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Big Bird-day at Sesame Street

Sesame Street is brought to you by the numbers 4 and 0 -and a history that is second to none.

sesame-obamaYou’ve seen it on Google themes –Sesame Street turns the big 4-0 this week.

Today, it’s seen in 140 countries. Not bad for a bit of foam and some basic arithmetic. But the show is of course, so much more.

Kermit has become an international star. Big Bird has made the cover of Time magazine. Bert and Ernie and the Cookie Monster are household names. Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, and Count Von Count are institutions.

In 1966, the Carnegie Institute hired Joan Ganz Cooney to study how the media could be used to help young children, especially those from low-income families, learn and prepare for school. Cooney proposed using television’s “most engaging traits”, including high production values, sophisticated writing, and quality film and animation, to reach the largest audience possible.

With Lloyd Morrisett she established the Children’s Television Workshop. Jim Henson, who had created The Muppets, became involved in 1969.

“It was always a good idea,” Henson told CBS News when Sesame Street turned 20 in 1989. “But even when the show went on the air, it immediately had a wonderful response from the audiences, which even that came as a surprise because, like, we were working on a fairly small, little children’s show.”

That little show has a reputation now unsurpassed in children’s telly.

As Newsweek says, “No show has affected the way we think about education, parenting, childhood development and cultural diversity, both in the United States and abroad, more than Big Bird and friends.”

Since its birth the series has received 118 Emmy Awards, more than any other television series. 25 independent versions have been produced. A condition of its foreign licensing is that non-US versions of the show reflect the morals and traditions of the host nation. Characters have been used to promote HIV awareness in South Africa, bridge the sectarian divide in Belfast and teach youngsters in the Middle East about tolerance.

But in the UK it’s had a troubled life after British children grew up knowing that their American counterparts pronounced “Zed” as “Zee.” It was picked up by London Weekend Television in 1971, where it became a Saturday morning fixture. Other ITV regions also showed it, before Channel 4 took it on. But in March 2001 Sesame Street left British screens and has yet to return. Today, its presence in the UK is limited to Sesame Tree on BBC Northern Ireland.

In Australia it had a long history on the ABC when it began in 1971. It still airs on ABC2.

This week, US first lady Michelle Obama will make an appearance to plant a garden and promote healthy eating in the show’s season premiere.

Source: CBS, BBC, Newsweek

13 Responses

  1. Happy Birthday Sesame Street!

    I so loved Barkley when I was younger, sad that he isn’t around much anymore as far as I’m aware.

    I really loved it when Big Bird and Oscar came out to Australia as well, and Oscar was one of the judges on Red Faces (gave Red a run for his money!) and Big Bird came over to the desk to chat with Daryl. Can’t recall if he met Ossie though.

    Really hoping for them to come to Australia again, and not so much Elmo.

  2. Happy Birthday!! :). I can’t believe that it’s been 40 years. It’s the best kids show I’ve grown up with apart from the Australian ones. I have my favorites in a list of top 10:
    1. Elmo. I like that fact he is red and that means love. Like he does to Rove.
    2. Big Bird. I like that fact he is yellow and that means happiness.
    3. Oscar the grouch. I like the fact he is green and that means envious, like he is with the trash.
    4. Bert and Ernie. They are like the odd couple and never will get along.
    5. The cookie monster. He made kids of our time [90-2000] eat and steal cookies from the cookie jar.
    6. Grover. He had so much to complain about, he never seemed to have any positives.
    7. The count. Boy he taught me the maths and I wonder how much blood he has sucked?
    8. The brown bear. He had a book that suggested he lost his hat. I also like the fact he doesn’t swipe picnic baskets.
    9. The aliens. They always made me laugh, especially when they went yep yep yep over and over!
    10. Mr. Snufflelupagus. He was like an elephant cross bred with a furry bore. He had the most sensible remarks and he just screams cute!

  3. This was a timeless instuition and many of us learnt to read and count/write because of this show.
    My favourite would be the cookie monster and his om nom nom nom noms.I have one to this day.
    Will Your HI 5 or Disney Offerings have that to say about themselves come the year 2039.

  4. Ohh Barkley the dog, I remember him! Farout, 40 seasons, that is incredible. This show has become such an institution, kids grew up on it, and it really has an excellent mix of entertainment and kiddy stuff as well as educational stuff, it actually used to deal with some pretty serious life topics like sickness, death, divorce, birth etc. I love watching the old school segments on youtube, brings me back. I loved the No! song, with Maria and Gina.

    Here’s to another 40 Seasons

  5. I loved Mr Snuffelupagus growing up! When he was Big Birds imaginary friend and nobody believed BB that Snuffy was real.
    Happy Birthday!
    P.S the dog scared me and took over the show for a while. I hated that damn dog whatever its name was.

  6. Many fond childhood memories of watching this wonderful show. Even today some of the Bert and Ernie skits are still funny. And without Sesame Street we wouldn’t have Kermit’s pop classic “Rainbow Connection”!

    If only we could erase Elmo from the history of Sesame Street 🙂

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