On the 25th Anniversary of “Blues Clues” Steve Returns

Blues Clues host Steve returns after two decades with a heartwarming message. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Blues Clues’ host Steve returns after two decades with a heartwarming message. (Courtesy of Twitter)

On April 22, 2002, millions of children across America lost a dear friend. They stared at their television screens in disbelief as Steve, the beloved host of Nick Jr.’s “Blue’s Clues,” packed up his belongings and departed for college, never to be seen again. “Thanks again for all your help,” he said, before hopping on a bus and leaving. 

While this moment broke the hearts of audiences both young and old, it exemplified the significance of “Blue’s Clues,” teaching viewers valuable lessons. Nothing lasts forever, but that’s okay. Change is inevitable, and something that should be welcomed with open arms. 

Nevertheless, with “Blue’s Clues” reaching its 25th anniversary this month, Nick Jr. celebrated by doing something fans never expected. On Sept. 8, its Twitter account uploaded a video captioned “so about that time Steve went off to college…,” featuring Steve’s return, striped green polo shirt and all.

At long last, Steve acknowledged how sudden his departure felt. “One day, I was like, ‘Oh hey, guess what?’ I’m leaving, this is my brother Joe, he’s your new best friend,” Steve said. “And we didn’t see each other for, like, a really long time… can we just talk about that?” It was the closure us late 1990s/early 2000s kids needed.

In reality, Steve left the show since his actor, Steve Burns, realized he was starting to go bald. “I knew I wasn’t going to be doing children’s television all my life,” Steve revealed on Nickelodeon’s 2006 special “Behind the Clues: 10 Years with Blue.” “Mostly because I refused to lose my hair on a kid’s TV show.” The implications behind his hair loss motivated his decision even further.

Steve was getting older, and he felt that it was time to explore other opportunities and pass the mantle on. He had done his job, as “Blue’s Clues” made a considerable impact on millions of children.

“Blue’s Clues” arrived at the end of an era. In the mid-90s, many children’s television programs prioritized selling toys over substance, using flashy animations and often graphic fighting sequences to promote products to an impressionable audience. After significant backlash from concerned parents, Congress cracked down on these shows and insisted that networks needed to produce more educational content for children’s mental development. To abide by these rules, Nickelodeon created Nick Jr. for preschoolers, and soon new shows such as “Blue’s Clues” entered development. 

Heavily inspired by the revered “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” “Blue’s Clues” takes the viewer to a fantastical, animated world of bright-colored puppies, sentient mailboxes and French salt-and-pepper shakers. At the center of all of this is Steve, a happy-go-lucky teenager that spends each episode solving some sort of mystery with his dog, Blue. Since Blue cannot speak, she leaves her signature pawprints all across the house for Steve and the viewer to find.

After finding all three clues, Steve sits in his iconic “Thinking Chair” and figures out how they fit together. The plotlines of each episode promote problem-solving and thinking outside of the box, two great qualities for children to adopt.

Steve stands out as a host due to his ability to create individual relationships with every child watching the show. At the beginning of each episode, Steve greets the viewer like an old friend before starting his next adventure. Viewers feel as if they’re always right alongside Steve; for instance, Steve always pauses after asking the audience a question, giving kids the opportunity to excitedly shout their answers to the screen. 

“My favorite part of the show was to talk directly through the camera,” Burns revealed during his “Fameishness” special. “To actually, if I could, form a relationship with an individual child through the TV. I could hear them, and they could hear me.” To children, Steve wasn’t a teacher — he was their peer. 

Therefore, when Steve headed off into the sunset, viewers found themselves distraught. Even though the new host, Joe, did a great job in the role, his presence felt somewhat unsettling. Kids longed for Steve to return after going on so many adventures with him, and their relationship with Joe simply wasn’t the same. 

Nevertheless, Steve leaving for college serves as a metaphor, just like his receding hairline. It showcases the importance of growing up and moving onto bigger things, helping us become the best versions of ourselves. Unfortunately, sometimes we need to leave some people behind to move forward. Viewers will befriend and perhaps lose various reiterations of Steve, but the lessons learned from these relationships will remain. 

Today, the preschoolers who spent their childhoods with Steve are now adults. For many of them, life has not been easy, especially after a global pandemic. Steve recognizes this. “We started out with clues, and now it’s what?” Steve said in the clip. “Student loans, jobs and families! And some of it has been kind of hard, you know? I know you know.”

After solving each episode’s mystery, Steve celebrates by dancing around the “Thinking Chair” and singing a song. However, before the theatrics, he looks right in the camera, commends the viewer for the great job they did that day and thanks them for all their help. For millions of these now-adults struggling with today’s day and age, knowing that Steve is still proud of them is an incredibly reassuring feeling.

“And then look at you!” Steve beamed. “Look at all you have done and all you have accomplished in all that time. And it’s just — it’s just so amazing.” Cue the waterworks. 

Even though we all have grown up, a small part of Steve lives inside all of us. We may not press our foreheads against the screen to scour every frame for Blue’s pawprints anymore, but the lessons “Blue’s Clues” taught us shaped us into who we are. We’ll always remember Steve, and he’ll always know us. 

“After all these years, I never forgot you,” Steve said. “Ever.”