If you have very young children then you will know that there are many, many TV shows out there that they will inevitably love, but will grate your nerves down to a shredded pulp. It’s therefore a godsend when you discover a show that ticks the boxes for both you and your little one. Originally airing on the BBC but now available on Netflix, Hey Duggee is such a show.
Hey Duggee features a friendly lovable dog who runs the Squirrel Club, an activity club for children. Communicating only through a series of highly expressive ‘Awoof!’ sounds, Duggee keeps entertained a gaggle of young ‘uns with each episode focusing on the badge that they will learn about and invariably earn come the end of the episode.
On the face of it, this could easily be a saccharine show about friendship, learning, and trying your best. But Hey Duggee succeeds by being ever so slightly subversive and often leaning hard into the abstract. For every episode that deals with creative drawing while stuck inside (“The Drawing Badge”), there is also an episode that manages to pastiche Apocalypse Now (“The River Badge”) in a way that doesn’t deviate from the show’s off-beat sense of humour. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a biscuit craving Panda do an admirable Marlon Brando take.
The children under Duggee’s care are: gentle Tag (a boy rhino), talkative know-it-all-Betty (a girl Octopus), sweet and often oblivious Norrie (a girl mouse), water obsessed Happy (a boy crocodile who has adoptive elephant parents), and loudmouth smasher of all things, Roly (a boy hippo). Roly, in particular, is a very funny character who’s overly boisterous high volume nature often draws the patient ire of the other characters. The mix works well and each personality shines through.
There are plenty of side characters too numerous to detail who add plenty of flavour when they show up (shout out to the overly dramatic John Crab and his mute boyfriend, Nigel). The animation is stylistically minimal but so much is done with it. Ok, so the chickens are just a yellow triangle with minimal features, but you feel their panic when their Spanish soap opera shows are taken away from them.
Episodes shoot to space, explore underwater, get caught up in the rain, and nurture some tadpoles from petulant teenager to adult frogs, and all with a creative flare that is endlessly engaging. Hey Duggee is sweet, laugh out loud funny, and full to the brim with ideas. Come for keeping the little ones entertained, stay for the genuine lolz.
Words by Michael Record