Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Forty Years of Sesame Street
Today's Google Doodle celebrates the almost-fortieth anniversary of the first Sesame Street broadcast, on November 10, 1969.
Unless you were THERE, it's hard to realize what an impact not only Jim Henson but also Joe Raposo and the other contributors had on the past forty years of kids' thinking (and on some of the "earworms" that surface out of Mama Squirrel's subconscious).
I was THERE. I think I watched the first episode. I had the 1970 album. I had the little paperback books that came out around the same time (The Sesame Street Book of Numbers and so on). We got Sesame Street Magazine. I don't remember having any particular Sesame Street or Muppet toys, but lots of kids we knew did. We watched the show faithfully...as Alan Sherman used to say, four, five, six times a day...well, to Mom's distraction anyway. We didn't have a clue who those super-cool guests and people in the film clips were (like Paul Benedict and Stockard Channing) but we thought they were funny anyway.
In 1986 I took a children's music and movement class with Katherine Smithrim, who had recently done The Baby Record with Bob McGrath. (That is, how to teach it.) How close can you get to The Source of Sesame Power?
Did my own kids watch Sesame Street? No. None of us much liked Zoe or Elmo. The Apprentice, as a toddler, didn't get the idea of the "commercials" being part of the show. She thought I was changing the channel when the non-live parts came on, and got upset. So we stuck to Mr. Rogers and Romper Room, where the grown-ups warned you ahead of time if they were going to show a how-people-make-crayons movie or a Paddington cartoon. I don't think there was any great loss to her education there.
Big striped feetnote: the Squirrelings didn't watch the show, but they did have a pummel-Big-Bird baby gym toy, a Sesame Street bath toy, Bert and Grover hand puppets, a couple of SS-inspired books, and Sing Along With Bob. (Besides later-era Muppet movies and Fraggle Rock episodes.) And they have watched some of the best SS stuff on You-tube. Some things you just can't get away from.
Still, the vintage Sesame Street clips do bring back an awful lot of memories, in the same way that opening a can of evaporated milk does. (If that doesn't mean anything to you, you've never smelled late-1960's baby formula.)
Strictly for the initiated: Grover meets a very bad end. (Warning, this isn't for little ones.)