If, like me, you were terminally online around the early 2010s, you probably know, love and missed it very much Don’t hug me I’m scared.
Created in collaboration with animators Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling, the six-episode web series set a fire to the internet when it was released on YouTube between 2011 and 2015, featuring a unique blend of puppet-based antics and Lynchian shock humor. The animated shorts have since amassed over 216 million collective views on YouTube and inspired everything from extensive fan theories involving Serbian war criminals to a small clothing line. Now, over six years since the last short, Don’t hug me I’m scared has finally returned as a half-hour television series, and it’s like the show never left.
The series revolves around a trio of strange, colorful characters – a tall man in a red morphsuit with two beady eyes atop a mop of tousled hair called “Red Guy”, a yellow man-boy with a tuft of blue hair in blue overalls with the name “Yellow Guy” and a talking green duck in a gray jacket named … “Duck.” This eclectic group reluctantly embarks on an adventure while preferring to just sit in their home.
These adventures usually revolve around a fourth-wall-breaking musical number sung by a talking inanimate object, such as a notepad or a refrigerator, about an ostensibly educational topic (e.g. creativity, healthy eating, dreams) before inevitably ending up in a psychedelic death spiral. of physical horror and unrelenting boredom. It’s a lot of fun. in many ways, Don’t hug me I’m scared can be described as the demented British half-cousin of Sesame Street and the heir of Wonder Showzenalbeit less politically charged than the latter and more focused on bringing a sledgehammer to the standard of educational television for children through the former.
The six-episode reboot, which premiered Monday on Channel 4 in the UK, largely follows the same formula of the original YouTube short series, but with… well, more of everything: more irreverent, deadpan dialogue, more silly. jokes, more fourth-wall-breaking interludes, and more inexplicable body horror. You might suspect that this doubling of the series’ commonly used tricks and tropes would risk diminishing returns, but Don’t hug me I’m scared always somehow finds a way to keep undermining expectations, even when the expectation itself is the undermining of expectations.
The first episode of Don’t hug me I’m scared opens similar to that of the original shorts: with Red Guy, Yellow Guy and Duck hanging out and minding their own damn business, but now prefaced by a hilarious, down-to-earth theme song about how there’s basically three of them and they all live together. The threesome have absolutely nothing to do today, much to the dismay of Duck, who simply refuses to be busy. The next thing they know is there’s a talking briefcase with a smaller, non-speaking briefcase sitting at their dinner table and making a lot of fuss about how busy they are and how to get to work, before bursting into song. and montage in which the virtues of employment and labor are glorified.
You see, you can be anything: a person who types on a computer (e.g. me), a man who kicks a football and scores a goal, or the man who flies to a space moon. But not these guys, no; they have to work at “Peterson’s and Sons and Friends”, making all kinds of “bits” and “parts” on an assembly line, answering phones and building a website that doesn’t work. Sure, the episode takes a dramatic turn, but like any fan of Don’t hug me I’m scared know, the fun is in the surprise of just what goes belly up and how.
Like the original short series, Don’t hug me I’m scared is more or less a series of standalone episodes, each focusing on some form of “lesson,” whether it’s about death and mortality, the importance of family, or just how to be a better friend. The show is still relentlessly inventive, featuring everything from amorphous claymation body snatchers to psychedelic dream sequences akin to 2001: A space odyssey‘s iconic “Stargate” sequence filtered through a Boschian “DeepDreamgenerator.
Don’t hug me I’m scared is back and the series hasn’t missed a beat in its transition from internet shock humor du jour to a full-fledged animated series. Fans of the series will be delighted, and newcomers will soon learn how hilarious (and horrifying) life’s most important lessons can be.
Don’t hug me I’m scared airs on Channel 4 in the UK and can be streamed online in the UK at All 4.