Does Kangaroo Beach have what it takes to be another Bluey?

Children’s program Bluey may have been Australia’s runaway global phenomenon in recent years but if the latest ratings are an indication of what’s to come, the famous Blue Heeler might need to make room.

A Boxing Day preview episode of the new ABC Kids show Kangaroo Beach beat Bluey in viewership, netting an audience of 142,000 people over seven days, according to consolidated figures from ratings provider OzTam. In comparison, the Boxing Day episode of Blueynetted 123,000 viewers over the same period. (Consolidated figures take into account catch-up TV.)

New kids show Kangaroo Beach is the brainchild of Tim Bain, who has written for the likes of Bluey and Fireman Sam. Credit:Cheeky Little Media / ABC Kids

Kangaroo Beach creator Tim Bain, who wrote a 2019 episode of Bluey and worked on the long-running British children’s series Fireman Sam, said he was chuffed with the early results.

“I rate Bluey as the best preschool show ever made,” he said. “It’s full of such comedy and heart. In terms of Kangaroo Beach, I’d love just a sliver of that audience.“

Bluey, which centres on a curious six-year-old Blue Heeler and her family and premiered on ABC Kids in October 2018, has become one of Australian TV’s biggest success stories, and is the most-watched series ever on ABC iview. It’s spawned a multimillion-dollar enterprise spanning bestselling books, soft toys, clothes and a stage show, has built large audiences in the US and UK, and scooped up a Logie and Emmy award.

Kangaroo Beach follows four junior lifeguards – Pounce the kangaroo, Frizzy the koala, Neville the wombat and Gemma the platypus – as they learn about water safety from some of their personal heroes. The protagonists are voiced by child actors while one of the adult lifeguards, Sandy, is voiced by comedian Kitty Flanagan.

The show’s water safety message comes at a vital time, with 58 drowning deaths recorded nationally this summer to January 25 – up 22 per cent on the previous year. Victoria recently recorded its deadliest six-month period for drownings on record, with forty-two people having drowned in the state since July last year.

Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins of Bondi Rescue fame serves as the show’s water safety consultant. One day, he bundled up the writing team and – under supervision – got them to enter a rip.

“It was real method writing,” Bain said. “A real wake-up call. A big, key message on the show is stay calm and float. Especially in a rip.”

Television writer Tim Bain working from home with his two children.

Bain said the time he spent working on Fireman Sam had taught him that children’s TV can save lives, as well as entertain.

“It was always really inspirational when we would get letters from families,” he said. “Kids were using what they’d learned from the show in real-life emergencies. You want to offer that message inside a package of warm, relatable characters.”

Jenny Buckland, the chief executive of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, said Kangaroo Beach showed why Australia needed locally-made children’s programs.

“In Australia we all need to learn about water safety,” she said. “If those messages hit their mark it might end in small children telling their parents they should be swimming between the flags, or reminding them to be aware of what the tide is doing.”

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