If you don’t have a young child in your home, you probably missed the biggest news to hit the 6-and-younger set in a long time: Steve left “Blue’s Clues.”
Steve was the human host of the hit Nickelodeon TV show for five years, solving puzzles created by his computer generated cartoon dog, Blue, with the ‘help’ of his young viewers at home.
I once read an interview where Steve Burns, the actor who played Blue’s best buddy, described his character as “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” I’ll say.
The man spent half an hour trying to find clues that were ‘hidden’ right out in the open, stamped with a blue paw print. After he found three clues, Steve pondered what three ‘random’ items (webbed feet, a yellow feather and quack, for example) might mean. We’re not talking Rhodes scholar material here. I can understand how five years of making such, er, limited intellect seem believable would be enough for Burns.
It was not enough, however, for my daughter.
A few weeks ago, the trilogy of episodes that introduced Steve’s brother, Joe, and sent Steve off to college (now there’s a stretch) aired in prime time on Nickelodeon.
Thanks to the magic of Tivo, we captured the shows on bits and bytes and Katie and I settled into watch them while her big brother was off at Boy Scouts. We didn’t need any sarcastic 10-year-old comments while we watched these pivotal episodes.
I expected Katie to be saddened by Steve’s departure, but she hasn’t watched “Blue’s Clues” much at all in the last year – she’s moved on to Nick’s “Rugrats” – so I was shocked by Katie’s seeming devastation when the big moment finally came.
Katie enjoyed watching Joe arrive, even though she knew he was coming to replace Steve. She wasn’t bothered by Joe’s handy-dandy notebook – different than Steve’s – or the the strange song Joe sang when he solved Blue’s mystery – also unlike Steve’s song.
But at the end of the third episode of the trilogy – when Steve showed up at his surprise party with a backpack and a suitcase – that’s when the waterworks began.
“I miss Steve!” Katie cried before the episode had even ended.
She cried through the goodbyes among Steve, his brother and their computer-generated friends – Slippery Soap, Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper, Mailbox and others – but was somewhat mollified by the promise that she would be able to see Steve in reruns.
But when she asked the killer question – “Steve will come back, won’t he?” – I could not tell a lie.
So, over milk and cookies – raspberry chocolate Milanos – we talked it over. I asked her why she started to cry when she saw Steve with his suitcase.
“I felt it here,” Katie replied, pointing to her heart.
I tell people who ask me what it’s like to be a parent that they will feel all of their children’s pain as much – or more – than their kids do. Whether it’s inflicted by a playground bully, a best friend moving away, a medical procedure or the loss of TV friend, parents feel their children’s pain.
And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
So, Steve is heading off to college and Joe his taking his place. I hope Joe knows what a special place he will hold in untold numbers of young hearts. I hope he knows the potential for great sadness and great joy to give millions of children his position affords him, and that he treats his job as the privilege it is.