Sesame Street is 40 years old. As such, it seems like a perfect time to muse over it at some length. Why? Well, you could argue that it’s the greatest thing that has ever been shown on television. Y’see, Sesame Street never once felt like learning, despite the fact that the whole point of the show was to teach you stuff. In amongst the alphabet and numbers line, it also taught you about the world at large.
So many educational shows fall flat thanks to the small fact that they’re headed up by glorified Red Coats, pushed and shunted by people who have specific needs and requests. TV is not supposed to have a curriculum. Sesame Street seemingly sidestepped all that and came across as sagely advice from some cool Uncle or Aunt you knew.
While Playschool was painfully square (window), Sesame Street introduced you to jazz, soul and funk whilst giving you the low-down on the numbers and words to crunch. Whilst Humpty and Little Ted stared blankly at each other, Sesame Street tore open your dome with psychedelic graphics and talking creatures that you wanted to come and live in your house forever.
No other show could have ever brought us this:
For a kid in boring ol’ England, Sesame Street looked like the most exotic thing in the world. Those images you’ve seen of kids in The Bronx, partying in burst open fire hydrants? Sesame Street was a walking, talking version of that. It was a place I always wanted to be.
Yet, to assume that Sesame Street was just some cool programme that taught us and entertained us is missing the mark by some way. Away from the show, and the myriad of brilliant characters, was a whole bunch of records that cemented the show’s cool in my head. Larry Levan, a dance music and disco pioneer, remixed Cookie Monster’s ‘C Is For Cookie’ track and turned into a refried floor filling monster.
Roosevelt Franklin, Sesame Street’s most controversial character (for his penchant for talking in scat and being considered too black for some viewers, or on the flip side, being a negative stereotype to middle class African Americans) released an ace funk/jazz album. No-one from Words and Pictures even had a thought in funk.
Through the brilliant Grover, the resident crank Oscar the Grouch, the effete Big Bird, the wired Elmo, the ace duo of Bert and Ernie, and on and on and on… kids got their kicks and got some serious learning done. In Sesame Street’s first season, the Educational Testing Service reported that the cognitive skills of its young viewers had increased by 62%.
As of this year, Sesame Street has received 118 Emmy Awards, more than any other television series!
Let’s not forget that the show also has one of the coolest theme tunes ever. From the off, it’s sets the tone of what you’re getting yourself in for. Joyous, quirky and filled with kids that looked like you… or at least, like the kids you wanted to hang with. Everything is indeed, AOK. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SESAME STREET!