DO YOU SEE A CLUE? Blue’s Clues, the enormously successful Nickelodeon kids’ show, celebrated its 10th anniversary this weekend with a prime-time special episode that introduced a new character to the show.
Which is nice, but you’re probably wondering why, with all that’s going on in television these days (which is actually not a lot, to be frank, but be patient), I would write about a show whose primary viewers are preschoolers. Leaving aside the huge market that is children’s television, the reason is simple enough: Much as I love Project Runway and Hell’s Kitchen and Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage, the fact is that, with two children under four at home, I’ve probably seen more episodes of Blue’s Clues than any other show on TV.
Everyone who shares my predicament, please groan in unison — let everyone else on the bus or subway know you’re not alone.
There are, of course, worse options — Barney the dinosaur is embargoed in our house, and the soul-wrenching shriek I instinctually emit whenever the Wiggles are on has had a suitably deterrent effect on my offspring. If there’s a show that I’m almost happy to endure by the handful each morning before most people start their working day, it would be Blue’s Clues, which at least lacks the nerve-jangling soundtrack and klaxon voices of Dora The Explorer.
Parents who’ve been unwillingly turned into Blue’s Clues aficionados divide into two camps — pro-Steve and pro-Joe, the former slightly larger than the latter. Steve (Steven Burns) was the original host, replaced in 2002 by Joe (Donovan Patton) when he left the show to pursue an alternative rock career in the orbit of psychedelic grunge veterans The Flaming Lips; Patton, a perkier host, brought a dinner theatre vibe to the show. My toddler recently added “Hi, Steve” to her growing arsenal of two-word sentences.
A New York Times story on the show’s anniversary contained the following synopsis, which gives something of the flavour of Blue’s Clues to the childless: “Blue, Joe and Sprinkles head for Puppyville and Alphabet City, where the dogs learn the alphabet while taking a cab; Color Town, where they fill in the colors of the rainbow; Numbers Kingdom, where they practice counting; and finally Shapes Forest, where they find a crescent, a rectangle and a triangle to make a sailboat to sail over to the last clue.”
Lessons are learned, and Joe pauses long enough to allow little viewers at home to shout back answers to questions — which they do, trust me. The Times praises the show for its cultivation of courtesy and interaction, and gives a tantalizing glimpse of the episode’s musical content: “There is singing, with music that sounds strangely like something from the Who’s Tommy. Sprinkles’ repeated refrain is ‘I’ve got spots. They’re all over me.’” With a sinking heart, parents will acknowledge that spots, of a very different sort, await in the awkward, sullen future for their angelic little ankle biters, faces raptly focused on the bright, flat, sleepily comforting world of Joe and Blue.