Sunday, November 8, 2009

Can You Tell Me How To Get (Back) To (The Real) Sesame Street?

I get the New York Times delivered on the weekends (thanks, dad!), which means I get part of the Sunday paper (Arts & Leisure, Real Estate, the magazine, and a shitload of coupons) on Saturday and the rest (Front page and news sections, Styles, Metropolitan, Week in Review) on Sunday. I generally read the whole thing (and by "whole" I mean a cursory glance at the news, then a thorough read of Arts & Leisure, Styles, and Metropolitan sections, followed by op-eds if they're not boring and then flip through the magazine, after which I start the crossword) Sunday evening. If you know me, you should be impressed that I even get that far. Being a day behind on the news is actually above par for me.

Anyway, the Arts & Leisure section this week featured a cover story on Sesame Street's 40th anniversary. I haven't watched the show for 25 years or so, with the exception of nostalgic viewings of the kick-ass DVDs of the first few seasons, which my mom got me for Christmas a few years ago, as well as drunken YouTube searches with Jeff for trippy 70s animation that would make us feel more drunk, and also like we were four again. Which I guess means we wanted to feel like drunken toddlers--doesn't everybody? Obviously I've heard about Elmo and Zoe and some of the newer Muppets, but I wasn't aware of some of the other changes to the show... until today.

For instance, according to the Times, "the opening is no longer a realistic rendition of urban skyline but an animated, candy-colored chalk drawing of a pre-school Arcadia, with flowers and butterflies and stars." Oh, right, because there aren't enough animated butterflies on TV anymore. WTF, Sesame Street? You're supposed to be, um, street. Also: "The famous set, brownstones and garbage bins, has lost the messy graffiti and gritty smudges of city life over the years. Now there are green spaces, tofu and yoga." This just makes me sad. I know New York has been cleaned up and gentrified since my youth, but introducing the concepts of tofu and yoga to people who can't even talk yet seems wrong somehow. The best part about Sesame Street was that it was an incredibly diverse and generally low-income block. The whole idea was to provide educational TV for kids who came from poor families and who might not have access to decent pre-schools. I can't remember a single thing I learned at the Emanuel Midtown Y (under the watchful eye of John Travolta), but I remember Sesame Street.

I remember the loaf of bread, the container of milk, and the stick of butter.

I remember watching in awe at how crayons are made.

I remember how to say hola.

I get that kids today need different messages. I know our country is vastly overweight and that it's important to stress cookies as a "sometimes food" (although the thought of Cookie Monster munching on carrots? Sacrilege!). I know that Park Slope kids are taught about vegetarianism and Pilates at the same time they learn about fire trucks and worms. I know, in short, that every place, even Sesame Street, needs to change with the times.

I guess I just wish the times were simpler.

Related question: How much would it fuck up my future kids if I had them watch DVDs of classic 80s Sesame Street instead of the new version? (Leaving aside the fact that they would all want afros and bell bottoms and wouldn't recognize a computer.) Would it fuck them up more than plucking their unibrows while they slept? Because that's happening regardless...


  1. It all went downhill after Mr. Hooper died.

  2. Sesame Street rocks just the way it is, they should definitely not change it.

  3. The first time I saw the new opening for Sesame Street I was so sad, I'll always remember the late '80s/early '90s one with the grooving Brooklyn Bridge and children with Kid n' Play type haircuts as the true opening. Also, my Mom animated that 'loaf of bread, carton of milk, stick of butter' cartoon. She also did the ones with the dollhouse and the guy trying to stack cans of soup. I bragged about that all through elementary school.

  4. I also ADORED the typewriter:
    Like, a LOT.

  5. BeccaGo4:49 PM

    OMG! A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter! I still use this line: "I'm going to Stop & Shop, do you need anything?" "Yeah, could you get me some razors? And a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter?" "A what?" *sigh* "Never mind."


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