Sesame Street

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Television

Sesame Street

Sesame Street title card used since 2002. Here is one from an episode in season 36.
Genre Children's television series
Running time 60 minutes per episode
Creator(s) Jim Henson
Joan Ganz Cooney
Starring Carroll Spinney
Kevin Clash
Alison Bartlett-O'Reilly
Desiree Casado
Emilio Delgado
Olamide Faison
Bill Irwin
Eric Jacobson
Loretta Long
Bob McGrath
Sonia Manzano
Alan Muraoka
Jerry Nelson
Roscoe Orman
Martin P. Robinson
David Rudman
Steve Whitmire
(see also Puppeteers, crew)
Country of origin Flag of United States United States
Original channel NET (1969 – 1970),
PBS (1970 – present)
Original run November 10, 1969–present
No. of episodes 4,134 (as of season 37)

Sesame Street is a long-running American educational children's television series for preschoolers and is a pioneer of the contemporary educational television standard, combining both education and entertainment, therefore making a masterpiece. Sesame Street is well known for its Muppet characters, created by the puppeteer Jim Henson. More than 4,134 episodes of the show (130 per season) have been produced in 36 seasons, which makes it one of the longest-running television shows in history.

Sesame Street is produced in the United States by non-profit organization Sesame Workshop, formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop (CTW), founded by Joan Ganz Cooney and Ralph Rogers. It premiered on November 10th, 1969, on the National Educational Television network, and later that year it was moved to NET's replacement, the Public Broadcasting Service.

With its positive influence, Sesame Street is the most highly regarded educational show for children in the world. No television series has matched its level of international recognition and success. The original series has been televised in 120 countries, and more than 20 international versions have been produced, not including dubbed versions. The series has received 109 Emmy Awards, more than any other television series. An estimated 75 million Americans have watched the series as children; millions more have watched around the world, as have their parents.


Sesame Street uses a combination of puppets, animation, and live actors to teach young children the basics of reading (letter and word recognition), mathematics (numbers, addition and subtraction), as well as geometric forms, and classification. Since the show's inception, other instructional goals have been basic life skills, such as how to cross the street safely, proper hygiene, and healthy eating habits.

The show displays a subtle sense of humour that has appealed to older viewers since it first premiered; this was devised as a means to encourage parents and older siblings to watch the series with younger children, thus becoming involved in the learning process, rather than having Sesame Street act as a babysitter. A number of parodies of popular culture appear, especially ones aimed at the Public Broadcasting Service, the network that broadcasts the show. For example, the recurring segment Monsterpiece Theatre once ran a sketch called "Me Claudius". Children viewing the show might enjoy watching Cookie Monster and the Muppets, while adults watching the same sequence may enjoy the spoof of the Masterpiece Theatre production of I, Claudius on PBS.

Several of the character names used on the program are puns or cultural references aimed at a slightly older audience, including Flo Bear (Flaubert), Sherlock Hemlock (a Sherlock Holmes parody), H. Ross Parrot (based on Reform Party founder H. Ross Perot), Dr. Feel based on Dr. Phil, Polly Darton ( Dolly Parton), and a Jack Bauer Muppet in a parody of 24. Over two hundred notable personalities have made guest appearances on the show, beginning with Carol Burnett on the first episode, and ranging from performers like James Brown to political figures such as Kofi Annan. By making a show that not only educates and entertains kids, but also keeps parents entertained and involved in the educational process, the producers hope to inspire discussion about the concepts on the show.

In 1999, the series became the longest running American children's program, taking the title from Captain Kangaroo. The British series Blue Peter still retains the worldwide record. The series has made many published lists, including greatest all-time show compilations by TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly. Nielsen Media Research has found that 99% of American preschoolers recognise the series' characters. Another study** found that 81% of kids under the age of six own a Sesame Street toy or game, and 87% own a book based on the series.

The series' music has appeared on music charts around the world, including Ernie's "Rubber Duckie" song, which made #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970; the song achieved an even higher position in Germany. In 1992, British band Smart E's released Sesame's Treet, a techno dance track which sampled the "classic" version of the Sesame Street theme. It reached #2 on the UK singles chart. Sesame Street has won 11** Grammy Awards, most recently for 2001 release Elmo and the Orchestra.

History of the show

The show's original format called for the humans to be intermixed with the segments of animation, live-action shorts and Muppets. These segments were created to be like commercials — quick, catchy and memorable — and made the learning experience much more like fun. The format became a model for what is known today as edutainment-based programming.

CTW aired the program for test groups to determine if the revolutionary new format was likely to succeed. Results showed that test watchers were entranced when the ad-like segments aired, especially those with the jovial puppets, but were remarkably less interested in the street scenes. Psychologists warned CTW against a mixture of fantasy and reality elements, but producers soon decided to mix the elements. A simple dose of cartoon-like characters let the humans deliver messages without causing viewers to lose interest.

Sesame Street, along with several other Sesame Workshop – produced shows (such as The Electric Company, which was produced when Sesame Workshop was still CTW) are all taped in New York City. Originally they were taped at the Teletape Studios at 81st and Broadway in Manhattan, but the bankruptcy of Teletape's parent company, Reeves Entertainment, forced these productions to move to Kaufman Astoria Studios in neighboring Queens.

The brownstone architecture of Sesame Street, a fictional neighbourhood in New York City, as well as the concept of neighbors from different backgrounds living in the same area and sharing their life experiences, is based in a neighbourhood.

Broadcast history

The show is broadcast worldwide; in addition to the U.S. version, many countries have locally-produced versions adapted to local needs, some with their own characters, and in a variety of different languages. In Canada, beginning in 1970, 15-minute shows called Canada's Sesame Street were broadcast, and by 1972 an edited version of the one-hour American program was airing but with specially filmed Canadian segments, which featured the French language. In 1995 the American version was replaced by a half-hour long all-Canadian version of the series entitled Sesame Park. Since the original Sesame Street was still accessible to Canadians, and more familiar, the format change didn't find acceptance with audiences and was taken off the air in 2002. Broadcasts in Australia and New Zealand began in 1971. In the United Kingdom, the show was first broadcast by various ITV regions in the early 1980s, after which it moved to Channel 4, where it was a lunch-time fixture for many years through to the early 2000s. Later broadcasts of the show featured the hour-long episodes in a format of two half-hour episodes. 120 countries have aired the show, many of which partnered with Sesame Workshop to create local versions.

In recent years Sesame Street has made what area educators consider to be critical advances in its international versions. In the late 1990s versions appeared in China and Russia as these countries shifted away from communism. There is also a joint Israeli- Palestinian-Jordanian project, called Sesame Stories, which was created with the goal of promoting greater cultural understanding.

The show has also spawned the spin-off series Play with Me Sesame, ESL program Sesame English, the "classics" show Sesame Street Unpaved, and the segment-only series Open Sesame. Elmo's World and Global Grover, both of which are segments of Sesame Street, have been distributed as individual series. Jennifer Monier-Williams, Vice President, Worldwide Television Distribution at Sesame Workshop commented "The expansion of the Sesame brand through wonderfully interactive shows like Play With Me Sesame and Elmo's World give children around the globe new ways to experience fun and learning in the way Sesame does it best."


Funding for season 37 of Sesame Street is provided by a Ready To Learn grant in partnership with the No Child Left Behind Act, the McDonald's Corporation, Beaches Family Resorts, Pampers and from Astra Zeneca. Major funding for Sesame Street is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (1972-1998, 2000) and by contributions to your PBS stations from " Viewers Like You." Previous donors of funding for Sesame Street included Chuck E. Cheese's, the Ford Foundation, Discovery Zone, AOL (2002), U.S. Department of Education, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Occasionally local businesses and organizations fund local telecasts of Sesame Street on PBS stations throughout the U.S. For example, the W. M. Keck Foundation underwrites the broadcast of Sesame Street on KCET in Los Angeles.

Within the context of the show, and before the actual underwriting announcements, it is announced that "Sesame Street is brought to you by" the letters and numbers of the day, as though they too were sponsors.


As a result of its success in revolutionizing the standards of children's television, Sesame Street inadvertently diminished its own audience share. According to PBS Research, the show went from a 2.0 average on Nielsen Media Research's "people meters" in 1995 – 96 to a 1.3 average in 2000 – 01. Even with this decrease, Sesame Street's viewership in an average week came from roughly 5.6 million households with 7.5 million viewers. This placed Sesame at 8th place in the overall kids' charts, as of 2002. The program fares better among mothers aged 18 – 49 who had children under the age of 3, taking second place.

A format change helped the show's ratings, boosting them up 31% in February 2002 among children aged 2 to 5, in comparison to its ratings in 2001. As of 2005, Sesame Street and three other PBS shows are in the top 10 shows for children aged 2 to 5. As of season 36 in 2005, there were eight million viewers daily.


An Oscar the Grouch puppet (shown) and Sesame Street sign both reside in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
An Oscar the Grouch puppet (shown) and Sesame Street sign both reside in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Sesame Street is known for its multicultural element and is inclusive in its casting, incorporating roles for disabled people, young people, senior citizens, Hispanic actors, Black actors, and others. While some of the puppets look like people, others are animal or "monster" puppets of different sizes and colors. This encourages children to believe that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and that no particular physical "type" is any better than another. Jim Henson commented that "The only kids who can identify along racial lines with the Muppets have to be either green or orange."

In harmony with its multiculturalist perspective, the show pioneered the idea of occasionally inserting very basic Spanish words and phrases to help young children become acquainted with the concept of a foreign language, doing so almost three decades before Dora the Explorer made her debut on Nickelodeon. Perhaps in response to the popularity of Dora, the recently revamped format gives Rosita, the bilingual muppet who "emigrated" in 1993 from the Mexican version of the show, more time in front of viewers, and also introduced the more formalized "Spanish Word of the Day" in every episode.

Each of the puppet characters has been designed to represent a specific stage or element of early childhood, and the scripts are written so that the character reflects the development level of children of that age. This helps the show address not only the learning objectives of various age groups, but also the concerns, fears, and interests of children of different age levels.

The Muppets

Big Bird is an 8-foot 2-inch-tall yellow canary who lives in a large nest on an abandoned lot which is located behind 123 Sesame Street's garbage heap. Big Bird is often visited by his friend Aloysius Snuffleupagus, who is a very large, brown woolly elephant-like creature and is known more popularly by his nickname "Snuffy". Various other snuffleupaguses have appeared on the show from time to time, most notably Snuffy's little sister Alice and his unnamed mother. Initially, Snuffy showed up when no one but Big Bird was around, leaving the rest of the neighbourhood to think he was imaginary. In the mid-1980s, however, Snuffy was revealed to be "real" and incorporated into the regular cast of the show.

Oscar the Grouch, who loves trash, lives with his pet worm Slimey and his pet elephant Fluffy in a garbage can in the heap. Bert and Ernie, two of the most-recognized Muppets, are friends who room together in the basement apartment of 123 Sesame Street, and regularly engage in comic routines which showcase their odd-couple personalities. Ernie's flowerbox was once a hotspot for Twiddlebugs, a colorful family of insects.

The Bear family, which resembles the bears of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, resides in Sesame Street. This family, headed by Papa Bear and Mama Bear, welcomed their second child Curly Bear, and Baby Bear became a good friend of the monsters Telly and Zoe, Mexico-born Rosita, and the furry, red preschooler Elmo. Elmo has his own segment near the end of each episode, in which viewers explore topics in Elmo's World, an imaginary version of his house. New to Sesame Street is Abby Cadabby, a fairy-in-training who attends Storybook Community School with Baby Bear.

Grover's regular segment, Global Grover, follows the self-described "cute, furry monster" around the world as he explores local cultures and traditions. Grover has had several notable roles over the years, often as a waiter or a superhero (Super-Grover). Cookie Monster fights with his conscience daily during Letter of the Day, as he tries to control his urges to eat the letters, shown as icing on cookies. Prairie Dawn often attempts to help Cookie Monster refrain from eating the letters, but never succeeds and always leaves frazzled. Count von Count has fewer problems during the Number of the Day segment, where he indulges in counting until the mystery number is revealed by his pipe organ.

Humphrey and Ingrid are a married couple who have a baby named Natasha, and they are the proprietors of the hotel known as The Furry Arms, which is located near the Sesame Street Subway station. The hotel's bellhop, Benny Rabbit, tends to be easily irritated, but begrudgingly helps out.

Kermit the Frog hosted the segment Sesame Street News Flash. In other segments, Kermit would play straight man to the wacky antics of other Muppets. The Two-Headed Monster sounded out words coming together, and the Yip-Yip aliens discovered telephones and typewriters. For two seasons, Googel, Narf, Mel and Phoebe hung out in the Monster's Clubhouse.

Incidental characters include television personality Guy Smiley, construction workers Sully and Biff, the large Herry Monster (who does not know his own strength), and The Big Bad Wolf, who is not a terror to the Street. Forgetful Jones, a cowboy with a short-term memory disorder, rode his trusty Buster the Horse with his girlfriend Clementine, and Rodeo Rosie was an early cowgirl.

The humans

A slate of human regulars pull the zaniness of the Muppets back to reality. They were not always meant to serve this purpose. The show lost test viewers' attention during the Street Scenes, meaning Muppets needed to be added, to hide the fact it was educational.

Music teacher Bob has been on Sesame Street since its inception. He dated Linda the local New York Library librarian, who was the first regular deaf character on television. Linda owns Barkley, a Muppet dog. The Robinson family are an African-American family that includes schoolteacher Gordon, nurse Susan, and adopted son Miles. The Puerto Rican Rodriguez Family include Maria and Luis, who ran the Fix-It Shop, which was turned into the Mail-It Shop; Maria gave birth to daughter Gabby in 1986, and her pregnancy was covered on the show.

General store and restaurant operator Harold Hooper, played by actor Will Lee, was a mainstay at Mr. Hooper's Store. When Lee died in 1982, the producers opted to help their young viewers deal with the death of someone they loved rather than cast a new actor in the role, and the character's death was discussed in a landmark 1983 episode. Afterwards, Hooper's apprentice David took over, followed by later owners Gina, Mr. Handford, and Alan. Gina stopped running the store in the 1990s, to earn a PhD and became a veterinarian.

Mr. Noodle and his brother and sister, who appear only in Elmo's World are meant to provide a vaudevillian perspective on subjects, contrary to most of the show's current human characters (though reminiscent of such earlier insert characters as Buddy and Jim, Larry and Phyllis, and The Mad Painter).

Famous guest stars and various children from New York schools and day-care centers are a constantly changing part of the cast, including children who would later become celebrities, like actor Tyler James Williams, and rapper GM Grimm.

Cast and crew

Over the 37 seasons of Sesame Street hundreds, if not thousands of people have worked on the show's cast and in their crew, producing Street scenes or segments, or working behind the scenes.

  • List of Sesame Street puppeteers
  • Human characters on Sesame Street
  • Crew of Sesame Street

Regional variations of the show

Basil the Bear from Canada's Sesame Park, in a knight's armour. The puppet, as well as most of the series cast, is displayed at the CBC Museum.
Basil the Bear from Canada's Sesame Park, in a knight's armour. The puppet, as well as most of the series cast, is displayed at the CBC Museum.

Some countries have co-produced their own unique versions of Sesame Street, in which the characters and segments represent their country's cultures. Other countries simply air a dubbed version of Sesame Street, or a dubbed version of Open Sesame. Among various other countries, Australia has and still does broadcast the American version on the ABC and the UK had broadcast the American show, on Channel 4 until 2001 when it was replaced with Henson production The Hoobs.

Dubbed versions include Seesamtie in Finnish, Boneka Sesame in Indonesian, Sesam Opnist Pû in Icelandic, Sesamo Apriti in Italian, Sezamé Otevri Se in Czech, and Malay Taman Sesame. In 2004, one Japanese network cancelled the dubbed American Sesame, while another created a local version. In New Zealand, locally produced segments entitled "Korero Māori" (in English: "let's speak Māori") were inserted into episodes to educate children in the Māori language. Spanish program La Cometa Blanca also includes segments from Sesame Street.

Locally produced adaptations of Sesame Street include:

  • 1972: Vila Sésamo, Brazil
  • 1972: Plaza Sésamo, Mexico
  • 1973: Sesamstraße, Germany
  • 1973: Canadian Sesame Street, Canada (reformatted as Sesame Park in the 1990s)
  • 1976: Sesamstraat, Netherlands
  • 1978: 1, rue Sesame, France
  • 1979: Iftah Ya Simsim, Kuwait
  • 1979: Barrio Sésamo, Spain
  • 1981: Svenska Sesam, Sweden
  • 1983: Rechov Sumsum, Israel
  • 1984: Sesame! (Batibot), Philippines
  • 1986: Susam Sokağı, Turkey
  • 1989: Rua Sésamo, Portugal
  • 1991: Sesam Stasjon, Norway
  • 1996: Ulitsa Sezam, Russia
  • 1996: Ulica Sezamkowa, Poland
  • 1998: Rechov Sumsum and Shara'a Simsim, Israel and Palestinian Territories
  • 1998: Zhima Jie, China
  • 1999: Sesame English, Taiwan, China, Italy, Poland
  • 2000: Takalani Sesame, South Africa
  • 2000: Alam Simsim, Egypt
  • 2002: Play with Me Sesame, the Great Britiain
  • 2003: Open Sesame, Australia
  • 2004: Koche Sesame, Afghanistan
  • 2004: Sesame Street, Japan
  • 2005: Sisimpur, Bangladesh
  • 2005: 5, Rue Sésame, France
  • 2005: Sabai Sabai Sesame, Cambodia
  • 2006: Galli Galli Sim Sim, India
  • 2007: Sesame Indonesia (as announced by Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Indonesia in 2006)
  • 2007?: Sesame Brazil
  • 2007?: Sesame Street (Northern Ireland)
  • Hikayat Simsim, Jordan, Hikayat Simsim, Palestinian Territories, Sipurey Sumsum, Israel

Note that dates solely refer to the year production on the series began.


Sesame Street has operated with a rigorous research standard since its foundation, to ensure that the programming is addressing the needs of its viewers. The Education and Research (E&R) department of Sesame Workshop is currently headed by Rosemarie T. Truglio, Ph. D. and Jeanette Betancourt, Ed. D. Truglio states that the level of interaction between E&R, Content, and Production is "[i]ntimately·hand-in-hand. They are not creating anything without our knowledge, our guidance and our review. We are involved in content development across all media platforms." This close-knit organizational structure has been an integral part of Sesame Workshop since it began.

Writers create plots for Sesame Street scenes and segments, and the content is reviewed by the E&R team, which has authority to reject a script and force rewrites if the content is not acceptable. When a script is factually correct, but includes gray areas that may not be comprehensible to children, the writers and E&R work together to tweak everything. "A balance between content and humor" is always pursued, according to Truglio.

In a national study of American mothers with children under age six, 64% responded that they strongly believe Sesame Street is a leader and innovator in educational methods.

Since 1998 Sesame Workshop has provided a great deal of content on its website and others such as Random House. The content is targeted at parents and children ranging in age from birth to school-age, and includes information on dozens of topics, such as appropriate parenting techniques, dealing with children's fears, development of literacy, and maintenance of good health.

Research is funded by government grants, corporate and private donations (including, recently, The Prudential Foundation for the Sesame Beginnings program), and the profits gained from the sale of Sesame Workshop merchandise.

Healthy Habits for Life

In 2005, Sesame Street launched its Healthy Habits for Life programming, to encourage young viewers to lead more active and nutritious lifestyles. A major catalyst for this was data published by the US Centers for Disease Control regarding obesity in children.

Health content has existed on Sesame Street for years, but to a limited extent. In one instance press kits for a project were made available, news wires latched onto the story, and literally hundreds of newspapers reported that Cookie Monster was "going on a diet". In actuality there was no change to Cookie Monster's character. The new season featured a new segment with rapper Wyclef Jean singing the praises of fruits and vegetables, similar to segments in the 1990s which featured Cookie doing nearly the same.

According to people from Sesame Workshop,

Sesame Street
Health has always been a part of our Sesame Street curriculum, therefore we will always be committed to ensuring kids are given information and messages that will help them become healthy and happy in their development. For season 36, we have turned up the dial in health, but it will always be part of our curriculum.
Sesame Street

The Workshop formed an Advisory Board consisting of experts such as Woodie Kessel, M.D., M.P.H., the Assistant Surgeon General of the United States. This board examines the research of other organizations, and also conducts pilot studies to determine which areas of research should be expanded, based on social, ethnic and socio-economic sections of the population.

Characters Elmo and Rosita filmed public service announcements with various U.S. Governors in 2006.

Merchandising and endorsement

Sesame Street is known for its extensive merchandising, which includes many books, magazines, video/audio media, and toys. A percentage of the money from any Sesame Workshop product goes to help fund Sesame Street or its international co-productions.

Current licensors include Fisher-Price, Nakajima USA, Build-A-Bear Workshop (Build-An-Elmo and Build-A-Cookie Monster), Hasbro (Sesame Street Monopoly), Wooly Willy, Betty Crocker (Elmo Fruit Snacks), C&D Visionary (air freshners) and Children's Apparel Network. Former liscencees include Nintendo, Applause, Child Dimension, Gibson Greetings, Gorham Fine China, Ideal Toys, Milton Bradley Company, Palisades Toys, Questor, Radio Shack, Tyco, and the Western Publishing Company. Creative Wonders (a partnership between ABC and Electronic Arts) produced Sesame Street software for the PC, since at least 1996; Atari produced Sesame Street games in 1983. Before going bankrupt, Palisades Toys was to release a line of deluxe series action figures, for adults, as part of Sesame Workshop's push to expand into retro products for teens and adults.

Tickle Me Elmo was one of the fastest selling toys of the 1996 season. Elmo starred in a Christmas special that year, in which he wished every day of the year was Christmas.

Its fiction books are published on five continents, primarily by Random House in North America. Over 18 million Sesame Street books and magazines were purchased in 2005. The books often mention that children do not have to watch the show to benefit from its publications.

Live touring show Sesame Street Live presents costumed actors and dancers as characters from the series, in original plots. In recent years, VEE has had four touring casts, each performing a unique multi-million dollar budget show. Each season, the tours reach 160 different cities across North America, reaching 2 million people annually. Since the first production of Sesame Street Live on September 17, 1980, 48 million children and their parents have seen the show performed, across the world.

Langhorne, Pennsylvania, United States, is the long-time home to Sesame Street theme park Sesame Place. New to the park for summer 2006 are three new rides themed to the popular Elmo's World segments. Another theme park, Parque Plaza Sésamo, exists in Monterrey, Mexico, and Universal Studios Japan includes a three-dimensional movie based on the show.

The Sesame Beginnings line, launched in mid-2005, consists of apparel, health and body, home, and seasonal products. The products in this line are designed to accentuate the natural interactivity between infants and their parents. Most of the line is exclusive to a family of Canadian retailers that includes Loblaws, Fortinos, and Zehrs.

Although Sesame Street characters occasionally endorse non-educational products, they rarely appear in their puppet form, to limit the suggestion to children that the characters are formally endorsing the product. The Muppets do appear in puppet form to endorse select causes. Big Bird has promoted safe seating practices and the wearing of seatbelts, for the Ford Motor Company, while Grover promoted a new course on children's informal learning, created by Harvard University with Sesame Workshop. Elmo has appeared before the US Education Appropriations Subcommittee to urge more spending on music in schools.


Plaza Sésamo, Sesamstraße, and Sesamstraat have all had merchandise of their local characters. Shalom Sesame videos and books have also been released.

The Licensing Company Ltd. owns the British rights to Sesame Street. Its licensees include Reed Books Children's Publishing for books. In 2004, Copyright Promotions Licensing Group (CPLG) became Sesame Workshop's licensing representative for The Benelux.

Web site

Sesame Street's Web site was one of the first to include educational materials, for both parents and children. "There are downloadable games plus number- and alphabet-coloring pages for the children. Their parents can consult references covering everything from how to comb their baby's hair to how to play with their 4-year-old." The Web site has been recommended by academic journals. It receives over 1 million visitors daily.

Movies, videos, and specials

A series of Sesame Street telefilms have featured the characters on day trips or in foreign countries. Don't Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983) saw the cast locked in the gallery overnight; Big Bird and Snuffy help a cursed boy pharaoh. NBC's Big Bird in China (1983) followed Big Bird, Barkley, and their new friend Xiao Foo traveling through China to find Feng Huang, the phoenix bird. In Big Bird in Japan (1988), the titular character gets lost. Out to Lunch (1974) features the cast of Sesame Street and The Electric Company taking over ABC News. Big Bird turned six in Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake (1991), despite being referred to as four years old previously. CinderElmo (1999) was a FOX special, with Keri Russell as the princess look for her match among the kingdom. Telly fears what the New Year will bring in Sesame Street Stays Up Late! (1993, DVD in 2004).

Various strictly musical programs have been made. Julie Andrews and Perry Como performed with the Muppets on Julie on Sesame Street (1974). Evening at Pops: 1971 and Evening at Pops: 2001 are two special episodes of PBS series Evening at Pops variety show have featured Sesame Street characters. The Sesame Street Special (1988) also included many guest performances.

Holiday special Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978) won an Emmy Award, while another special that year, A Special Sesame Street Christmas (1978), has mostly unfavourable reviews. Anniversary specials include A Walking Tour of Sesame Street with James Earl Jones (1979), Sesame Street: 20 And Still Counting (1989), All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever (1994) and Sesame Street Jam: A Musical Celebration (1994), and The Street We Live On (2004). Jon Stewart is set to host a "live" retrospective on the series on ABC, but is accidentally locked in his dressing room with the tapes. Elmo attempts to salvage the show, improvised, in Elmopalooza! (1998).

In 1987 and 1992, episodes of Shalom Sesame were produced, focusing on introducing Jewish culture, customs, and language to Jewish-American children. International co-productions of Sesame Street have created many of their own specials as well.

The characters have made appearance on television series including Between the Lions (2001), The Electric Company (1972, 1975), Emeril Live (2005), Fanfare, The Flip Wilson Show (1970), The Frugal Gourmet (1992, 1995, 1997), Hollywood Squares, Jeopardy!, Martha (2006), Martha Stewart Living, Mister Rogers' Neighbourhood (1981), Soul Man (1998), The Torkelsons (1991), The West Wing (2004), What's My Line?, and numerous talk shows and mornings shows, ranging from The Ed Sullivan Show to the The Today Show.

Characters have also appeared on specials and videos not related to the series, including The Grover Monster and Jean Marsh Cartoon Special (1975), NBC Salutes the 25th Anniversary of the Wonderful World of Disney (1978), The Road to China (1979), I Love Liberty (1982), Kathie Lee Gifford's Lullabies for Little Ones (1996), and We Are Family (2005).

Feature films

Two feature films based on the series have been made.

Co-produced with Warner Bros., the 1985 film Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird revolved around authorities forcing Big Bird into adoption. Big Bird gets homesick and tired of his adoptive parents, and heads back to New York, when he is kidnapped by evil carnies ( Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty); the residents of Sesame Street launch a cross-country search to find him.

In the second Sesame Street theatrical film, called The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, fourteen years after Follow That Bird in 1999, Elmo spends time with his favorite blanket. After Zoe accidentally tears the blanket, when Elmo refuses to share, the blanket winds up in Grouchland, ruled by the Queen of Trash ( Vanessa Williams). Elmo ventures forth, to rescue his blanket from the villainous Huxley ( Mandy Patinkin). Soon, the rest of the Sesame Street gang follow in pursuit.

According to a rumor posted on /FILM, Elmo has suggested to that Elmo's World might later be turned into a movie.


Some educators criticized the show when it debuted, feeling that it would only worsen children's attention spans. This concern still exists today, although there is no conclusive proof of this being the case, even after more than 35 seasons of televised shows.

In a letter to the Boston Globe, Boston University professor of education Frank Garfunkel commented "If what people want is for their children to memorize numbers and letters without regard to their meaning or use — without regard to the differences between children, then Sesame Street is truly responsive. To give a child 30 seconds of one thing and then to switch it and give him 30 seconds of another is to nurture irrelevance."

In the magazine Childhood Education, Minnie P. Berson of SUNY Fredonia asked "Why debase the art form of teaching with phony pedagogy, vulgar sideshows, bad acting, and layers of smoke and fog to clog the eager minds of small children?"

For an animation on the letter "J", the writers included "a day in jail." This drew criticism from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Terrence O'Flaherty, despite executive producer David Connell's assertion that kids are familiar with the word through shows like Batman and Superman, and that "when you're trying to come up with a lot of words starting with J, you soon run short" of words they are already familiar with.

The series also met with criticism in its attempts to help the underprivileged. Educator Sister Mary Mel O'Dowd worried that the show might start to replace "personalized experiences". "If Sesame Street is the only thing ghetto kids have, I don't think it's going to do much good. It never hurts a child to be able to count to 10 or recognize the 26 letters of the alphabet. But without the guidance of a teacher, he'll be like one of our preschoolers who was able to write 'CAUTION' on the blackboard after seeing it on the back of so many buses, and told me 'That says STOP.'"

Though it is widely beloved, like a number of PBS shows (notably WGBH's Postcards From Buster) Sesame Street has long had to contend with those who disagree with its social content. Gerald S. Lesser comments in his book Children and Television: Lessons from Sesame Street that the show faced hostility in the southern United States when it first aired because it portrayed people of various races mingling peacefully.[ citations needed] At first the Commission for Educational Television in Mississippi refused to air the show. However, the commission had no choice but to allow their local public television stations to air the show when commercial stations in Mississippi said they would air the program themselves.

Rumors and urban legends

While many rumors have been started about the series, a few have been widely promulgated and perpetuated over the years.

It has widely been suggested that Bert and Ernie are a gay couple, as they are apparently adult human males portrayed sharing a bedroom, though with separate beds. A 1980 collection of humorous essays by Kurt Andersen, titled The Real Thing, made light of the growing rumor. "Bert and Ernie conduct themselves in the same loving, discreet way that millions of gay men, women and hand puppets do. They do their jobs well and live a splendidly settled life together in an impeccably decorated cabinet." The rumor was promulgated repeatedly, so much so that by 1993, Sesame Workshop had a prepared statement to send out to people inquiring on the topic. In a 1994 effort to get the characters banned, Rev. Joseph Chambers stated on his radio show: "Bert and Ernie are two grown men sharing a house and a bedroom. They share clothes, eat and cook together and have blatantly effeminate characteristics. In one show Bert teaches Ernie how to sew. In another they tend plants together. If this isn't meant to represent a homosexual union, I can't imagine what it's supposed to represent." Both Steve Whitmire as Ernie and Eric Jacobson as Bert have stated publicly that the characters are not gay. The alleged relationship has been parodied on the adult animated series Family Guy, and by Ernest & Bertram. The latter, a 2002 short film that ran at the Sundance Film Festival, was the subject of a cease and desist order from the legal department of Sesame Workshop. The Broadway musical Avenue Q includes two characters similar to Bert and Ernie, who explore the issue of homosexuality.

The pair's relationship bears similarity to that of Laurel and Hardy, who were also occasionally shown sleeping together; this became such a comedy staple as to be adopted by Morecambe and Wise in the 1970s, all of whom were similarly asexual. The Odd Couple is another, more apposite, contemporary comparison. Some adult viewers are upset by the assertions, as in their view, Ernie and Bert act like children, teenagers at the oldest, and are no more different than brothers or cousins who share a room.

In 1990, puppeteer Jim Henson's death spurred rumors that Ernie would be "killed off" the show, much the way the character of Mr. Hooper was after actor Will Lee's passing some years earlier. Rumor said that he would be either killed by a vehicle, AIDS, or cancer. There was no legitimacy to this rumor, but because producers took their time recasting a puppeteer for Ernie, the delay allowed the claims to burgeon. A spokesperson for the series was quoted as saying "Ernie is not dying of AIDS, Ernie is not dying of leukemia. Ernie is a puppet".

In 2002, Sesame Workshop announced that an HIV-positive character would be introduced to Takalani Sesame, the South African version of the show. Many conservatives and religious groups wrongly presumed that the American version would be getting a "gay Muppet", presumably because of the early historical connection between gays and HIV in the U.S., but the HIV-positive character is only present on this international version of the show. The character, Kami, contracted HIV from a blood transfusion as an infant.

DVD release of early episodes

On October 24, 2006, Sesame Workshop released the first in a series of DVD sets titled Sesame Street: Old School 1969–1974. Aimed primarily at adult viewers who grew up watching the series in the early 1970s, the first 3-DVD set includes the first episode from seasons one and two, selected episodes from seasons three though five, montages of clips from each of the first five seasons, and a half-hour promotional film from early 1969 that was created to sell the idea to potential sponsors. Each episode is preceded by a newly made animated segment introducing the episode; notably, the segment that precedes the first episode from November 1969 includes a disclaimer warning parents that the DVD is aimed at adults and that these early episodes no longer necessarily reflect the most commonly accepted practices in preschool programming. The episodes were also altered slightly to reflect the ownership of the word “Muppet” and Kermit the Frog by Muppets Holding Company LLC, a wholly owned entity of the Walt Disney Company, which purchased the non-Sesame Street Muppets and all related trademarks in 2004. Several segments were replaced on the DVD versions of the episodes because of rights issues as well. The NET logo and the 1970 PBS logo were replaced with the 1971 PBS logo at the end of the premiere episodes of seasons one and two as well.

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