Nickelodeon recently announced it was rebooting “Blue’s Clues,” the kids show wherein Steve, a man as simple as his taste in fashion (always a striped green rugby shirt), relies on his dog Blue to solve uncomplicated puzzles in ways suggesting Steve neither could, nor should, live on his own.
May the TV and streaming gods have mercy on you, parents of preschoolers.
In the late 1990s, Blues Clues was among the shows on my son’s healthy TV diet. And since we only had one TV – a conscience but ill-fated choice to strengthen the father-son bond – the clues often gave me the blues.
“Gee, Steve, I don’t know where you’d look for clouds,” I’d say during an internal monologue that lasted the entire show. “But here’s a clue: You might find a different shirt if you shopped outside the Nothing But Lime Green Rugby Shirts Warehouse.”
The show eventually disappeared and I imagine that today, Steve is a reclusive shut-in promising Blue that tomorrow will be the day he stops drinking. Maybe even wash his rugby shirt.
The fact “Blue’s Clues” is coming back reminded me of the children’s shows I enjoyed as a kid, ones that are an improvement over today’s in that they never pretended to educate you to adhere to misguided FCC mandates.
That’s because in the 1960s, kid shows had one purpose: to get you to sit down, shut up and stay put so there’s a little peace and quiet, is that too much to ask? Is it?
No “clues” just entertainment
Here are five of my favorites:
With bangs and a bushy moustache that deserved their own on-screen credits, the captain ran a very odd ship with a large cast of characters that included Mr. Moose, Dancing Bear and Grandfather Clock.
And then there was Mr. Green Jeans, who never complained about being named after his pants. Did he truly not strive beyond attire-based labels? What kind of role model was that? “Kids, it’s not who you are, it what you wear. And I highly recommend green jeans.”
Every day I’d have my glass of milk ready for another rip-roaring game of “Red Light, Green Light.” I drank when Engineer Bill said, “Green light,” stopping when he said, “Red light.” I never missed it.
When I told my son about the game, he noted its startling lack of intricacy and summed it up this way: “That is some pure stupid.” Maybe so, but it was my pure stupid.
Bozo the Clown
You have a clown, a studio audience and cartoons, a winning combination.
Throw in a handful of games requiring no practical skills as well as prizes with little inherent value, and it’s TV gold (until Pennywise and other evil, painted-face entities put a spin on those who like to make kids scream – with delight, people, with delight!).
Admittedly the weak link because I can’t remember much save for the Magic Mirror, when Miss Sally Mae or Miss Peggy Sue or whatever her name was would peer from the screen into Television Land and say, “I see Johnny and Bill and Mary and Beth.”
When you’re 4 years old you have no idea how creepy that is, or how she could only see generically named kids who most likely were white. Now I’m rethinking this.
In the ‘60s, no one cared if kids learned anything from Saturday morning TV. Its value was judged on programs that allowed mom and dad to sleep in, and it was very successful in my house.
My brother and I would sit down with a box of sugar-saturated cereal, sit three feet from the screen and not move for five hours. Yet somehow we still found ways to contribute to society when we got older. Well, I did.
Bonus shout-out to “Wallace and Ladmo”
I didn’t grow up in Phoenix, thus I missed out on what many longtime Valley residents swear was the best kids’ show of all time. I’ve seen clips and can’t argue. Fans boast how the show never talked down to children.
That and the fact they doled out Ladmo Bags filled with tasty, unhealthy snacks sells it for me.