By Terrance Turner
Sept. 7, 2021
Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the animated series “Blue’s Clues”. For millennials like myself, the series was a staple — a cherished element of a childhood that now seems light-years away. Today, we got an unexpected blast from the past.
The program debuted in 1996 on Nickelodeon. It became an almost-instant hit, with preschool viewers instantly warming to the show’s host and format. “Blue’s Clues” was an interactive show for preschoolers featuring an animated blue puppy named Blue and an energetic human host. In each episode, Blue leaves a puzzle for the host and the viewers to solve together. Steve turns to the viewers for help.
Part of what made the show work was its host, Steve Burns. With his brunet bowl cut and his striped green shirt, Steve was instantly recognizable. We knew him. We liked him. We grew up with him. But growing up means growing pains. And in 2002, after six seasons and more than 100 episodes, Steve left. The explanation was that his character was going to college.
The truth was more nuanced. “I knew I wasn’t going to 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 happening, fast,” Burns said in a 10th anniversary special documentary called “Behind the Clues”.
Internet theories speculated everything from Burns pursuing a music career to perishing in a car accident to suffering a fatal heroin overdose. But Burns denied all of that. “I left the show because it was just simply time to go. I was pretty much playing a boyish, older-brotherish kind of character on the show. I was getting older; I was losing my hair; a lot of the original gangsters on the show, like the people who created it, were all moving on to other careers. It just felt like time. I just had a gut feeling like it was time to go,” Burns told HuffPost in 2016.
But today, he’s back. In a video posted to Twitter today, Burns opened up about the reasons behind his abrupt departure and reminded us all of why we loved him the first place.
“You remember how when we were younger, we used to run around and hang out with Blue and find clues and talk to Mr. Salt and freak out about the mail and do all the fun stuff?” Burns said. “And then one day, I was like, ‘Oh hey, guess what? Big news, I’m leaving. This my brother Joe, he’s your new best friend,’ and then I got on a bus and I left and we didn’t see each other for like a really long time? Can we just talk about that? Because I realize that was kind of abrupt.”
“I just kinda got up and went to college. And that was really challenging, by the way, but great — because I got to use my mind and take a step at a time and now I literally am doing many of the things that I wanted to do. And then look at you! Look at all you have done and all you have accomplished in all that time,” he says, directly addressing viewers the way he did back on the show. “And it’s just… it’s just so amazing, right? I mean, we started out with clues and now it’s what? Student loans, and jobs, and families, and some of that has been kind of hard, you know? I know you know.”
“I really couldn’t have done all of that without your help,” he says. “And in fact all the help that you helped me with when we were younger is still helping me. Right now. And that’s super-cool.”
“I guess I just wanted to say that after all these years I never forgot you. Ever. And I’m super glad we’re still friends.”