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A cartoon for the entire family

(Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Television

A cartoon for the entire family

The Australian show Bluey has gained a legion of fans by focusing on the interactions between parents and children

I never thought I’d have much reason to review a preschool cartoon, but that was before I found my husband and our 5-year-old daughter parked in front of the TV, giggling away at a little blue dog. 

“Sit down,” my husband said as he wiped laughter tears from his eyes, “You’ve got to see this.” Thus, I met Disney’s newest international star, Bluey.

The series debuted in Australia in 2018 and immediately became the most popular children’s show in the country’s history. The BBC soon started airing it in the U.K. to similar acclaim, prompting Disney to get in on the action. The show premiered stateside on Disney Jr. in October and hit Disney Plus on Jan. 22. To that this American mum says, “Good on ya, mate.”

That’s because the little blue heeler puppy and her lovable family manage to incorporate modern realities while still respecting traditional family structure. As one Aussie TV personality pointed out, nothing “woke” is smuggled into the show.

Given that parents are, or largely should be, the center of a preschooler’s world, it’s strange how few popular children’s shows include them. Bluey creator Joseph Brumm especially wanted to address that with depictions of family life that feel realistic. In an interview with an Australian newspaper, he noted that it was important to him to explore the way kids really learn about life. As such, each seven- to eight-minute episode shows 6-year-old Bluey and her 4-year-old sister, Bingo, engaging more with their parents and each other than the wider world. 

This focus on realism is why, though the show is comical, it’s truly enjoyable for adults as well.

While never inappropriate, Bluey’s mom and dad are flirtatious with one another, and the show goes to great lengths to highlight how much children benefit from seeing parental affection. Even when the neighborhood children play, the girls see the value in pretending to be “moms and dads” with boys who demonstrate a protective streak.

Valuing what men uniquely offer pervades the series. Rather than the lazy, dimwit stereotype common to cartoons, Bandit Heeler is a model dad. An archaeologist who often works from home, he takes on the care of Bluey and Bingo when Chilli is at her part-time job. While that’s definitely a different model from Leave It to Beaver, his parenting style is distinctly fatherly, meaning more rambunctious and hands-off.

That said, it might be a good time to mention the one thing about Bluey that could give some parents pause—Bandit’s occasional, let’s say, gaseous jokes. Now, as I’m married to a man given to similar comedy stylings, the Basham family finds that element pretty authentic too. However, if you prefer your kids not be exposed to the whoopee cushion brand of humor, Bluey might be a little too real for you.