Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is suddenly back in wonderful, chaotic form

You, or someone you know and love that you are missing, may have been terminally online in the 2010s. Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.

The six-episode series was co-created between animators Becky Sloan, Joseph Pelling and featured a unique mix of Lynchian shock humor and puppet-based antics. Over 216 million people have viewed the animated videos together on YouTube. The shorts inspired everything, including elaborate fan theories that involved Serbian war criminals and a modest clothing line. It has been six years since its last appearance. Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared has finally returned as a half-hour television series, and it’s like the show never left.

Yellow Guy, Duck and Red Guy play guitar

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Image: Carl Palmer/Channel 4

The series centers on a trio of strange, colorful characters — a tall man in a red morphsuit with two beady eyes atop a mop-top of scraggly hair named “Red Guy,” a yellow man-boy with a tuft of blue hair in blue overalls named “Yellow Guy,” and a talking green duck in a gray jacket named… “Duck.” This eclectic group reluctantly goes on adventures when they’d rather just sit around their house instead.

The adventures usually revolve around an unusual fourth wall-breaking song performed by a talking object like a notepad, a fridge, or other similar objects. It is about an educational topic, such as creativity, healthy eating and dreams, before eventually collapsing in a psychoedelic spiral of unremitting ennui and body horror. It’s a lot of fun. There are many different ways to do it. Don’t Hug Me I’m ScaredCould be described as demented British half-cousin Sesame StreetThe heir apparent Wonder ShowzenAlthough less political than the former, it is more concerned with bringing down the standards of educational television for children that was established by the former.

Duck reading the Paper.

Image: Carl Palmer/Channel 4

The six-episode reboot, which premiered on Channel 4 in the U.K. on Monday, follows much of 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. One might suspect this doubling down on the series’ well-worn tricks and tropes would risk diminishing returns, but Don’t Hug Me I’m ScaredThere is always a way for people to keep subverting their expectations.

Episode 1 of Don’t Hug Me I’m ScaredThe opening is very similar to the original, with Red Guy and Yellow Guy sitting about and doing their own thing. However, it’s prefaced by a funny and factual theme song that explains how they are actually three people and live together. Duck is adamant that they have nothing to do during the day. Next thing they know, there’s a talking briefcase holding a smaller, non-talking briefcase, sitting at their dinner table making a big fuss about just how busy they are and how they have to get to their job, before breaking out into a song and montage extolling the virtues of employment and labor.

One can be any of these people: A person who uses a computer to type (e.g., myself), someone who scores goals with a soccer ball, or a man who has flown to the Moon. Not these guys though, no; they have to work at “Peterson’s and Sons and Friends,” making miscellaneous “bits” and “parts” on an assembly line, answering phones, and building a website that doesn’t work. The episode turns sour, as you’d expect, but it is still a great episode. Don’t Hug Me I’m ScaredThe fun lies in just being surprised. WhatGoes belly up and How.

Red Guy, Duck and Yellow Guy at school

Image: Carl Palmer/Channel 4

The original, short-form series. Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is more or less a series of self-contained episodes, each one focusing on one form of “lesson” or another, be it about death and mortality, the importance of family, or simply how to be a better friend. This show has a lot of originality. It features everything, from bizarre claymation bodysnatchers or psychedelic dreams sequences that almost resemble. 2001: A Space Odyssey’s iconic “Stargate” sequence filtered through a Boschian “DeepDream” generator.

Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared is back, and the series hasn’t missed a single beat in its transition from Internet shock humor du jour to a full-fledged animated series. Fans of the series will be elated, and newcomers will soon enough learn just how hilarious (and horrifying) life’s most important lessons can be.

Don’t Hug Me I’m ScaredThe broadcast airs on Channel 4 UK and can also be streamed online. All 4.

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