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Perspective

Clue to Kiddie Show Host: College Will Be a Lot Different

April 21, 2002|MARC OLSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Steve Burns is leaving "Blue's Clues." If you're the parent of a preschooler, that's a shock. One of the best kiddie shows on Nickelodeon is losing its host, and there's no guarantee that his replacement will have a clue.

Apparently Steve didn't want to be another Mr. Rogers, who's been entertaining kids on PBS since the invention of slippers. Maybe Steve cringed at the idea of someday zipping up a cardigan over that green, striped shirt.

So he's leaving after six years--the character will go off to college, is the story--and the folks at Nick Jr. are working on the transition to Joe, who will take over April 29. They realize we parents have to break the news to the little ones, so they've posted suggestions on the show's Web site. Ideas include making a pretend phone call to Steve at college, writing to Joe to welcome him and visiting a local college so our youngsters can get a taste of what awaits Steve.

Like I'm going to grab my 3-year-old and go stand in line at the UCI bookstore. The Nick Jr. people should worry less about our transition and more about Steve's. College may be a harsh change for someone used to spending every morning playing with Mr. Salt, Mrs. Pepper and a two-dimensional puppy.

Academically, Steve is in for a jolt. The questions on the Western Civ test are going to be a little tougher than "Why is Blue angry at the soup?" and they won't come with three clues, either. He'll also need a bigger notebook. When the economics professor starts filling the white board with supply-and-demand graphs, that palm-sized pad won't be so handy-dandy.

Studying won't be easy for Steve. On the show, he could just open any book and "skidoo" into its pages, immersing himself in the content. Someone had better tell him you can't do that with "Moby-Dick." And on exam day, he can' t count on help from his thinking chair. No, he'll be sitting at one of those plastic seats that are the source of so much student unrest.

Beyond classes, Steve's social life will also be shaken up. For one thing, he can't wear that same striped shirt every day. Someone at Nick Jr. should help him expand his wardrobe, and if he won't wear solids, then he should at least switch to jerseys. One big upside: Now that he's off the show, he can join the rest of us and wear a SpongeBob SquarePants shirt.

If he's living in a dormitory, Steve will have to get his mail with more restraint. It was cute on "Blue's Clues" when he sang and wagged his "tail" every time the mail came, but when he sees letters in his dormitory mailbox, he'll have to control himself. If he does that mail jig in the dorm, the other students will flee. Anyway, isn't it time this guy got online and ignored snail mail like the rest of us?

The haircut has to go, too. It can be shorter or longer, but that 'tweener look is good for just two things: hosting a kiddie show or running for James Traficant's congressional seat. Above all, Steve will have to stop talking to furniture. How's he going to keep a roommate if he keeps nagging tables?

So, Steve, it's time for "so long." You have some major adjusting ahead.

But the folks at Nick Jr. don't have to worry about us and Joe. No matter who hosts "Blue's Clues," we know the concept won't change.

The program will still emphasize problem-solving and logical thinking, and it will still fit perfectly into the Nick Jr. lineup with shows such as "Dora the Explorer" and "Little Bill," gentle half-hour programs that teach sharing, thoughtfulness and friendship.

So what will we do if Joe's a real dud? In the spirit of "Blue's Clues," here are three clues: Tom, Jerry and a hammer. Right. We'll switch to Cartoon Network!

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