At some point in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s, pop culture went wild for all that was Western. The Escape Club had a hit singing about the “Wild Wild West”. Boys Don’t Cry had “I Wanna Be a Cowboy”. I remember hearing the Boys Don’t Cry song in commercials for Longhorn Steakhouse featuring a big-haired waitress named Flo.
In July of 1989, (two days before my twelfth birthday) a new sitcom called Hey Dude premiered on Nickelodeon. The show was about the teenage staff of the Bar None Ranch. At that time, all of the cast members were unknowns, but a handful would go on to appear on some of the most popular shows in the 1990’s.
The creator of the show, Graham Yost, also went on to work on critically acclaimed programs like Boomtown, Band of Brothers, and Justified. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie Speed, starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and Dennis Hopper.
Another great thing about Hey Dude was that it had an actual theme song viewers could have fun singing along with. I’d put it right up there as one of Nickelodeon’s best theme songs with “Camp Anawanna” by the Salute Your Shorts cast, The Adventures of Pete and Pete’s “Hey Sandy” by Polaris, the Spongebob Squarepants theme, and the doo-wop style network bumpers.
The credits sequence showed the cast members (and character names) in alphabetical order, so I’m going to do that here. I wish shows would bring back the presentation of the main cast members at the beginning of programs. It’s not so much of a problem in sitcoms, but watching a new drama can be really confusing sometimes.
David Brisbin – Mr. Ernst
With Nickelodeon’s heavy branding as “the network for kids”, it seems strange for them to give a grown up performer first billing. After all, the very first character to appear on camera in the pilot’s cold open is David Lascher’s Ted.
Mr. Ernst had his moments as the bumbling adult authority. However, when something serious was going on, he was capable of being a competent and supportive parent figure to not only his own son but also to his young employees.
Brisbin is one of a handful of cast members with an acting career post Hey Dude. He also had a recurring role on ER as an anesthesiologist and appeared in the Seinfeld episode, “The Puffy Shirt.”
Kelly Brown – Bradley Taylor
Hey Dude appears to be Brown’s only television credit, but according to IMDB, she worked as a model in the U.S. and Europe prior to her being cast as Brad.
Brad was the rich girl from Grosse Point, Michigan who came to the Bar None as a riding instructor due to her background as an equestrian. Brad was clever and competitive, attracting the attention of first Ted and later Kyle. Eventually, Ted and Kyle end up competing over her.
Geoffrey Coy -Kyle
Speaking of Kyle, Geoferry Coy was another cast member who didn’t go on to do any other shows or movies. Kyle joined the cast in the third season finale as the second of two male characters brought in to replace Ted when David Lascher landed a role on a prime-time network sitcom. Kyle was introduced as the son of Lucy’s ex-boyfriend as they were visiting the Bar None after performing in a local rodeo.
Coy was handsome enough and seemed to be a good rider, but his acting was uneven. The writers never seemed to know what to do with Kyle, especially when Lascher/Ted first came back.
Jonathan Galkin – Jake Decker
After Ted leaves for summer school, leaving the Bar None short staffed, Mr. Ernst hires his drum playing nephew to help out. Well, at least that’s Mr. Ernst’s intention. What Jake actually does is play his drum set (his prized possession) and give fairly decent advice. That said, Galkin is one of the better performers in the cast, more than holding his own in scenes with any combination of Brisbin, Kalman, Lascher, and Taylor.
After Hey Dude, Galkin appeared in a kid’s syndicated sketch show called Way Cool. He is currently a record label executive.
Deborah Kalman – Lucy
Lucy was the experienced ranch hand and voice of reason, especially in the early episodes. Lucy was practical, plain-spoken, and rational.
As for Kalman, there are a few projects listed on her IMDB page, including Halfway Home with a release year of 2020.
David Lascher – Theodore “Ted” McGriff
Ted was an interesting character for a lot of reasons. With Lascher landing a role on a network sitcom called A Family for Joe between Hey Dude’s second and third seasons, whatever character arc the writers seemed to have in mind for Ted seemed to go out the window. It’s a shame because Lascher was not only cute, but had just as much potential as Christine Taylor.
I always thought Lascher was cute with his big brown eyes and dimples. He had a natural charisma that fit well with the characterization of the mischievous Ted. He’s friendly, but at times can seem a little too eager, especially when he first encounters Brad in the pilot episode, Day One at the Bar None.
There was also an interesting control/power dynamic to Ted. He revels in his status as “Senior Staff” and there’s a running joke that no one knows what it actually means. Danny once jokes that if anything happens to the president, Ted gets to take over.
For his many flaws, however, Ted is a good sport (according to Lucy) and when his friends are in trouble, he’s always willing to help. There are a few episodes that hint that Ted is also good with children.
Post Hey Dude, Lascher worked steadily with recurring roles on top teen shows like 90210, Blossom, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and played the Paul Rudd role in the television adaptation of Clueless.
At some point between Hey Dude and Blossom, I wrote a fan letter to Lascher. Instead of sending him a friendship bracelet, I sent him a coupon for Dove ice cream bars because I read in a teen magazine article that he liked them. Just like I had with Ethan Embry, I received this autographed photo!
Christine Taylor – Melody Hanson
One thing that always baffled me about this show was that they had two love interests for Brad but none for Melody. Melody was pretty and pleasant most of the time and she had scenes with both Lascher and Galkin where there was some chemistry. Maybe that was in the plan for a future season that never happened due to Hey Dude’s cancellation when Nickelodeon moved most of their productions to Nickelodeon studio in Orlando, Florida.
In a few episodes, Melody went on walks around the ranch with young male guests or went on off-screen dates with local guys. Melody never had a romance with her co-workers but Buddy developed a crush on her for one episode late in the series.
Like Brisbin and Lascher, Taylor had significant mainstream success following Hey Dude. Some of her more memorable appearances included a guest starring spot on Friends, the movie The Wedding Singer, and of course, The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel as Marcia Brady.
If you can get a DVD set of the complete series of Hey Dude, Taylor gives an interview on the second disc where she talks about her audition and what it was like to work on the show. She was also married to comedian Ben Stiller and they had children together.
Joe Torres – Danny Lightfoot
Not much is known about Danny’s portrayer aside from his true ethnicity as a Mexican-American (even though he was playing a teenager from a Hopi tribe who would now be described as Indigenous) and his artistic ability.
According to Wikipedia, Torres and Lascher were both nominated for a 1991 Young Artist Award for Best Youth Variety or Game Show.
Torres’ artistic ability was reportedly the inspiration for the episode titled “Dudesbury”, where Danny draws a comic strip about life at the Bar None. When the series starts, Danny is Ted’s best friend. When Jake arrives, Danny bonds with him fairly quickly. When Ted returns, he’s a little jealous of Danny’s friendship with Jake and for the rest of the series, Danny’s loyalty fluctuates according to the needs of the episode storyline.
Josh Tygiel – Buddy Ernst
Tygiel, who played Mr. Ernst’s son, won his role in an audition for Hey Dude held in Tucson. Tygiel was the youngest member of the cast and in the interview with Christine Taylor on the complete DVD set, she talks about how she, Lascher, and Tygiel all had schooling with a tutor on the set.
Tygiel doesn’t have any acting credits past Hey Dude. When I read an article about a reunion some of the cast had in 2014, there was a mention of Tygiel being a licensed private investigator. This amused me because there were several episodes where Buddy pretended to be a spy or detective to figure out what was going on with either guests or the older kids.
These were my favorite episodes of the series. I tried to include episodes that best showcased cast performances and some of the funniest and most memorable moments.
“Day One at the Bar None”
This is the series pilot, introducing both “returning” and new Bar None staff members as well as the ranch’s new owner and his son. It sounds strange to say “returning” staff members as the audience is meeting everyone for the first time.
This episode has some slightly awkward moments, especially the scene where Ted, Melody, and Danny “reunite” at the beginning of the season. They’re supposed to have been working together for at least a couple of summers prior to the one that unfolds over the next sixty-five episodes, but they just haven’t really “gelled” at this point. Writing and performances both improve over the next couple of episodes, but the pilot “feels” like a pilot.
“Ted and Brad Get Handcuffed”
After a traveling magician who performed at the ranch leaves his magic set behind, Ted uses what he thinks are trick handcuffs to play a practical joke on Brad. Unfortunately, it turns out that the handcuffs are real and the kids have to wait until the police department is able to send the key to the ranch.
Throughout the episode, Brad and Ted struggle to complete various chores around the ranch and the sleeping arrangement they are provided is a bunk bed. This meant each actor either had to hold their arm up or leave it hanging down off the bed, resulting in “leg cramps” for Brad and “arm spasms” for Ted. Brad kicks Ted’s mattress while Ted smacks Brad with a pillow with his free arm.
I realize this was on Nickelodeon in the late 1990’s/early 1990’s, but there were also twin beds in the girls’ bunkhouse. Or they could have slept on the floor in sleeping bags. Another option would have been to leave their sleeping arrangements up to the viewers’ imagination. After all, in later seasons there were five teenage boys (Ted, Danny, Jake, Kyle, and Buddy) supposedly sharing the boys’ bunkhouse but there were only two sets of bunk beds visible in the actual structure.
It seemed like the show’s writers may have gone a little too far out of their way to make the actors as uncomfortable as possible when there were other available solutions.
Ted finally convinces Brad to go out with him. To Brad’s surprise, they actually have a nice time together. Then Ted reveals he has to leave the Bar None to go back home to attend summer school. The episode ends with a tearful Brad kissing Ted and telling him to come back soon.
“New Kid on the Block”
A new character arrives at the ranch: Mr. Ernst’s nephew Jake. Initially, Jake wants to leave, so the other kids try to help get him fired. Then Jake decides he wants to stay, so the other kids help him fix his mistakes.
The smartest thing the writers did was create a completely new character. Jake was not just “Ted 2.0”. The series’ promotional materials often describe Jake as a “slacker” and Mr. Ernst refers to him as “Jake the Flake”, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true or fair. Jake seems highly intelligent, he’s well read, and has a lot of different interests. He always wants to help his friends when they have problems and he genuinely cares about his uncle and his cousin.
“No More Mr. Nice Guy”
The main plot here is that Melody gets tired of her friends taking advantage of her. This is a plotline that recurs in an episode in a later season, but the fun part of this episode is actually its Buddy and Jake centered subplot.
Buddy attempts to hypnotize Jake. Buddy’s intention is to make Jake pour his cereal over his head, but when Buddy gives Jake the prompt, Jake pours cereal over Buddy’s head instead.
Later, when Jake confesses that he had been faking, Buddy tries again, this time the post-hypnotic suggestion word “Snare drum” causes Jake to howl. The tag at the end of the credits for every episode features a howl and only for this episode, the howl is preceded by Buddy saying “snare drum”. Then the other kids yell at Buddy.
“The Bad Seed”
This episode takes on the familiar saying, “The customer is always right.” When a couple has to leave the ranch for a sudden “family emergency”, they ask Mr. Ernst if they can leave their young daughter in his care at the ranch. The girl puts on a phony sweet act, promising that she won’t be any trouble and has her own food.
This is one of those episodes that when I was watching as a young teenager, I didn’t think too much about. Now as an adult, I have a lot of questions about it. For starters, if you have a family emergency, shouldn’t the entire family all go home together? My second question: why is this couple leaving their child with complete strangers? My third question: do the parents realize what a nightmare their kid actually is?
Some of the behaviors the young guest engages in are obnoxious, like trash talking the staff. She’s also very destructive, using a knife to carve up a table in the dining area, striking matches and leaving them around the stable, dropping rocks on fish in the lake on the ranch property. What’s worse is every time she gets caught, she tries to blame Buddy.
“Ride, She Said”
This is their Christmas-themed episode, even though it takes place in the summer. Brad’s parents send her a horse as “an early Christmas present”. Melody is inspired to throw a Christmas themed party in the lodge because the staff never gets to spend the holidays together.
When Brad goes along on an errand with Mr. Ernst to a ranch for children with special needs, she meets a young boy who kindles her spirit of generosity and she donates her horse to the program.
“Lost in the Desert”
This is the episode where Melody wears the Esleeps I mentioned in my article about my favorite childhood sleepwear, but it’s also a really fun episode.
Buddy watches a Nightmare on Elm Street type movie and decides he doesn’t need to sleep anymore, prompting Melody, Jake, and Danny to engage in what starts as a horror movie debate but ends up as a demonstration of Invasion of the Body Snatchers “Pod People” paranoia.
Meanwhile, the main plot is about Brad and Kyle teaming up to take a group of Young Buckaroos (how the show refers to guests between ages seven and fifteen) for an overnight in the desert. Brad and Kyle end up stranded in the desert when the kids ride the horses back to the ranch.
At the end of the episode, Jake officiates a pretend “wedding” between Brad and Kyle. I always found Brad’s twist on the traditional vows to be humorous:
Brad (holding up a horseshoe) I will jam this ring… up your nose!
“Murder, He Wrote”
This was my favorite episode in the entire Hey Dude series. Lascher had returned to the show full time by this episode. The cold open before the credits establishes that both Melody and Ted have caught the chicken pox.
While Ted and Melody are in quarantine at the infirmary, Mr. Ernst comes up with the idea to have a Murder Mystery event at the ranch. One of my favorite book genres is cozy mysteries, so I found this episode particularly entertaining.
While Mr. Ernst and the rest of the staff are rehearsing their roles, Ted and Melody are released from quarantine. Ted being Ted, he convinces Melody to join him in surprising their colleagues with their return.
When they inadvertently eavesdrop on first Jake and Buddy and then Brad and Kyle rehearsing their scenes, Ted and Melody jump to the conclusion that their friends are plotting to kill their boss. They plan to intervene to prevent the “murder” attempts.
Melody and Brad enter a local beauty pageant. Ted and Kyle coach Brad while Danny and Jake help Melody. This is another fun episode showcasing Taylor’s talents as she sings “Home on the Range”. (Brad’s talent, by the way, is packing a suitcase.)
This is the only episode of the show to feature any kind of fantasy/dream sequence. They show Melody having a nightmare about losing the pageant.
I have to admit overall Christine Taylor’s “Melody” was probably the best written character throughout the series. There are several episodes dealing with her struggles with co-dependence and people pleasing due to her father and brother’s alcoholism as well as memories of body image issues triggered by competing in the pageant.
“The Legend of Jed”
Every once in a while, Hey Dude would take a slight detour into a supernaturally-themed episode where the kids tell scary stories to each other. “Ghost Stories” in season two, “Lost in the Desert” from season four and this episode, “The Legend of Jed” in season five would make for an excellent Halloween mini-marathon.
A recurring theme over the series is that whenever something goes wrong at the Bar None, Ted or Jake were the ones who got blamed.
In this episode, Jake is the one in danger of being fired until the kids “invent” a new staff member named “Jed”. Eventually, the kids encounter a flesh and blood version of the staff member they “created”. (Mr. Ernst actually asks a ranch hand from a neighboring ranch to pose as “Jed” to teach the kids a lesson.)
There’s also a ventriloquist dummy featured in the episode, again, left by a guest. Galkin operates the dummy a couple of times in the episode and for anyone who ever read the Goosebumps series, the thing gives off some serious “Slappy” vibes.
This is the second of the two episodes that featured Brisbin’s real life wife, Laura Innes. This time, she plays a mother of twins who accidentally leaves one in her guest room at the Bar None. The kids take turns watching the infant and Ted changes the baby’s diaper.
Ted and Kyle both get jealous of Brad’s new boyfriend, Roger. When they hear Brad telling Melody how chivalrous Roger is, they get defensive and start bragging about how chivalrous they are (even though Kyle can’t even pronounce the word chivalrous).
Ted is also jealous of Kyle, especially the bond Kyle has with Brad over their common interest in riding. Ted and Kyle volunteer to run an errand together and argue. They end up crashing the car in the desert and when Kyle opens the hood, he gets too close and accidentally blinds himself. Then when Ted gets out of the Jeep to try to help, he falls and sprains his ankle. Later in the episode, Ted falls out of the car again on his other ankle.
Blindfolded Kyle ends up with Ted riding on his back. Eventually, the guys make it back to the ranch in time to see the end of Brad’s date with Roger. From what Roger is saying, as an adult, I know that he is trying to push Brad to do something and she’s telling him she doesn’t want to do whatever it is. Being Nickelodeon, it’s not overt and went over my head at the time. Ted and Kyle work together to “defend” Brad from Roger.
Ted wants to buy a new stereo. Brad loses fifty dollars while the kids play Monopoly. Ted gets the stereo and Brad assumes Ted stole the money, especially when Ted doesn’t want to admit how he got the money for the stereo.
As it turns out, Brad’s money got mixed up with the Monopoly money during a power glitch that happened during the game. Also, Ted doesn’t want to admit where he got the money because he’s embarrassed about dressing up in costume (as “The Birthday Fairy”) to entertain at a child’s birthday party.
In his “Birthday Fairy” costume, which includes white face make-up, Lascher bears an uncanny resemblance to Dinosaur Dracula’s spooky season alter ego “Madd Matt”.
As mentioned above, there were several episodes that gave Christine Taylor’s Melody center stage with a complete story arc. This episode really allowed Galkin to shine, especially in the last ten minutes where Jake stands up to a bully who has been tormenting not only the staff members but other guests.
This episode turned out to be the series finale. It would have been nice to see some closure. On the other hand, the way the writers left things, the Bar None could live in viewers’ imaginations for decades to come.
Even though Mr. Ernst tells them they’re not allowed to hold their annual “Capture the Flag” game, the kids have the game anyway. Instead of splitting down gender lines as they have in past episodes, it’s the “established” staff members (Ted, Melody, and Danny) versus “new” staffers (Brad, Jake, and Kyle) with Buddy as a “double agent”.
One of the highlights of the episode is when Danny and Melody are horrified by Ted’s design for their flag. Ted describes it as an eagle clutching a lightning bolt in its talons, but Danny and Melody see it as the victimization of a favorite childhood cartoon character, “Timmy, the Magic Shrimp”. Then Danny and Melody sing Timmy’s theme song and I just really want to know more about Timmy.
I know I’ve been teasing this article for a while, especially the David Lascher autograph, but I was struggling with what to include and what to leave out.
I think I may also have underestimated what an impact Hey Dude had on my early adolescence, down to establishing the types of guys I would later find attractive. My rewatch also demonstrated just how much I related to Christine Taylor’s “Melody” and the struggles that come with mostly being known as a “nice” girl.
If you can get the Hey Dude DVD set or watch the episodes on Paramount Plus, it’s worth it to spend a few hours back at the Bar None.