The most anticipated show of 2022 is not HBO's "Game of Thrones" spinoff "House of the Dragon," nor is it Amazon's "Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power." It has no dragons or media dynasties or crooked lawyers or zombies.
No, the show that has a huge swath of fans desperately waiting to binge-watch every installment is Season 3 of "Bluey," a preschool show from Australia about a family of cartoon dogs.
I'm not just talking about the kids who are excited (although kids absolutely adore "Bluey"). What makes the series, which returns to Disney+ Wednesday with 25 new seven-minute episodes, unique in the preschool-programming set is the fervor with which parents (and some adults without tiny tykes) love the show. "Bluey" isn't just a brightly-colored distraction that allows parents to do the dishes – it's a profoundly entertaining and affecting TV show that's been known to bring grown adults to tears.
So what is it about "Bluey" that has turned episodes about playing pretend and sharing with your cousins must-see TV?
In the Australia-set world of "Bluey," the title character and her sister Bingo spend their days with their "mum," Chili, and dad, Bandit, playing make-believe games, going to the park and the library, solving problems and having fun. Sometimes, things are fantastical and exciting, like when the series shows Bluey dreaming of being a bat. Other times, we see how a simple game between kids and their parents plays out. There are lessons, sure, but they are not overly moralizing, nor do they take away from the story. And in its best episodes, the lessons are for the grown-ups.
"The parents in the show also have their own lives and struggle with the same problems that any family has, which makes them and the stories very relatable," says executive producer Charlie Aspinwall. "At times, Chili and Bandit get it wrong or spend time figuring things out which is reassuring, but in the end they just like to spend time with their kids and enjoy playing with them."
In one memorable episode, titled "Baby Race," Chili tells Bluey and Bingo what it was like when Bluey was a baby and didn't learn to crawl or walk as quickly as the other babies. That caused stress for Chili because she believed it was her fault for not being a good enough mom. It wasn't until a friend told her "you're doing great," that she was able to realize it was true.
There is no race to baby milestones and development. There are just different babies and different "mums," all moving at their own pace.
I watched "Baby Race" alone on my couch with a newborn in my arms and it gave me a good, cathartic sob. From the littlest babies to bigger kids, "Bluey" understands how hard it is to parent, and how rewarding it can be. And just as it feels real for the grown-ups, "Bluey" understands the language and brains of its child characters better than most other shows.
"We often get messages from people saying that it’s like the makers of 'Bluey' have put a camera in their homes as it’s so relatable to their family life," says Sam Moor, a producer and production manager on "Bluey."
The imaginary games on the series are as random and magical as they are for real children. They are strange, yet completely sensible to Bluey, Bingo and their friends. And they are hilarious. "Bluey" masters slapstick and witty comedy with ease, and that doesn't change in Season 3, which includes the funniest TV episode of the year with "Omelette," in which Bingo tries to help make breakfast for her dad on his birthday (if you've ever cooked with a toddler, you'll know how this goes).
So when the new episodes stream on Wednesday, I know more than one adult who will be watching it without their kids, first. I'll be one of them. And it might just be one of my favorite shows of the year.
There aren't a lot of preschool shows that make TV critics' list of the best series of the year, but then there aren't a lot of shows like "Bluey."
From Reviewed.com: 13 great 'Bluey' toys, plushies and merchandise for little (and big) fans
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Bluey' Season 3: Why parents are obsessed with Disney+ show