Blue’s Clues: the show that listened back

Today I would not be surprised to catch a 20 to 30 year-old watching old episodes of the children’s TV show “Blue’s Clues.” I will admit I have done it myself recently. 

Although odd, it is not “out of the blue” that I return to the familiar company of Steve, Blue, handy dandy notebook, salt, pepper, baby paprika and mailbox.

a painting of Blue from Blue's Clues
(Photo by Elisabeth Brockman)

On September 7th the Nickelodeon Jr. TV show “Blue’s Clues” celebrated its 25th year anniversary.

The anniversary got Steve Burns, the show’s first host, reminiscing about old times, because he gave a very pointed address to all of his past viewers who have now grown up. 

As one of the children who spent hours solving clues with him and Blue in the 90’s and early 2000’s, when Steve pulled me aside through my phone screen and asked if I had a second, I knew I needed to listen. 

Steve started out on a serious note bringing up the time he abruptly moved away to college and we did not see him for a long time. 

“Can we just talk about that?” Steve said. 

Basically, he got real with those of us who may still have hurt feelings surrounding his departure.

Blue’s Clues is so relatable because older siblings moving away to college is a real life challenge.

Similarly, everyone has a mailbox. Crayons are a familiar tool. The personified household objects are the constant companions of life. 

Steve taught us how to use those tools and our mind to solve problems and deal with hard emotions. 

I would argue that returning to the show is a self reflection more than a regression to childhood. 

There has been so much learning and growth between the time Steve left for college and now, for both him and us “kids.”

Steve admits that some of it has been hard.

Steve said, “We started out with clues, and now it’s what? Student loans and jobs and families.” 

Looking back, Steve makes us realize the hard things we did as kids are easy now, because we have moved on to bigger, harder things. 

Our time together not only affected us viewers, but also Steve.

He said “The help you helped me with when we were younger is still helping me today.” 

If we are being honest, as kids we were all a little egocentric. Being too caught up in experiencing things for ourselves for the first time, it was hard to also give much thought to what people around us were thinking or experiencing, much less our children’s TV show hosts.

In a tear-jerking moment Steve said “I haven’t forgotten you, ever.” 

In a weird way, I was tickled that Steve was proud of me and my accomplishments the last decade. 

Steve’s confidence in me couldn’t help but build my confidence in myself for challenges yet to come. 

(Photo by Elisabeth Brockman)

As always Steve has been boosting my self-esteem and self-worth. 

An essential aspect of the show is its call and response style, giving the child audience a short pause to interject with their voice. 

Blue’s Clues stood out to me now and when I watched as a kid because Steve looked directly at me and genuinely cared about what I had to say. 

“The show blurs the line between audience and participant,” said a childhood Blue’s Clues viewer and now MCCC student, Ella Ryan. “It is like we are there talking with him.”

The importance of speaking directly to children, and in turn listening to their response, is often overlooked. 

Blue’s Clues models good communication skills, with listening as a core concept.

It was Blue’s paws and Steve’s pauses that made the show a success from a developmental and education perspective, laying a template for other interactive children’s entertainment. 

This is why it felt natural for Steve to (out of the blue) talk directly to me in his recent video.

I am glad I got to reminisce and clear up past feelings left hanging with my old friend Steve. 

I realized the clues we chased with Blue and Steve were just the first steps to chasing dreams and solving problems in our adult life to come. 

The video was posted to Nick Jr’s Facebook page.