John Walker's Electronic House

Sesame Street

by on Jul.23, 2008, under Television

Okay, I can’t leave it at that. The promo highlight reel for season 39 is, thank goodness, embeddable, so here it is:

If you’ve talked to me about the Muppets before, or read anything I might have written, you’ll know I always end up blubbing with happiness. (Or you know, with RAGE that one time).

It’s hard to stress how seriously I mean this: Sesame Street is one of the greatest examples of how humans are amazing. It gives me hope. The astonishing amounts of love and work that go into it, from the educational research and curriculum development, to the artistry of the Muppets, to the quality of the performances from all involved, is overwhelming. And it’s all for a show aimed at children under 4.

I use it as a measure. Celebrities willing to go on the show are the ones worth my time. So who knew LL Cool J was on that list, but the moment he hugs Elmo and sings a song about addition, he’s in. Neil Patrick Harris – well, he’s already the greatest human alive for HIMYM and Dr Horrible, but this transcends him beyond mortal man. Just watch through that highlight reel, and spot the names, and the gags. “Are You Smarter Than An Egg Layer?”, 30 ROCKS, Preschool Musical. Jonah Hill, Jack Black, Will Arnett… and then, when Mike Rowe appeared out of Oscar’s trash can, yup, I cried.

It’s just such pure goodness. Yes, it’s deeply tragic that despite being on PBS it still requires sponsorship from evil companies like MacDonalds and Pizza Hut – businesses that should be nowhere near pre-schoolers, let alone promoting their products to them. It’s incredibly sad. It’s the sort of sad that should be addressed by someone of unimaginable wealth who could fund the otherwise publically funded project such that such names need be nowhere near it. But Sesame Street remains a goodness that transcends the corporate commercials that appear before and after, and the canny parent would switch off after and before. Or Tivo past it.

It’s often described as being written on two levels, one for the kids and one for the adults. And to a great extent that’s true. No 2 year old is going to appreciate the Tina Fey spoof for 30 ROCKS. But there’s a third, greater level on which it’s written, which is for everyone. It’s written and performed with passion, and it’s that love that makes it so appealing to any age. As adults sneakily watching clips, we get to fall about laughing a spoof of Deal Or No Deal (Meal Or No Meal, with a perfect Mandell Muppet, and Cookie as the shadowy banker), while kids get to learn (that a plate of cakes is not a meal, but protein and vegetables is). But the real reason we’re both watching is because it’s so entirely wonderful. It’s Henson’s greatest legacy, and it’s the one remaining aspect of the Muppets that is worthy of his memory.

So, here’s Cookie on Colbert from a few weeks back:

4 Comments for this entry

  • km

    mmmmmike roooooowe

  • Gran'pere de deux

    …and Judy Collins wason it (sigh) … when seh was younger … when we ALL were!!!
    …and Barclay on the Great Wall …. it was the Great #Wall that really made it form me and, sadly, they let him come back. …and all those celebs did it for a Sesame Shoestring … luvly people.

    But !!! I never really related to Big Bird … scary!!! … Is Sesame Street still public broadcasting or is it part of some child guzzlin empire these days?

  • botherer

    That was the text equivalent of someone having a stroke.

  • Mike

    So lovely. I have to say, I had forgotten entirely about this. Or rather, consigned it to childhood. All I remember was that it taught me what numbers were. Watching it today – I didn’t even know it was still running – is quite amazing. And a lovely article to run alongside it.