodes can cause fear in parents, as they set a new standard for what children should expect in their lives. Seriously, how much is the tooth fairy rate in the episode Markets? Five dollars per lost tooth? Is it possible to have physical paper money in your house these days?
Anyway, Dance Mode goes one step further, by conditioning children to expect their parents to dance in public on demand – which both Chilli and Bandit do with gusto, if not exactly willing enthusiasm. This episode about saying yes even when we really want it to involves a lot public down-getting on its way to its triumphant end. It also contains a busker who isn’t playing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, another refreshing break from reality.
A still from the Camping episode.Photograph: ABC TV
Bluey meets visiting French-speaking Jean-Luc while on a family camping trip and the language barrier doesn’t stop them developing a firm friendship until he abruptly leaves without being able to tell her that he’s leaving and no I’m not crying, you’re crying.
It’s a simple and beautiful lesson about embracing moments of joy as and when they arrive in our lives, even though – spoiler – teen Bluey and teen Jean-Luc meet again years later and he now speaks English and oh god why can’t all loves be this perfect and pure?
6. Pass the Parcel
This is the most recent episode lit the socials up with the ire of a billion furious parentsWho didn’t appreciate their having them? kids party traditions critiqued. The Heelers’ next door neighbour Pat the Dog, AKA Lucky’s dad, doesn’t hold with this everyone-gets-a-prize business, calling for a game of pass the parcel that adheres to old school rules: one big prize in the middle, instead of one in every layer.
Chaos is inevitable. Lessons are learned, parcels passed, and Australia escapes becoming, Pat says. “a nation of squibs”. The ending seems to grossly underestimate the enthusiasm of children who aren’t getting it. toys, it does involve Pat enraptured by an absolutely killer bit of 80s AOR rock, complete with bitchin’ guitarmonies. GUITARMONIES!
Scene from Stumpfest.Photograph: ABC TV
Chilli (the brilliant Myf Warrenhurst, whose illustrious work is pictured here) and Aunt Trixie (Chili and Aunt Trixie). “Go and destroy the planet somewhere else!”This episode has the best line delivery and episode of any episode. Bandit, Uncle Stripe, and Pat then relax with drinks while they dig up stumps in the yard. This thrilling display of masculinity is not remotely undercut by Bluey, Bingo and Muffin giving the three men makeovers as a condition of letting them pull up a stump they’re using as a beauty parlour.
This episode is especially glorious for the way it captures the way in which men interact with one another: mainly through paying one another out in between some unexpectedly real conversations (at one point, as Bandit strains over a crowbar, you overhear Stripe reassuring Pat over something he’s going through). Bluey hears Chilli explain to him that this is how grownups play. Every right-thinking dad should head out to the backyard with his buddies and an axe and start yelling. “STUMPFEST!”
4. The Creek
Bandit takes Mackenzie and the girls to the park in another episode that captures a very specific moment in Australian childhood. kids get bored he decides that it’s time to head down to the creek instead. Bluey discovers the beauty of the bush after she overcomes her fear about the sticky, grubby outdoors.
As the kidsLearn the joys that come from spending time in nature. I heard the echos of my father’s warnings to the girls about dropbears when Bandit warned them: “I’m joking. But seriously, watch out for snakes.”
FlatpackPhotograph by ABC TV
Chilli, Bandit and their outdoor swing-seat are made in the Ikea style. The girls then play with the packaging and recreate the entire development process of life. It’s the kind of thing no other show would think of doing.
It’s impossible to watch this episode and not see it as creator-writer Joe Brumm’s spiritual-scientific manifesto: Bluey and Bingo start as mother and baby fish and then proceed through reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals and even cavedogs until finally an all-grown-up Bingo takes the now elderly Bluey to explore space.
Extra points for the most meta show. Bandit laughs at the illustrated instructions in Ikea-style. “I’m not taking advice from a cartoon dog.” Harsh, Bandit.
From the Baby Race Photograph: ABC/YouTube
2. Baby Race
AKA The One with Baby Bluey. Chilli recalls her first parent anxiety as infant Bluey lags behind other kidsIn their mothers and baby group, Chilli determined to get Bluey moving. From a condescending paediatrician dismissing Chilli’s concerns, down to Bandit’s mum deciding to put oil on Bluey’s knees to force her to walk (Bandit: “This isn’t legal any more!”This episode is both wise as well as hilarious.
But the moment where an older, more experienced mother (voiced by Leigh Sales, no less) reassures Chilli with the one lesson she’s learned from having “eight – no, nine!” kids is that all mums just need to hear that they’re actually doing great, is another of the series’ big waterworks moments.
From Sleepytime Photograph: ABC/YouTube
Humankind will use the Bluey episode to find out if someone is a replicant in years to come. If you’re not struggling to suppress choking sobs by the time Bingo tells the Sun that she has to go now because she’s a big girl, then we’ll deploy the Blade Runners.
This is a thoughtful and beautiful meditation on our family’s people. Floppy, a toy rabbit Floppy and Bingo, a dreaming Bingo, drift through the solar systems, while Bandit, Chilli, and Chilli are in a nightmarish state.
It is beautiful, aside from everything else. Jupiter is a swirling fluid world intercut with the sleeping girls merrily Kicking Bandit in the stomach. Floppy is called to join the swirling rings of bunnies that surround Saturn. The Sun is Chilli’s warm and comforting voice, telling her daughter that she is always there for her and loves her. It’s an entire scope of the cosmos, poured into one typical night. This episode is genius and may save humanity.