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Sesame Street

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Sesame Street is an educational television program designed for young children of all ages, and is recognised as a pioneer of the present-day standard of combining education and entertainment in televised shows. It is well-known for the inclusion of the Muppet characters created by the legendary puppeteer Jim Henson. More than 4000 episodes of the show have been produced in 36 seasons, making it one of the longest-running shows in television history.

Sesame Street is produced in the United States by Sesame Workshop, formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop (CTW). The show premiered on November 10, 1969 on the National Educational Television network, and later that year moved to NET's successor, the Public Broadcasting Service.

Through its worldwide influence, Sesame Street and other Sesame Workshop productions have earned the distinction of being considered the world's single greatest "educator", by viewers, international recognition, and success. The original series has aired in 120 countries, and over 20 international version have aired. In its long and illustrious history, Sesame Street has received more Emmy Awards than any other program, and has captured the allegiance, esteem, and affections of millions of viewers worldwide.

Contents

Overview

The program uses a mixture of puppets, animation, and live action to teach young children the fundamentals of reading (letter and word recognition), arithmetic (numbers, addition and subtraction), colors, and the concept of time (clocks and days of the week). It also has segments which focus on basic life-skills, such as how to cross the road safely and the importance of good hygiene and healthy eating. Many of the skits and segments are parodies or copies of standard television formats.

There is also a subtle sense of humor in the show that has appealed to older viewers since it first premiered. A number of spoofs and parodies of popular culture appear on the show, especially ones aimed at the Public Broadcasting Service, the network that airs the show. For example, during the "Me Claudius" segment, the 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; this series of segments is known as "Monsterpiece Theater."

Several of the characters on the program were conceived to attract an older audience, such as the character Flo Bear (Flaubert), Sherlock Hemlock (a Sherlock Holmes parody), and H. Ross Parrot (based on Reform Party founder Ross Perot). Well over two-hundred notable personalities, from celebrities like James Brown to political figures such as Kofi Annan, have made guest appearances on the show. Wikipedia's list includes 179 different individual/group appearances, and does not include multiple appearances. The inclusion of sophisticated humor is purposely intended to encourage parents to watch with their children. By making the show something that not only educates and entertains kids, but also keeps parents entertained and involved in the educational process, the producers hope that more discussion about the concepts on the show will occur.

History of the show

Main article: History of Sesame Street

The original format of the show called for the humans to be shown in plots on the street, 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 programs.

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. It was a quick and easy choice for the producers to add Muppets to the street scenes, although psychologists had warned against a mixture of fantasy and reality elements. A simple dose of cartoon-like characters let the humans deliver messages to watchers without causing such viewer disinterest.

Sesame Street, along with several other Sesame Workshop produced shows (including The Electric Company) are all taped in New York City. Originally, they were taped at the Teletape Studios at 81st and Broadway in Manhattan until Teletape's parent company Reeves Entertainment went bankrupt. The show was then moved to and remains to this day at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in neighboring Queens.

Broadcast history

Main article: Major characters in international versions

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. Broadcasts in Australia began in 1971. In Canada, 15-minute segments called Canada's Sesame Street were broadcast starting in 1970, and by 1972 a re-edited version of the one-hour American program was airing featuring specially-filmed Canadian segments. In 1995, the American version was replaced by a half-hour, all-Canadian version of the series entitled Sesame Park, which never caught on; it was cancelled in 2002. One hundred and twenty countries have aired the show, many partnering with Sesame Workshop to create local versions.

In recent years, Sesame Street has made monumental advances in its international versions. In the late-1990s, versions popped up in China and Russia, as the countries shifted away from communism. There is also a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian project, called Sesame Stories, created with the goal of cultural understanding.

The show has also spawned the spin-off series Play with Me Sesame, the "classics" show Sesame Street Unpaved, and the segment-only series Open Sesame. Elmo's World and Global Grover, both segments on Sesame Street, have been distributed as individual series.

Ratings

As a result of creating a revolution in children's television standards, Sesame Street has helped contract its own audience share. According to PBS Research, the show has gone 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 on an average week comes from roughly 5.6 million households with 7.5 million viewers.

This places Sesame at 8th place in the overall kids' charts, as of 2002. It is actually the second-most-watched children's television series for mothers aged 18-49 with children under 3.

A format change has recently helped the show's ratings, boosting them up 31% in February 2002 among children aged 2 to 5, in comparison to last year's ratings.

Characters

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Rosita.jpg
Rosita poses.
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Fat Blue (left) with Grover, in A Celebration of Me, Grover
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Oscar the Grouch, peering out of his can.
Gabby, Elmo, and some kids sing the Kitten-Bird-Cow song, in front of 123 Sesame Street.
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Gabby, Elmo, and some kids sing the Kitten-Bird-Cow song, in front of 123 Sesame Street.
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Bob singing "People in Your Neighborhood" with Ralph Nader.
Main article: List of Sesame Street characters
Also characters that are Exclusive to books or movies, Grouches, Monsters, celebrities, from international versions. Also Characters ordered by date of debut, Characters ordered by last known appearance,

Sesame Street has a strong 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. It encourages children to believe that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and that no one physical "type" is any better than another.

One major aspect of this "multicultural element" is that the show pioneered the idea of occasionally inserting very basic Spanish words and phrases to give young children a "feel" for a foreign language, doing so almost three decades before Dora the Explorer debuted on Nickelodeon. Perhaps in response to the popularity of Dora, the recently revamped format gives Rosita, the bi-lingual muppet who "immigrated" in 1993 from the Mexican version of the show, more screen time; 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, an eight-foot-tall yellow canary, lives in a large nest on an abandoned lot near 123 Sesame Street, located behind the building's garbage heap. A regular visitor to Big Bird is Aloysius Snuffleupagus, known simply as Snuffy. Oscar the Grouch and his pet worm Slimey live in a garbage can in the heap. Friends Ernie and Bert room together at the apartment of 123 Sesame Street, where they regularly engage in comedic banter. Ernie's flowerbox was once a hotspot for Twiddlebugs, a colourful family of insects.

The Bear family of Goldilocks and the Three Bears resides in Sesame Street. The Jewish family headed by Papa Bear and Mama Bear welcomed Curly Bear, a second child. Baby Bear meanwhile is a good friend with monsters Telly, Zoe, Mexico-born Rosita and 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.

Grover's regular segment follows the "cute, furry monster" around the world, exploring local cultures and traditions. Cookie Monster fights with his conscience daily, during Letter of the Day. He tries to control his urges to eat the letters, shown as icing on cookies; Prairie Dawn often attempts to help Cookie not eat the letter, always leaving 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 ran The Furry Arms with baby Natasha in tow; while bell-hop Benny Rabbit begrudgingly helps out.

Kermit the Frog hosted the segment Sesame Street News Flash. 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.

Other incidental characters include television personality Guy Smiley, construction workers Sully & Biff, the large Herry Monster (who doesn't know his own strength), and The Big Bad Wolf, who isn't a terror to the Street. Forgetful Jones rode his trusty Buster the Horse with his girlfriend Clementine; Rodeo Rosie was an early cowgirl.

The humans

Main article: Human characters on Sesame Street

A slate of human regulars pull the zaniness of the Muppets back to reality. They weren't always meant to serve this purpose. The show lost test viewers' attention during the Street Scenes, meaning Muppets needed to be added, like sugar into medicine.

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 actor character on television. Linda owns Barkley, a Muppet dog. The Robinsons are an African-American family that includes school-teacher Gordon, nurse Susan, and adopted son Miles. The Puerto Rican Rodriguezes include Maria and Luis, who ran the Fix-It Shop which has turned into the Mail-It Shop; Maria gave birth to daughter Gabby in the 1980s.

Candy store-operator Harold Hooper was a mainstay, at Mr. Hooper's Store. When he died, his 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 become a vet.

The Noodles on Elmo's World are meant to provide a vaudevillian perspective on subjects, contrary to most of the show's human characters.

Famous guest stars and various children from New York schools and day care centers are a constantly changing part of the cast.

Regional variations of the show

Some countries have actually created their own completely 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. The UK, like many other countries, simply broadcasts the American show.

Locally produced adaptations of Sesame Street, include:

Other countries include Greece (on ERT, later on a private network), Poland and Mexico.

Controversy

Some educators criticised 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.

Urban legend has it that Bert and Ernie are engaged in a homosexual relationship, as they are apparently adult human males portrayed sharing a bedroom (though with separate beds). The programme-makers vehemently deny this, however, insisting that the characters are asexual puppets.Template:Ref The pair's relationship bears similiarity with 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 contemporary comparision.

In 2002, Sesame Workshop announced that a 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", but the HIV-positive character is only present on this international version of the show.

Merchandising

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The cover of the book Brought to You by . . . Sesame Street #1! shows several of Sesame Street's puppet characters.

Sesame Street is known for its extensive merchandising, which includes many books, magazines, video/audio media, toys, and the "Tickle Me Elmo" craze.

Its fiction books, published primarily by Random House, always display a notice stating that money received from the sale of the publications is used to fund Sesame Workshop, and often mention that children do not have to watch the show to benefit from its publications.

Today, there is a live touring show, Sesame Street Live, which has toured since 1980. There is also the Sesame Place theme park in Langhorne, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia (USA), and a Plaza Sésamo theme park in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. In addition, there is a three-dimensional movie based on the show, at Universal Studios Japan.

Current licensors include Nakajima USA, Build-A-Bear Workshop (Build-An-Elmo), Hasbro (Sesame Street Monopoly), Wooly Willy, and Children’s Apparel Network. For Sesamstaat, Rubotoys is a licensor since February 2005.

The Sesame Beginnings line, launched in mid-2005, consists of apparel, health & body, home, and seasonal products. The line is targeted towards infants and their parents, and products are designed to increase interactivity. Most of the line is exclusive to a family of Canadian retailers that includes Loblaws, Fortinos, and Zehrs.Template:Ref

In 2004, Copyright Promotions Licensing Group (CPLG) became Sesame Workshop's licensing representative for The Benelux.

Movies, videos, and specials

This list is incomplete, but highlights the most important specials.

Television specials and telefilms

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Christmas Eve on Sesame Street scene with Oscar (in garbage can) and Big Bird at the 86th Street station.

Feature films

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Follow that Bird feature film DVD cover.
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The Street We Live On DVD cover depicts (counter-clockwise from left) Elmo, Zoe, Grover, and Ernie.

Videos

During the 1980s videos were distributed by Random House. Since the early 1990s their tapes (and now DVDs) have been distributed by Sony Wonder, as has their music. Many of the TV specials have been released on tape and/or DVD.

Trivia

  • The Sesame Street theme song is "(Can you tell me how to get, how to get to) Sesame Street". Harmonica legend Toots Thielemans plays the song as a solo in some versions of the sequence.
  • A portmanteaus of Sesame Street has been made.

Notes

  1. Template:Note Romeo San Vicente, "Bert and Ernie outed from film festival (http://www.planetout.com/pno/entertainment/news/splash.html?sernum=154)," PlanetOut, March 27, 2002 (accessed June 10, 2005).
  2. Template:Note Nicholas Moreau, "Sesame Beginnings are new infant products (http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/childrens_television/115814)," Suite 101, May 5, 2005 (accessed June 17, 2005).

See also

Direct and indirect parodies:

  • Avenue Q, a Broadway musical that mirror various elements of the show.

Lists:

References

  • David Borgenicht, Sesame Street Unpaved: Scripts, Stories, Secrets, and Songs, 1998 and 2002 reprint, ISBN 1402893272
  • Caroll Spinney, J. Milligan, The Wisdom of Big Bird: (And the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers, 2003, ISBN 0375507817
  • Christopher Finch, Jim Henson: The Works - The Art, the Magic, the Imagination, 1993, ISBN 0679412034
  • Shalom M. Fisch, Rosemarie T. Truglio, "G" Is for Growing: 30 Years of Research on Children and Sesame Street, 2000, ISBN 0805833951

External links

Template:Wikiquote

es:Barrio Sésamo eo:Sesame Street fr:1 rue Sésame it:Sesame Street he:רחוב סומסום nl:Sesamstraat ja:セサミストリート pl:Ulica Sezamkowa pt:Sesame Street sv:Sesam (TV-program) zh:Sesame Street

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