With its trademark gentleness, “Blue’s Clues” tonight offers a little reassuring TLC to children who will soon face that daunting first day of preschool.
Donovan Patton, who had big shoes to fill when he succeeded the show’s classy original host, Steven Burns, has settled snugly into his role as Joe, the playful big brother to the show’s animated characters, who represent the target audience -- children ages 2 to 5.
In “Blue Takes You to School” (8 p.m. on Nickelodeon), Joe helps excited but anxious kitten Periwinkle feel secure about her first preschool outing. Viewers are invited to help too as Periwinkle asks them to keep him company and solve puzzles along the way. As Periwinkle’s day progresses, he learns about cooperation and structured activities, plays new games, makes new friends and has such a good time that he can’t wait to return the next day (every parent’s hoped-for outcome).
Joe and the audience also follow little puppy Blue’s trail of paw-print clues to puzzle out Blue’s favorite preschool activity. The show’s built-in pauses, and its signature repetition, allow children a little thinking time.
The charming characters and expanded settings (Blue’s neighborhood, Periwinkle’s classroom) are rendered in the show’s inventive computer animation, a signature style that resembles storybook illustrations made out of cut-out paper and fabric. As the show’s only human, Patton, meanwhile, admirably meets the challenge of all that blue screen.