I was born in the year 6 B.S.S. That is of course, six years before Sesame Street. For those of you who’ve wondered why Big Bird and his buddies keep popping up on your Google homepage, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street (and have they not aged so graciously?), a children’s television show which signaled the birth of edutainment, combining education and entertainment for preschool-aged children.
Thanks in part to good ol’ Ernie and Bert, Grover, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird, Sesame Street was an innovation in television entertainment for children. It was originally conceived to provide a head start to less advantaged children providing them with the same preparedness for school as middle class children who often go to preschool. By the time it hit the airwaves, though, I was already in school full time so could never fully appreciate that ‘Sesame Street is brought to you today by the Letter A and the Number 4’. By the time I started my own family, dozens of other edutainment shows were available to choose from and Sesame Street wasn’t necessarily their first choice. I still found it necessary, however, to join the Tickle-me–Elmo craze. Do you know this show now airs in 140 countries?
Over the years I have joked that getting a guest spot on Sesame Street must generally be preceded by receiving the Nobel Prize, accepting an Academy Award or recent election to an all-powerful public office, but it’s true; the cast of superstars guesting on Sesame Street is bewildering. I am struck by the show’s diversity, multiculturalism and broad range of material which doesn’t stop at literacy and numeracy but includes all the wonders, worries and social issues of the natural world and of our own neighbourhoods. Does it ever rain on Sesame Street? Does Bob ever lose his temper? Are there no limited to Miss Piggy’s selfish endeavours? How come no one ever voted Oscar the Grouch off the island?
I heard a story on CBC Radio about a man who commuted regularly to work by car, haunted by a discarded Ernie doll he kept seeing on the side of the highway. He said this Ernie in distress caught his eye primarily because it had been years since he’d seen a stuffed Muppet character anywhere. Soon Ernie’s plight became a bit of an office joke, “Is Ernie still there?”, “Has no one rescued him yet?” etc. Until finally one night at 3am, this man could no longer stand it and drove out to collect Ernie off the side of the road. Ernie was ‘nursed’ (machine washed and hand mended) back to health and to this day, apparently chairs the occasional meeting in this man’s office. Silly perhaps, but points to the endearing quality and timelessness of the characters.
I have my own favourites, but Ernie and Bert rank right up there. It wasn’t until much later in life that I started to question why two males (could you even call them ‘men’?) lived together. Perhaps with all the media attention, my mind has wandered back to more carefree days of my youth. My daughter was stopped dead in her tracks a couple of days ago as she caught me singing one of my favourite Sesame Street ditties out loud:
Rubber Ducky, you’re the one,
You make bath time lots of fun,
Rubber Ducky, I’m awfully fond of you.
Every day, when I make my way to the tubby
I find a little fella who’s cute and yella a chubby,
Rubber Ducky, you’re the one
You make bath time lots of fun,
Rubber Ducky, I’m awfully fond of you!
Rubber Ducky, I’d like a whole one of you!
If you doubt this show’s timelessness, perhaps you are not one of the 7 million plus YouTube viewers (yes, that’s a 7 followed by 6 zeros) who plugged in view to Sesame Street’s version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgbNymZ7vqY posted recently.
So happy birthday Sesame Street – may you look good and be so energetic at your 80th (and may I live to celebrate it with you)! Can you tell me how to get – how to get to Sesame Street?”