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What we watched: Bluey’s joyful finales

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It’s never good to recommend a comedy by saying it makes you weep, but somehow Bluey, a comedy for kids, feels more real and more truthful than anything else on TV. I see so much of myself in Bandit’s triumphs and failures as he tries to parent his two daughters. I nod along to all of his unsuccessful parenting tactics that, I’ll admit, I’ve also tried on my own two kids. And then, at the end of so many episodes, I’ll realize that the front of my t-shirt is wet with tears because I’ve been crying.

There can’t be many people unfamiliar with Bluey, the biggest kids’ TV series on the planet, if not the biggest series overall. Each seven-minute episode is a slice-of-life sitcom about the Heelers, a family of anthropomorphic dogs living in Brisbane, Australia. Bluey and her younger sister Bingo live with parents Bandit and Chilli. The show started out focused on the playtimes the kids would have with each other or their parents. But it quickly sprawled out to create a rich world in the vein of The Simpsons, with a whole city’s worth of storylines. It can now regularly relegate the Heelers to the background to focus on the show’s deep cast of characters.

It closed out its third season with last Sunday’s “The Sign,” a (comparatively) epic 28-minute episode and this week with “Surprise,” a sweet little postscript. The former’s long running time was described as a dry-run for any potential Bluey movie, wrapping up a number of the show’s storylines. It focuses on a wedding taking place at the Heeler’s home in the shadow of the family’s plan to relocate to another city. I won’t spoil too much beyond saying “The Sign” is a story about the bigness of change and how that affects parents and kids alike. Much of it focused on Bandit’s decision to move for a better-paid job and the way that impacted Chilli and the two girls. It’s a complicated issue, especially because it highlights that parents often just want to do what’s best for the kids.

This is a screencap from 'Ghostbasket' but there was no way I was going to pass up an opportunity to post a picture of Bluey and Bingo as their granny characters.

Ludo Studio

“Surprise,” meanwhile, focuses more on the mundane struggle of Bandit trying to play two different games with his daughters at the same time. Much as Bluey wants to be just seven minutes of silly fun, it can’t quite help but be honest about the emotional and physical labor of parenting. All Bandit wants to do is sit down and watch sport on the TV but his daughters won’t allow him that luxury. He’s chased around the house, forced to pretend to teach a tennis ball to ride a bike and then pelted with ping pong balls fired from a toy launcher. (Bluey’s happy to highlight how often Bandit will get hit in the groin as a consequence of whatever game the girls are playing.)

The payoff to all of that effort comes in the final half minute of the episode, which is when I started sobbing. As much as it may be pitched as a palate cleanser after the scale and emotional heft of the previous episode, the final moments offer a real (if pleasant) punch to the gut. I can’t help but feel plenty of parallels in Bluey’s life and that of my own (similarly-aged) daughter, and feel a lot of kinship with Bandit as well. If I’m one one-hundredth as good a parent as this silly cartoon dog who often gets it wrong, then I’ll feel like I’ve done a good job.

There’s been speculation that this third season may be the end for Bluey. reported the uncertainty around creator Joe Brumm’s future with the show, although producer Sam Moor has said it will continue in some form. Any delay would also risk that the child actors – who remain anonymous for their own safety — will age out of being able to play their roles. But in many ways, Bluey can’t not continue given the show is now a multi-billion dollar cash cow for the BBC, which owns a big chunk of the show’s rights.

I don’t want to say goodbye to Bluey and the Heelers, and I’d prefer they kept the cast as-is and let them grow up alongside Bandit and Chilli. That, to me, would be an honest thing to do, rather than indulging in the fakery that dogs so many TV shows which face this problem. But if they have to go, I’ll choose to remember Bluey’s three perfect seasons through the highs and lows of parenting.

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