Bluey’s Cricket Episode: TV Perfection for Adults and Kids Alike
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that a certain Aussie TV show has taken the world by storm.
It’s a kids’ show – and like the best children’s television, it offers enough to draw adults in, too.
Yes, it’s Bluey – a warm and funny cartoon about a blue heeler called Bluey and his family in Queensland that has just celebrated its fifth birthday. A show of subtle emotion and glorious simplicity, it was an instant smash back in 2018; its seven-minute bursts giving parents brief respite as their kids watch on entranced; or, perhaps increasingly, a bonding experience between parent and kid as its characters are placed in settings of laugh-out-loud stereotype and societal craze.
And while the producers, writers and designers are of such quality that each of the 151 episodes across its three seasons to date has been memorable in its own way, there’s one that needs special mention as we move into the holiday season, the Aussie summer and, of course, our national summer game – cricket.
First aired to instant acclaim in June this year to coincide with the Ashes, its heartwarming messages, Aussie-summer nostalgia and exquisite pacing made Australians cry – and, by virtue of more than a smattering of cricket lingo, Americans a little baffled.
The episode centres around Bluey’s friend Rusty, a burgeoning cricketer who lives and breathes the game. He plays any chance he gets and with anyone. Like Sir Don more than a century ago, he practices for hours on end by knocking a ball against the wall. His cricket bat is at arm’s reach by his bed. If Steve Smith were a cartoon dog, he’d be Rusty.
For me, the episode conjures memories of simpler, childhood times in country Victoria, particularly at Christmas time in Ouyen where both sets of my grandparents lived and where summer evenings stretched on for hours and games of backyard cricket featured nans, pops, dads, mums, uncles, aunties and kids, all barefooted and shiny from mozzie-repelling Aerogard, batting and bowling with no quarter asked and none given.
Rusty trumps them all – his younger brothers at home; his older brother and his friends with a real cricket ball at the park; the fully grown adult dogs in the neighbourhood.
But like many batsmen before him, Rusty does have one Achilles Heel: pace. This chink in his armour is exposed by one of his older brother’s mates, Tiny. The older boy doesn’t ease up on Rusty, whose rapid air speed knocks his intimidated younger foe over countless times.
Rusty is bereft of answers until a letter from his dad – who serves in the army and is deployed overseas – arrives. And this is when the emotions really start to stir.
“This Tiny sounds like he’s got some pace on him,” his dad writes. “I wish I could be there to bowl a few at you but can’t right now mate.
“But look, as you grow up, you’ll face harder things than a cricket ball and you’ll have two choices: Back away and get out, or step in front and play a pull shot.
“Just keep your eye on the ball and keep an eye on your little sister for me.”
Slowly but surely, Rusty gets out of his comfort zone and does as his dad implores, getting behind the ball and, in a dazzling display of batsmanship that includes one sweetly timed hook shot, gets on top of Tiny.
More pertinently, Rusty comes good on his dad’s request to look after his little sister – hitting her a catch and sharing her celebration on getting her big brother out.
As Rusty walks off, an exquisite edit plays out: the background changes from the park game to the Gabba, as Rusty, now a Test batsman, makes his way out to the middle.
Facing up to life’s challenges, staying focused, following your dreams and loving your siblings – it’s all here in seven beautifully nostalgic minutes.
Download the ABC iView app this holiday season and carve out seven minutes to watch this masterpiece – you won’t regret it.
And keep a box of tissues handy, just in case.
Watch Bluey Cricket episode