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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Blue's Clues

Have you ever visited the website called

I absolutely love that website, and you can visit it by clicking HERE if you like. What the website does is compiles a list of all of the urban legends that people have told for years and years, and actually works to try and disprove them.

Granted in some cases, the legends turn out to be 100% truthful, and if that is the case, there is a green dot placed right beside it. Sometimes, the urban legend is proven false, but have some inkling of truth to it, in which case, the story will have a yellow dot next to them. And flat out lies and false stories will have a red dot next to them.

Over the years, has placed a plethora of red dots next to some of the most creative and shocking urban legends out there. Amongst them...

  • The boy from the Life cereal commercials from the 1970s did NOT die from downing a solution of Coca-Cola and pop rocks.
  • Humphrey Bogart is not the model for the Gerber Baby.
  • Jon Heder, the star of Napoleon Dynamite did NOT die in a car accident. The same could also be said for Full House star Jodie Sweetin and Saved By The Bell star Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
  • Susan Lucci is NOT Phyllis Diller's daughter.
  • Kid Rock is NOT Hank Williams Jr.'s son.
  • Marilyn Manson did NOT play the role of Paul Pfeiffer in The Wonder Years.
  • Bobby McFerrin, who had a hit in 1988 with “Don't Worry, Be Happy” did NOT kill himself.
  • Grace Slick did NOT name her daughter “God”.
  • Frank Zappa was NOT the son of the actor who played Mr. Greenjeans on Captain Kangaroo.
  • Keith Urban did NOT order all Canadians to leave one of his concerts.

Where do they get these urban legends from anyway?

Here's one more for you. Steve Burns did NOT die in a car accident, or any other manner of death, for that matter.

But, I suppose some of you may be wondering who Steve Burns is. Well, here's a clue.

Still don't know? Here's Clue #2.

Okay, I see you're still confused. Okay, one more clue.

So, what do you get when you mix together a blue paw print, a salt and pepper shaker, and a notebook? And, why is this blog entry written entirely in blue?

Okay, I'll show you today's topic.

Yes, we're taking a look back at the children's show “Blue's Clues”, which aired on Nickelodeon from September 8, 1996 to August 6, 2006.

The show was created by Traci Paige Johnson, Todd Kessler, and Angela C. Santomero, and ran for 145 episodes.

TRIVIA: Traci Paige Johnson did double duty on the show by voicing the main character, Blue the Dog.

The show also featured human host Steve least for the first few seasons anyway. We'll get to the reason why he departed the show in a minute, as well as the urban legends that surrounded his departure. But first, let's talk about how Blue's Clues came to be.

Before the 1990s, one of the only places where educational television programs were aired in the United States was PBS, the home of such classics as Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Zoom! By the mid-1990s, Nickelodeon was trying to enter the market themselves by creating educational programming of their own. They had success with such programs as Pinwheel and Eureeka's Castle, but the network didn't really have any programming for toddlers and kindergarten aged children at that time. So Johnson, Kessler, and Santomero teamed up to create and develop the program by using various methods of research including literary research, focus groups, and studying early childhood education trends in other similar programs.

Did you know that one of the earliest ideas that the creative team behind Blue's Clues came up with was making Blue a cat instead of a dog? If the team went through with those plans, the show could have been called “Blue's Prints”. But with Nickelodeon already working on a children's show about a cat at the time, the decision was made to change the main character to a dog (although a cat named Periwinkle would eventually be included in the program).

Within eighteen months of the show's September 1996 debut, the program became wildly successful, helping Nickelodeon cement its status as a network capable of providing quality children's programming. By the early 2000s, it was estimated that the show attracted 13.7 million viewers each week!

Now, I suppose you might be wondering why I know so much about the show when I was way above the target demographic. It's simple. My niece was born about two weeks after Blue's Clues premiered, and having a niece and three nephews between the ages of twelve and sixteen, I was exposed to Blue's Clues a lot when I was babysitting them as a teenager.

Not that I minded of course, because it was a fun show. I reckon that if I had been born ten years later, I probably would have watched it too.

The premise of the show was quite interesting. Each week, we would visit Blue's house, where Blue would often try to explain to the viewer what she wanted to do. Sometimes she would want to participate in an activity. Other times, she would have a big announcement that she would make. But since Blue couldn't speak English very well, the only way she could communicate was by leaving clues on household objects by putting her paw prints all over them. At the end of every episode, the clues would be put together, and Blue would finally be able to tell everybody what was on her mind. For young kids, it was a great game to play, and the way that it was presented was so brilliant, I can understand why so many kids loved the show.

That's why I opened the blog with the three clues before going into the program description. All three clues appear in the show. I already explained about the paw prints, but the salt and pepper shakers are actually two speaking characters named Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper (who weirdly enough had a child named Paprika later in the series), and the last clue was the notebook that was used to figure out the clues.

Of course, you couldn't have a show without a human master taking care of Blue. And, that's where Steve Burns comes into play.

Before Steve Burns became the host of one of the most successful children's shows of all time, he was a struggling actor who moved to New York City from rural Pennsylvania. Living in a basement apartment in the middle of Times Square, he made guest appearances on a couple of dramatic series as well as working as a voice-over artist for various television commercials.

It was in late 1995 that Steve Burns would take on the role that would make him a star in the eyes of an entire generation of preschoolers...though his appearance at the time didn't exactly win him any support. You see, prior to appearing on Blue's Clues, Steve's look was best described as “skate rat chic”. Picture the host of Blue's Clues as a 22-year-old with long hair and an earring? You can't, can you? In fact, Nickelodeon executives were so unsupportive of Burns' look at the time that they actually asked him to dress more conservatively in the future!

As luck would have it, Steve Burns chopped off his long locks, dressed in more appropriate clothing for a children's show, and ended up getting the job! Reportedly, close to one thousand people auditioned for the role, and initially, the producers were leaning towards casting a female for the role. But Traci Paige Johnson saw something in Steve, claiming that of all the applicants for the job, he gave the most real performance, and she felt he connected to kids unlike any of the other people who were up for the part.

Over the next six years, Steve enjoyed being what he called a “micro-celebrity”, which he described as being a superstar to his target audience (kids) and their parents, but a virtual unknown to everyone else. It was reported that he developed a bit of a fanbase from single women and teenage girls who believed that he was cute. And would you believe that in 2000, he was actually listed as one of People Magazine's most eligible bachelors? Crazy, I know!

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and by Steve's sixth season on the show, he knew that it was time to move on. Part of the reason why he opted to leave the show in 2002 was because he wanted to try something else (in this case, he wanted to pursue a music career), but he also stated another reason why he decided to leave with the following quote; “I knew I wasn't gonna be doing children's television all my life, mostly because I refused to lose my hair on a kid's TV show, and it was happenin' – fast!”

TRIVIA: The day after Steve's final show was taped, he shaved his head...which was something that the producers would not let him do during his entire run on the series!

Now, how do you make the transition from host to host as least traumatic as possible for the loyal audience of preschoolers? It was a difficult task, but how the producers made it happen was to have a three-episode arc in which Steve was leaving for college. In these episodes, producers introduced a new character, which would become the new host after Steve Burns departed the show.

Just as they had done with Steve, thousands of people auditioned for the hosting job. After several hundred auditions, the part went to a man who had never seen an episode of Blue's Clues before, but when Donovan Patton's audition was screened to an audience of preschoolers, the reaction was quite favourable.

As a result, Patton was cast as Steve's brother, Joe, and he remained on the show until it ended in 2006.

And of course, with Steve leaving the show, the urban legends came out in full force. Would you believe that the rumours regarding the untimely demise of Steve Burns were floating around while he was still doing the show? Apparently, Steve Burns died in a variety of different ways including in a car accident, and even from a reported heroin overdose. There were even reports of Steve actually being replaced by a lookalike midway through his tenure!

Of course, these rumours were proven to be untrue. Steve is alive and well, and he'll be turning 40 years old next year. But the rumours got so bad that Burns actually appeared as a guest on The Rosie O'Donnell Show in 2002 to dispel the rumours that he had died!

How do these silly rumours get started anyway?

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