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Blue's Clues does meet Anderson's criteria (he was a consultant). Shown on Nickelodeon, it is the highest-rated show for preschoolers on commercial television; among all shows for the age group, it comes in third behind Barney and Arthur, a cartoon about an aardvark that was developed mainly for older children. Blue's Clues has a rigid structure: in each episode, a young man named Steve (played by Steven Burns, who could not be more likable) tries to figure out the answer to a question. Blue, his animated pet dog, provides clues by putting his paw print on three objects. For example, in one episode, Blue, wishing Steve to guess what he wanted to drink with his snack, put his print on a cup, a straw and a cow. The solution: Blue wanted to drink milk from a cup with a straw. As Steve looks for the clues, he runs into other characters and performs simple logic exercises--asking, say, which item doesn't belong in a group of vegetables in which three are green and the fourth is a carrot. The pace of Blue's Clues is deliberate, the material is presented very clearly, and the same episode airs daily for a week so the viewers can master the material.

Other shows divide up more or less along the lines of Channel Umptee-3 and Blue's Clues. Wimzie's House on PBS, which has received a lot of attention, is another program made by talented people that may be too manic for its intended viewers. Wimzie is half bird and half dragon. She lives with her parents, her grandmother and her little brother; and since her house is a day-care center, it is usually full of her friends. The show is sweet, but it is hard to follow. "Why does [it] have to be so cluttered?" asks Jerome Singer, who with his wife Dorothy directs the Yale University Family Television Research and Consultation Center. "I mean, the amount of jumping around and shouting and noise--there's difficulty for even us as adults in understanding the language."

A show that Singer is very enthusiastic about is The All New Captain Kangaroo. "I think that it's excellent," he says. "Kids need that live person. He talks slowly. It looks to me like it's going to be a significant addition." The show is syndicated, and was created in part to help independent stations satisfy the new FCC regulations. John McDonough, the new Captain, looks disturbingly like Mr. French on Family Affair, and the set is garish, but the show has warmth and charm and maintains a slow pace.

Teletubbies, meanwhile, is without doubt the most inventive of the new shows. The others have the same kinds of puppets, the same kind of scripts. On Teletubbies, the characters, the world they inhabit, their language--which is supposed to be that of two- or three-year-olds--are all unique. Since it is in the process of being Americanized, not very much of it is available for viewing, but it could be strange and wonderful.

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