I always had a crush on Steve, the green-shirted guy who helped a cartoon dog solve a problem by talking to felt salt shakers for clues. But when it came to the real life actor standing in front a green screen, I started to wonder-who is Steve.? (Single? Age? Sign?) And then one day, he was gone. The two year-old in me, with eighteen years of hormones on top of her, wanted to know: where did he go?

"Steve" is Steve Burns, a 29 year-old New York resident and-get ready for this-solo rock musician. It wasn't that Steve didn't enjoy his six years of preschool detective work. "Mister Rogers is a noble thing to be, but I was very unsure I wanted to do this forever," he told People Weekly in June 2003. He put out an album called "Songs for Dustmites" and created a web site that explores his ambivalence about talking to felt condiments and leaving his girl Blue. Blue's new boy? Donovan Patton, renamed "Joe," a little easier for tykes to pronounce.

It's kind of a big deal. Blue single-paw-edly changed cable children's programming: Nickelodeon consulted child psychologists to create educational programming to compete with PBS, and it waited two years to let Blue become a toy store product (or pudding flavor or bedsheet pattern). At its peak in 1997 and 1998, it had higher weekly and monthly viewing rates than Sesame Street. Some credited the programming and not Steve. "Two simple premises lie at the heart of the show's success: Preschoolers like repetition and they have enough of an attention span to follow an engaging storyline throughout an entire show" (Kramer, Multichannel News). The same episode of Blue's Clues was aired five days a week.

Other research touted the likeability of the characters. Linda Moss reported on the dog-eat-dog children's programming market for Multichannel News in February 1999. "'The first programs kids are watching, they form intense attachments to the characters,' said Daniel Anderson, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who has consulted for both Muppets creator Jim Henson Television and for Nick Jr. 'There's a great commercial benefit to that. Part of the broad strategy of all the networks is developing loyalty among young children. If you can get them early, it's a fairly obvious stratagem.'"

So, did the kids develop the attachment to Blue or Steve? Because let's face it-outside of Blue's Clues, Steve Burns is just another grungy Soho singer. And now there's Joe.

I'll put it this way: given between a stuffed dog and a CD called "Songs for Dustmites," which do you think most parents would buy their kids? Good luck, Steve. I miss you.

 

Sources

"Blues Clues Host - turned - Rockstar." Entertainment Weekly. 8 August 2003, p23.

Collins, James. "Tube for Tots." Time. 24 November 1997, p 96.

Eicher, Bubs. "Learning curve: boob tube, no more. Where children are concerned, today's television is actually good for you." Hollywood Reporter. 29 August 2003, p 17.

http://www.steveswebpage.com

Kramer, Staci D. "Blue's Clues is Nick's latest hit." Multichannel News. 4 May 1998, p 164.

Lipton, Michael A. "Am I Blue? Absolutely: Donovan Patton, new host of Blue's Clues, immerses himself in kid stuff." People Weekly. 3 June 2002, p101.

Littleton, Cynthia. "It's blue skies ahead for new 'Clues' host." Hollywood Reporter. 5 August 2002, p2.

Moss, Linda. "Get 'em for Life." Multichannel News. 8 February 1999, p21.

 

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