There are some movies and television shows that you have to see at the right age to truly appreciate them. See them at the right moment and you’ll become a fan for life, no matter how ridiculous they might actually be; see them at the wrong moment and you’ll probably have a much more objective opinion. But, since when were objective opinions any good?
Hey Dude started airing on Nickelodeon in 1989 and ran for five seasons. All 13 episodes of that first season are now available on a two-disc DVD set from Shout Factory, and if you loved the show when it first aired, you’re still going to love it today. If you didn’t, you’ll probably notice the terrible production values, obvious scripts, and less than stellar acting. If you fall into that camp you’ll probably complain about the entire experience of watching the show, and not only will you be missing out on a brilliantly funny; heartwarming show; you’ll be wrong, wrong, wrong.
The show takes place on a dude ranch in Arizona and follows a group of teens—Ted (David Lascher), Melody (Christine Taylor), Brad (Kelly Brown), and Danny (Joe Torres)—as they struggle with the new owner, Mr. Ernst (David Brisbin); his son Buddy (Josh Tygiel); and each other. While Brisbin and Taylor may be known to people, and you may recognize Lascher in other projects, for Brown, Torres, and Tygiel, IMDb only lists Hey Dude in their filmography.
As stated, the plots are all pretty obvious and often revolve around Ted acting stupid. In one classic episode, Ted wants to make extra money to buy a saddle and takes a whole lot of odd jobs in order to make that possible. However, in order to finish the odd jobs on time, he needs to ask his friends to take all his work. Ted being Ted however, he doesn’t realize that he’s making life for all his friends more difficult and doesn’t understand it when they begin to resent him. By the end of the episode everything is all better and Ted has learned a valuable lesson which he’s promptly forgotten by the next week.
Hey Dude, for better or worse, is obvious and easy. There is no joke you have to think about, there is no moment that requires contemplation, and there’s never a doubt (even when Melody ends up trapped in an abandoned mineshaft) that everything will work out in the end. This is not a series concerned with pushing boundaries, it is only concerned with amusing the pre-teen crowd that watched it when it first aired, and the folks who watched it then are the same exact ones who will want to watch it now.
No discussion of Hey Dude could ever be complete without a mention of their theme song. It is a perfect companion piece to the show as a whole, particularly it’s mention of “man-eating jackrabbits” and “killer cacti,” and as wonderful (or horrible) as the series itself.
The sole bonus feature included on the set is an interview with Christine Taylor reminiscing on her time on the series. Taylor discusses the series being her first real television acting job and the difficulty of transitioning from “real” life to her work life and the actual production of the show. It is, for fans of the series, a real treat to get to watch her discuss this show which seems so often overlooked in the pantheon of love-them-no-matter-what-they’re-actually-like show.
Hey Dude is clearly a show from a specific moment in time, and anyone who was there to share the moment will love the two-disc set. Everyone else will just wonder what all the full was about, never quite understanding it.