Calling Blue: And on That Farm He Had a Cellphone
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
Stephen Colbert, listen up. If any minority lifestyle is overrepresented in the
early education of children in the United States, it’s farm life.
Long since agribusiness made working family farms scarcer than hen’s teeth,
little Americans still sing and learn far too much about chickens, eggs, sheep,
wool, dells, troughs, pigs and goats. Not exactly news they can use. Better that
kids of 2007 be taught about ring tones, A.T.M.’s, cubicles, Best Buys and cup
But then look at “Blue’s Room,” the first episode of the big new spinoff of the
blockbuster “Blue’s Clues,” fresh out on Nick Jr. this morning. There are the
puppets (today in overalls): Blue, and her little brother Sprinkles. And here
are their tasks: shucking corn, gathering eggs, milking a cow.
That’s right: milking a cow. A full-dress demo has the puppets showing the
audience how to squeeze the udders to fill a tin pail. This archaism is meant to
be part of a progressive, cutting-edge educational television series. It’s
“Blue’s Room” is styled by the channel as “the ultimate play date” and a chance
for viewers to enter Blue’s world: a dreamy playroom with everything fun in it,
including an oafish guy named Joe (Donovan Patton, a stage actor, who also
appears on “Blue’s Clues”). It must be said that Joe’s a little bit creepy, in
the way of grown men who superintend children’s shows. This effect is not
lessened by his Old McDonald uniform. On the first episode he’s mostly absent
and the puppets are left to do tasks he assigns them. When he comes home, they
all celebrate their obsolete achievements while Joe pretends to play the banjo.
The farm theme, blessedly, is around for only episode one. After that the
puppets get all fancy with themes that include music, art and transportation.
But the ambition is not restricted to the content of the show. Nick Jr. is also
going all out to saturate children’s media with “Blue’s Room” as it plans for
the “spinoff series” — in the words of the press release — “to roll out on
multiple platforms including wireless carriers, video on demand, Nick Jr. video
and DVD release.”
Brave new world. And we’re still teaching our children about milking cows?