The Sweet Air of Sesame Street


Halfway through high school, I often came home to find my younger brother happily engrossed in the flashing, fast paced editing of the Sesame Street phenomenon. The fresh, specially formatted material fired at young minds could be absorbed while they had fun.
Our country (gradually much of the world) easily accepted the comfortably familiar queries of an innocent, big yellow bird, the gravelly voiced cynicism of a green monster in a trash can, and the antics between the surly guy who kept pigeons and a paper clip collection and his happy-go-lucky roommate who hissed through his teeth when he laughed and bathed with his rubber ducky.
We soaked up the bright colors and varied rhythms as numbers, one to 10, flashed a count in rapid succession. Clips bounced from action with Muppets, to real life footage, to animation, and back to life on Sesame Street. The musical ditties by composer Joe Raposo (too seldom acclaimed) played a high point for me. Songs like I Love Trash, The Rubber Ducky Song, and Somebody Come and Play, to name a few, shimmer with the childlike sincerity of the Raposo style that is so perfect for this unique children’s show.
An endless list of celebrities have feathered their caps with appearances on Sesame Street. Some favorites I remember are a spot with James Earl Jones, his face zoomed so close we caught the space between his front teeth as his beautiful bass toned out a number sequence. Susan Sarandon soaked up a sudden rain shower as The Count held her captive with another of his counting routines. Aaron Neville angled his trill at the moon in a bit with Ernie. Robin Williams proved that a banana isn’t alive, finally peeling the banana, sticking it in his shoe, following it with his foot, then said, “Walk with a banana in your shoe and you know what a day is.”
As Sesame Street turns 35 this month, everything is still A-OK. Big Bird, Oscar, Bert and Ernie, and so many others from the show are famous the world over. Though the show has evolved over the years, it still promotes a special method of easing toddlers through early learning, laying a foundation for all life’s lessons.
Facing the challenges of today’s world, the first episode of Season 33 saluted New York fire fighters, when Alan, present day proprietor of Mr. Hooper’s store, puts out a grease fire at the store prompting the opportunity for real life fire fighters to arrive and provide a tour of the New York Fire Department.
Says the executive producer, “There is less ‘show’ and more ‘tell’ and the new segments have strengthened our emphasis on reading, mathematics and Spanish … .” Four issues are addressed in as many episodes: fear, loss, inclusion, and bullies. Parents can reinforce what their children learn each day by visiting PBS Kids’ Sesame Street web site.
Although we’ve drifted from regularly viewing most children’s shows at our house, my teenagers and I still occasionally pause the tuner to catch what’s happening on the old street. All I ask is that they always “show me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street.”


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