Western Animation: Blue's Clues
We gotta find the next pawprint,
And that's our second clue!
Then we put it in our notebook—
'Cuz they're whose clues?
is a famous, long-running
, and hugely
influential children's TV show, produced by, and previously shown on, Nickelodeon
. If you grew up in America during the 1990s or early 2000s, the odds are good that this show will be familiar to you.
Set in a vibrant
, candy-colored world
of animated characters combined with a human host,
the show features the escapades of Blue, a blue-colored dog. Once an Episode
, Blue will want to do something—be it read a book, have a snack, or make some kind of craft. However, Blue seems to be the only creature in her world who can't talk
, so the only way she can communicate with her human owner is by playing Blue's Clues
- a game in which she will tag 3 objects around the house (or backyard) with her blue pawprint, labeling them a "clue." It's up to her owner—along with all the kids at home—to figure out what she wants to do by piecing together these clues.
First introduced in 1996, the show is notable for pioneering
the kid's show version of an Interactive Narrator
—one who talks "to" the camera, seemingly at the children watching. Blue's Clues
was so successful, this went on to become the norm for most kid's show hosts today— especially those directed at the "Under 12" age bracket. It also originally ran under the notion that children learn through repetition—so the same episode of the show would run for a full week. (The show no longer practices this.) It was hugely
successful, leading to several direct-to-video movies, an eventual Spin-Off
called Blue's Room
, and, of course, heaps and heaps of merchandise.
The show was originally hosted by Steven Burns (A.K.A. "Steve"), but he quit the show—not due to heroin overdose, as rumors claimed, but due to the fact that he was losing his hair
, and was afraid of seeming too "old" to the kids. (He also was somewhat worried about typecasting, and he also wanted to pursue a career in music - and he has been successful in indie rock circles thanks to his connections with his friends, the Flaming Lips
.) His replacement was "Joe,"
his TV younger brother, who still runs the show, and its spinoff Blue's Room,
until 2006, when production came to a halt. Reruns are now seen on the Nick Jr.
channel, and DVDs still exist.
This show provides examples of:
- Absentee Actor: Sidetable Drawer was missing from "Blue's Big Car Trip", and Mailbox was missing from "Blue's Big Car Trip", "The Legend of the Blue Puppy", "Skidoo Adventure" and "The Fairy Tale Ball".
- Adorkable: Steve.
- Also applies to the real-life Steve Burns.
- Adobe Flash: Until Blue's Room, all the animated parts were animated this way. Thus, it the first Nick show to use Flash. (At least on the whole network. Kablam! was the first show to use Adobe Flash on the regular Nick schedule).
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Blue is the current trope picture. Not only that, but she is probably the Trope Codifier too, and just in case you're totally color-blind, most colorful animals tend to be named after their color as well.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Basically the entire main cast aside from Blue, Steve and Joe.
- Anthropomorphic Food: Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper, their children Paprika and Cinnamon, and numerous other characters.
- A minor example with the monster cake.
- Art Evolution: In the book releases. Take a look at the earlier ones and you'll find that Blue's face is a bit chubby and the blue coloring is rather dark. Then take a look at the later book releases - the coloring is lighter and Blue's face has been thinned out. This generally holds true for the other characters as well and there are other, more subtle changes to the appearance of the art.
- Audience Participation
- Big Little Brother: Joe to Steve in-universe.
- Book Ends: Literally. The show apparently takes place inside a Blue's Clues book.
- Breakout Character: In two book releases, minor character Green Puppy is a main focus.
- Catch Phrase: "Bark bark bark!" (said with the same inflection as "No you don't!", to clarify)
- Chekhov's Gunman: Turquoise, the turtle Steve bought for Blue in "Blue's Birthday", turns out to be the answer to that episode's game of Blue's Clues (a turtlenote ).
- Comically Missing the Point: In the early episodes, whenever Steve goes to the Thinking Chair to resolve the episode with the given clues, he usually makes a bizarre guess, like Blue putting a cow in a cup and slurping it up with a straw (she just wanted milk), or wrapping a pillow in a blanket and reading it a story (she only wanted a nap).
- Steve and Joe can sometimes be like this whenever the audience is trying to tell them about a clue nearby.
- Continuity Nod: In an early episode, Steve bought Blue a pet turtle (named Turquoise) for her birthday. Turquoise shows up in the background of most scenes set in the bedroom after that.
- Crossdressing Voices: In Blue's Room, Dictionary was voiced by a girl. Also in the Season 1 finale episode Meet Blue's Baby Brother, the male puppies from Puppyville were voiced by females.
- Cute Kitten: Blue's classmates Orange Kitten and Periwinkle are of the Talking Animal variety.
- Cute Little Fangs: Green Puppy.
- Deconstruction: The Blue's Big Musical deconstructs how the kids always found the clues with Steve's subplot about finding a Blue's Clue all by himself and the frustration that Steve gets when he's unable to do it himself. Thankful, everyone cheers him up to continue and he finds the last clue all by himself.
- Demoted to Extra: Poor Magenta (and Green Puppy, and Purple Kangaroo, and Orange Kitten...)
- Depraved Kids' Show Host: Subverted, all of the nasty rumors of why Steve left were false, and he appeared on Oprah to dispel the rumors and give advice to parents on how to help children who thought he had died. He was careful with publicity things he appeared in afterwards for a while, in case kids might confuse him for his character, and when his girlfriend asked him if he wanted to have relations on the Thinking Chair he received as a gift, he declined, saying it would feel like millions of parents would be watching him.
- The Ditz: There's always at least one clue in the show (sometimes ALL THREE) where Joe or Steve will ask the kids if they see a clue, or where it is. It takes three times for him to FINALLY understand what the kids are saying. ("A clue!" "A shoe? Yes, I'm wearing shoes." "No, a clue!" "You, too?" "No, a clue!" "Oh! A clue! Right over there!")
- "Math!" has a variation: The first clue is an ice cube. However, Steve just got done counting ice cubes in a tray (10 to be exact)... and is about to have a heart attack over the prospect of 10 clues.
- Similarly, a clue is seen on a carton of orange juice in "Blue's Surprise at 2 O'Clock". Steve just drank some after being told of the clue. Cue Steve thinking he drank the clue.
- Excited Kids' Show Host: Steve goes (very close to) BERSERK when he finds a clue for the first time.
- Foreshadowing: A rather brilliant example is implemented in "Blue is Frustrated": The first clue, the sink, is discovered (and drawn) from the floor looking up, making it look like the sink is taller than it is. The answer to this game of Blue's Clues is that Blue is frustrated over trying to brush her teeth... because she can't reach her toothbrush.
- Happily Married: Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper. They have two children, Paprika and Cinnamon.
- Hidden Track: The album "Goodnight, Blue" has a bonus at the end called "Hidden, Blue's Dream" that isn't listed on the album itself, though plays as a separate track. There's just under two minutes of night noises and snoring before the dream part actually starts.
- I Can't Hear You: This is done in "Nature!" between Steve and the voice of the kid used to represent the viewer when the viewer discovers a waterfall and tries to point it out to Steve, but he says that he can't hear because there's a loud waterfall. Also, it's a fairly common Running Gag on the series for either Steve or Joe to mishear when the voice says "A clue!"
- Intelligible Unintelligible: Every dog character spoke in a kind of canine whine that the viewer couldn't understand but all the other characters seemed to understand fine.
- Interactive Narrator
- Lampshade Hanging: In one episode, one of the clues was a cloud. Right before drawing it down, Steve wonders how Blue could put her paw-print on it.
- Licensed Games / Edutainment Games: One for The Playstation. Also, one for the V-Tech V-Smile console. Apart from that, nearly a dozen edutainment titles for the PC/Mac (many of them by Humongous Entertainment—a demo version of Blue's ABC Time Activites can be downloaded from Infogrames). Many of them were surprisingly good.
- Limited Wardrobe: Steve wore nothing but green striped shirts and khaki pants. All of Joe's shirts are different colors, but they have the same square pattern.
- Matryoshka Object: One episode has Steve opening a present with an increasingly smaller present inside each one.
- Merchandise-Driven: All types, from shampoo to plush toys (some, such as the Shovel and Pail Eden plush, are very rare) to model Thinking Chairs.
- No Fourth Wall: The people on the show would often query the "audience" on the answer to the show's questions and puzzles. Not to mention Blue pawprints the screen in the beginning of an episode.
- One interesting example: One time after Steve greets the viewer, he asks how they "got" there. The conclusion he reaches? "Oh, by television. Cool! (knocks on the screen)".
- Not Allowed to Grow Up: Averted with Paprika and Cinnamon. They both started out as babies who couldn't talk (having been born during the series), but over time, they started acting more like little kids instead of babies. By the end of the series, Paprika was speaking full sentences like the rest of the cast, and Cinnamon knew some words.
- Once an Episode: Tons. Getting mail, sitting in the Thinking Chair, the "Skidoo..."
- ...and other than mail, this...
- #mail time...Mail time...Mail time! Mail time!! MAIL TIIIIIIIIIIIIME!!!#
- Parental Bonus: There's a scene in one episode where Steve, Blue, and some bunny are acting out a story. Steve is playing the king, and impersonating of course, Elvis Presley.
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: A notable subversion as Blue and Magenta are both girls.
- Portal Picture: Blue, Steve, and Joe can all "Skidoo" into pretty much any picture around and interact with the residents. Actually, that's pretty awesome...
- Put on a Bus: Steve (literally).
- Re Tool: From the beginning, the Blue's Room spin-off never really caught on. So when they made it into a full series, they made several changes. The biggest was adding Blue's new baby brother Sprinkles as a regular member of the cast. Joe was also given a more prominent role and the sets were expanded. It still didn't work and the program ended once its episode order was up and has rarely been seen in repeats since.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter
- Roger Rabbit Effect
- Rule of Three: The viewer is always expected to find three clues.
- There are also three pink snails hidden in the background of every episode for older viewers to find.
- Running Gag: In "What is Blue Afraid Of?," Steve and Blue skidoo into a mansion with a ghost, Boo, who's afraid of his own name. Whenever Steve says it, the ghost gets frightened. Steve eventually catches onto this and starts getting quite a kick out of saying the name and watching the ghost jump in fright.
- Selective Localisation: UK viewers of Blue's Clues might be puzzled to hear Steve mentioned constantly - this is because in the UK imported version of the show, a different actor known as "Kevin" was used on and interacted with the same animated backgrounds that were used in the United States version. Kevin and his stripy green shirt are just as fondly remembered in the UK as Steve is in the United States.
- Something Completely Different: In "Meet Polka Dots," Blue opened the door to the Blue's Clues house and there were several segments in which time was spent with just Blue or Blue and her friends rather than Joe, while Joe attended to his stuffed duck Boris, who was having a nap. Perhaps most unusually, viewers got to actually watch as Blue placed her pawprint on each clue, something which had always been done firmly off-screen before.
- Spin-Off: Blue's Room, which swaps out most of the main cast save Blue and Joe for puppets. Oh, and Blue can talk now. Some older fans are not pleased with it.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Sidetable Drawer (somewhat).
- Stock Sound Effect: Baby Kate Cry: Variant in the 4th part of the story in Season 4 "The Baby's Here!", there were some babies crying at the Baby Hospital, and one of them was crying like this.
- Suddenly Voiced: Blue in the Blue's Room spin-off series. Additionally, in the book releases, Blue was suddenly voiced before Blue's Room even started. Seriously, pick up any of the more recent numbered Blue's Clues book releases not set within the world of Blue's Room and you'll find that Blue actually talks out loud to Joe, Green Puppy, Magenta and everyone else. This was true even in some of the Steve books.
- Of course, astute viewers might note that Blue always could talk. Seriously, some of those barks were so specific that she pretty much was talking if you were clever enough to figure out what she was saying.
- The clues, beginning in "Blue's Neighborhood Festival" were no longer drawn by Joe but seemingly drew themselves as if by magic, then talked and sung a little song.
- Surprise Party: "Joe's Surprise Party," in which the viewers are asked to keep Joe distracted while Blue and the cast finish putting together a surprise birthday party for him. It works out very well.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Steve's replacement, Joe.
- Take Your Time: Blue wants a snack, but won't tell us what that specific snack is. We have to waste god-only-knows how much time playing Blue's Clues to find out what snack she wants. (She must not have been that hungry). What are we going to do today? We have to play Blues Clues to find out we're going to the beach! (Wouldn't that time have been better spent actually DRIVING there?)
- In fairness, all episodes seem to take place in Real Time, so we can be sure that things will be resolved in less than 20 minutes, which isn't that long. And besides, Blue's Clues is a really great game.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: The show actually makes a concentrated effort to avoid this. Almost all of the characters have non-gender-specific features, and all of them speak with the wholly androgynous voices of small children. It's actually more likely for random characters to be female.
- That Cloud Looks Like: This is the answer to Blue's Clues in "Nature!", that Blue wants to do this as a game.
- The Movie: Blue's Big Musical Movie, the only direct-to-video movie for the show.
- Throw The Dog's Human Companion A Bone: In Blue's Big Musical, Steve suddenly realizes that he's never found a clue on his own without the help of the kids. He's sorely depressed about this fact until he looks inside of a box (that the camera can't see in) and realizes—there's a clue in there! He found it himself!
- Title Please: In the earlier episodes, the episode titles didn't appear within the episodes themselves. Averted once the show started using "Another Blue's Clues Day"; near the end, Mr. Salt and his family would appear holding a banner with the episode's title, and Mr. Salt would read the title to the audience.
- Title Theme Tune: "Another Blue's Clues Day." They didn't start using it until after Joe became host, though. Up until then, a simple instrumental theme was used to lead into the program.
- Trailers Always Spoil: At least one promo for an episode actually gave enough information for especially astute viewers to figure out the answer to Blue's Clues before the episode had even started.
- True Blue Femininity: Blue is a girl.
- Universal Driver's License: In "Away Great Playdate" on Blue's Room, Joe conducts a train, drives a taxi and pilots a plane.
- Unsettling Gender Reveal: Kids who watch Blue's Clues most likely believe that Blue is a boy, due to the color of her fur. Not so.
- Unwanted Glasses Plot: Inverted in "Magenta Gets Glasses," which was also released as one of the books.
- Vague Age: The brothers, mostly Joe. Acted by men but they behave like boys but apparently live alone. Steven goes off to college so he's an adult, and likely Joe is too.
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Later episodes often covered topics that had been dealt with before, but rather than just being some rehash, they introduced new material. For example, the "Colors Everywhere" episode covered the familiar topic of mixing colors, but took it the new level of showing how the mixed colors could then be mixed with each other to create even more new colors. "Chartreuse, a color I had not seen, looks to me like a yellowish-green. ... Mix blue and yellow and they're suddenly green. Then blue and green makes aquamarine."
- Viewers Are Morons: Justified, as it's a kid's show. But the presenters often talk to the audience like they are imbeciles, regardless of their age, and if the viewer doesn't work out the show's puzzles, the characters would give the answer anyway.
- In the tenth anniversary special, "Meet Blue's Baby Brother," Blue, Joe and the viewers were treated to a game of Gold Clues to figure out the identity of Blue's little brother. The first clue was the word "puppy." Er, gee, thanks, but was it really necessary to give us a clue for us to figure out that Blue's little brother is a puppy? Especially considering the fact that we traveled to Puppyville to find Blue's little brother.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Why exactly was there a sock in a bakery?