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Not a toddler, not a parent, but still love ‘Bluey’? You’re not alone

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PHOENIX (AP) — A small blue dog with an Australian accent has captured the hearts of people across the world.

She’s the title character of “Bluey,” a kids’ program consisting of seven-minute episodes that have enraptured children and adults alike. This week’s release of its longest episode yet _ at a whopping 28 minutes — prompted an outpouring of appreciation for the show, even from those who are neither toddler nor parent.

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“Bluey” follows an Australian blue heeler who, along with her sister (a red heeler named Bingo), navigates the days between home and school. It’s a favorite among children for its playful humor, but it also appeals to adults reminiscing about childhood.

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“My childhood experience wasn’t the greatest so I’ve always resonated with shows where life is good,” says Miriam Neel, who lives in Colorado. “The parents in ‘Bluey’ enable imagination and creativity and really get involved with their kids, and I wish I had those experiences.”

Neel is 32 and has chosen not to have any children of her own. She says the show has become part of her morning routine and is often a go-to choice for background noise when she is working from home.

“I’m not going to speak for the entire generation, but millennials find comfort in cartoons. It’s what a lot of us grew up watching,” she said. “And if I’m going to spend time watching something I’d rather watch something that doesn’t make me afraid of the world, like any of the ‘Law & Order’ shows.”

“Bluey,” which now boasts more than 150 episodes, premiered in Australia in 2018 and began streaming on Disney+ in 2020. It also has been adapted into a digital series where famous fans like Bindi Irwin and Eva Mendes read some of the popular storybooks, and a live theater show that travels around the world.

The show has also won multiple awards, including the Australian Film Institute Award for best children’s television drama every year since 2019 and an International Emmy Kids Award.

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The series provides a child’s perspective into morning routines, errands and chores, while also giving viewers a glimpse of what life is like for parents through mother Chilli and father Bandit.

This week’s special episode, “The Sign,” explores the emotions surrounding themes that resonate with both children and adults _ moving houses, marriage, infertility and relationships after divorce. In addition to these universal themes, the episode wraps up the third season with Easter eggs for dedicated fans.

Lindsey Schmidt, 40, says the show’s continuity keeps her family looking forward to more.

“There are so many callbacks to previous episodes,” says Schmidt, who lives in Ohio with her husband and three children. “The shows that we watch with our kids regularly don’t reflect our lives like this show does. These anthropomorphic dogs feel just like us.”

But there are mixed feelings about the ending of the episode _ SPOILER — in which the Heeler family scraps their move. Some families who relocate often for work found it unrealistic. Meg Korzon, 31, is in the process of a cross-country relocation with her four children because her husband is in the military. It’s her seventh move in 10 years.

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“I was hoping it would be an episode that aligned itself with the realities of life, our lives, as a military family,” she says. “I was selfishly disappointed because it could have been an episode about change and growth.”

But the show does not shy away from other difficult topics — and that is part of the charm for adults as well.

“As a parent you aspire to be as good of parents as Chilli and Bandit are as parents. They always have a great way of talking kids through issues,” Schmidt’s 40-year-old husband John says, adding that the couple often refers back to episodes when trying to explain things to their children.

The series has touched on topics of aging, death and making friends as an adult. It also has introduced a character who uses sign language and another with ADHD.

Jacqueline Nesi, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University, notes that “Bluey” promotes self-regulation and conflict resolution for children and engaged parenting and patience for adults.

“We see them working through some of the challenges that we, as parents, might be facing, too. And at the same time, they offer a nice model for different parenting skills — asking open-ended questions to facilitate kids’ creativity, using natural consequences when they misbehave, actively playing with them and letting them take the lead,” she says.

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The show has also done a lot to expose children to the world of animation, flaunting different styles in the episodes “Escape” and “Dragon,” providing a near-voiceless episode in “Rain,” and breaching the fourth wall in “Puppets,” where the show stops briefly to zoom out on the creation of just a couple seconds of animated frames.

It’s also credited with appealing to dogs — and not because the characters are the same species.

Research has said dogs have vision similar to red-green color blindness in humans, meaning their color spectrum is limited to blue, yellow, brown and shades of gray — which happen to be the colors of the Heeler family. There were more pets named Bluey, Bingo, Chilli and Bandit across the U.S. last year, too, according to Rover.

So it’s fairly safe to say “Bluey” has appeal across species, as well as generations.

“I used to tell people what do ‘The Sopranos,’ ‘The Wire’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ have in common? They all have lower IMDb scores than Bluey. It used to anyway. I watched all these great shows, but I think ‘Bluey’ is still a favorite, maybe because I have kids. But I put it right up there with all of them,” John Schmidt says, admitting that he and his wife have watched the episodes without their children.

Schmidt says the episode tied a nice bow to end the season, and would be a perfect series finale otherwise.

“I get emotional about the potential of Bluey no longer having new episodes,” says Schmidt. “But we’ll see.”

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