What Happened to Sesame Street

I was trying to remember all the words to “Dee Dee Dee,” which Istarted singing to my daughter at some point and she loves it. IGoogled, of course, and it eventually led to this treasure trove of Sesame Street clips on YouTube.I watched several of them–more than I probably should. Of course Iwatch Sesame Street today. My kids are of that age. It’s inescapable.But if I had a choice, I wouldn’t.

Sesame Street today is sodifferent from the way it was back when I was a kid. Sure it hasMuppets, occasional “guest stars,” and it tries to educate the kids.But there’s something missing. It’s toned down. Ernie’s lessmischevous, The Count is less scary, Cookie Monster is less gluttonous.It’s homogenized. It’s structured. The show follows a basic “schedule,”so you pretty much know what’s going to happen in what order.

SesameStreet used to be more random. On any given episode, beyond the “mainstory,” and the fact the show was sponsored by a couple of letters anda number, you didn’t know what you were going to get. You got a mix ofstory, animated segments, random Muppet skits, flim shorts aboutanything and everything.The show was more whimsical. More zany. Moreserious. And more educational. They weren’t afraid to use big words. Orbring up big ideas. Or address serious issues head on. Even today, theclip where the grownups explain to Big Bird that Mr. Hooper is dead still makes me cry.

The commentary on the Internet suggests two big changes happened that had a profound affect on Sesame Street: the rise of Elmoin the 1980s, and the death of muppet creator Jim Henson in 1990. Manyof the “fun” incidential characters on Sesame Street were retired whenJim Henson died along with many of the funny segments they entailed.The other important thing that happened in 1989 was the death ofcomposer Jim Raposa, who wrote many of the songs heard on SesameStreet, including the theme.

I can’t think of a single thingthat’s entertaining from the current Sesame Street, though at least mytwo year old daughter still watches it. My son will occasionally, butat six, I think he’s growing out of it. My son likes the stuff from theolder Sesame Street we have on VHS tapes. Some of his favorite bitsare: Cookie Monster and FOOD, Rhyming Words, and Monster in the Mirror. He also likes Mnah Mnah (this is from the Muppet Show, but it also appeared on Sesame Street in a slightly different form). And my daughter loves the Dee Dee Dee song (as well as Mnah Mnah).

Oneof my favorite bits? There’s so many good ones. I have to admit toexposing my kids to those particular bits (and others) because, quitefrankly, I like them. I was, however, most happy to find the Alphabet Chat oneson YouTube. Even today, they could be viewed as educational (thevocabulary these guys used was a lot smarter than today) yetlaugh-out-loud funny.

I guess Sesame Street, like everythingelse, has to change with the times. It’s a pity they had to take out alot of what made Sesame Street fun to watch. But at least I can show mykids the real Sesame Street on YouTube, at least until they get served with a Cease and Desist. 🙂






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