Is Blue’s Clues a Pee-wee’s Playhouse rip-off?

We have been rewatching Blues Clues. Not because we necessarily wanted to but we were trying to find another show for our youngest child (to give us a break from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse) to watch. While rewatching the early seasons (already went through it one time with our oldest), it occurred to me that the creators must have gotten their inspiration from a TV show that I watched when I was young. The creators of Blues Clues had to have watched Pee-wee’s Playhouse when they were young as well.

Blues Clues is/was an innovative educational program on Nickelodeon’s Nick Jr programming. The show started off being hosted by/starring Steve Burns whose Dog ‘Blue’ gives ‘clues’ to what she wants to do that day. While Blue’s Clues is a little more educational, it is essentially a slightly more kid-friendly version of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. Now before I divulge the similarities between the two shows, I’ll make sure that you know what I am talking about. Character actor and comedian Paul Reubens created Pee-wee Herman and the cast of characters that would join him on the live stage in a stage show titled The Pee-wee Herman Show in the early 80s. The show became immensely popular and in 1985, director Tim Burton brought Pee-wee to the big screen in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The movie was a box office hit and it soon caught the attention of CBS who signed Reubens to act in, produce, and direct a version of his playhouse stage show into a live-action Saturday morning children’s program.

I unashamedly loved Pee-wee’s Playhouse. The show consisted of a motley crew of cast members and staff (many who followed him from the stage show and included many of his fellow ex-Groundlings {which was an improvisational/sketch comedy troupe and school based in Los Angeles}). Some of the cast included comedy legend and SNL alum – Phil Hartman not only starred as Captain Carl on Pee-wee’s Playhouse but also assisted Reubens in the development of the Pee-wee character and co-wrote Pee-wee’s Playhouse. The show also starred Morpheus…I mean Hollywood legend Laurence Fishburne and Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and NAACP Image award-winning actress who starred on Law and Order as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren (appearing for a staggering 390 episodes) among many other notable castings (like The Cosby Show and the trilogy of current Chicago based shows). Joining an amazing host of artists and writers during the first season was an unknown rock music legend, Rob Zombie, who worked as a production assistant while his band, White Zombie, was in its infancy (information I learned thanks to his interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast).

The actors were joined by puppeteer-controlled anthropomorphic chairs, windows, and other household items as well as a bullying marionette, a puppet Pterodactyl named Pterri, singing flowers, a life-size talking cow, and a million other crazy things. And that’s just to name a few of the things that allowed us to love the show. Though the show was meant to be educational, it was quite entertaining to children (and also to many adults). The show’s outlandish and artistic set design kept your attention, the show’s comedic aspects kept you entertained. The stop-motion and claymation style animation snippets included in the show were a favorite of many (including me).


So let’s talk about how Blue’s Clues creators copied, I mean imitated, Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

  1. The opening sequence/music: While Pee-wee’s House had a theme song sequence (that was performed by Cyndi Lauper by the way), the music featured in the show and entrance was eerily similar.

2. Jumping into a book, picture or TV: While Pee-wee had a Magic Screen that he jumped into, Blue and Steve jumped into books, pictures, or even paintings.


3. Chairs: The interior of the Blue’s Clues house is known for many things but the most memorable thing was the ‘Thinking Chair’; the eclectic interior of Pee-wee’s playhouse had an anthropomorphic bluish-green chair named “Chairy”.


4. Anthropomorphic household items

5. And more things than I care to list at this time. 🙂


Images:

Screenshot of show title attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5550466

Paul Reubens photo by Alan Light, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1344291

Blue’s Clues logo attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37224574

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