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Sesame Street - History
Sesame Street - History
Sesame Street is an educational television program designed for preschoolers, and is recognized as a pioneer of the contemporary standard which combines education and entertainment in children's television shows. Sesame Street also provided the first daily, national television showcase for Jim Henson's Muppets more than 4100 episodes of the show have been produced in 38 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). It premiered on November 10, 1969 on the National Educational Television network, and later that year it was moved to NET's successor, the Public Broadcasting Service.
Because of its widespread influence, Sesame Street has earned the distinction of being one of the the world's foremost and most highly regarded educators of young people. Few television series can match its level of recognition and success on the international stage. The original series has been televised in 120 countries, and more than 20 international versions have been produced. In its long 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.
Sesame Street uses a combination of puppets, animation, and live actors to teach young children the fundamentals of reading (letter andword recognition) and arithmetic (numbers, addition and subtraction), as well as geometric forms, cognitive processes, and classification. Since the show's inception, other instructional goals have focused on basic life skills, such as how to cross the road safely and the importance of proper hygiene and healthy eating habits.
There is also a subtle sense of humor on the show that has appealed to older viewers since it first premiered, and was devised as a means to encourage parents and older siblings to watch the series with younger children, and thus become more involved in the learning process rather than letting Sesame Street act as a babysitter. A number of parodies of popular culture appear, especially ones aimed at the Public Broadcasting Service, the network that broadcasts the show. For example, the recurring segment Monsterpiece Theatre once ran a sketch called "Me Claudius". 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 on PBS.
Several of the character names used on the program are puns or cultural references aimed at a slightly older audience, including Flo Bear, (Flaubert), Sherlock Hemlock, (a Sherlock Holmes parodoy), and H. Ross Parrot (a parody of Reform Party founder H. Ross Perot) Over 200 notable personalities have made guest appearances on the show, beginning with James Earl Jones in a December 1969 broadcast, and ranging from performers like Stevie Wonder to political figures such as Kofi Annan. By making a show that not only educates and entertains kids, but also keeps parents entertained and involved in the educational process, the producers hope to inspire discussion about the concepts on the show.
Sesame Street is known for its multicultural elements and is inclusive in its casting, incorporating roles for disabled people, young people, senior citizens, Hispanic actors, black actors, and others. As recalled by CTW advisor Gerald S. Lesser in his book Children and Television: Lessons form Sesame Street This integration initially led the Mississippi State Commission for Educational Television to ban the series, as did other states, though it was eventually reinstated. Mutual tolerance and cross-cultural friendship is also conveyed through the Muppet characters, who come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors and range from the humanoid Anything Muppets to various animals to monster, Grouches, and Honkers all of whom, especially the Grouches, have their own unique perspectives and ways of communicating with their neighbors. Yet they all manage to live in relative peace and harmony, setting an example for child viewers not to prejudge others.
Tying in with its multiculturalist perspective, the show pioneered the idea of occasionally inserting very basic Spanish words and phrases to acquaint young children to the concept of knowing more than one language. This was expressed as early as the show's second season, with Susan and Gordon speaking a second language or learning phrases from newer Hispanic characters such as Antonio, Rafael, and Luis and Maria. One 1973 toryline involved the opening of a bilingual library, while other segments taught French or sign language. The recently revamped format gives Rosita, the bilingual Muppet who joined the cast in 1991, more time in front of viewers, and also introduced the more formalized Spanish Word of the Day segment in every episode. French phrases were used very occasionally during the 1970s, and sign language has played a major role throughout the years, through Linda and visits from the National Theatre of the Deaf. Many of the Muppet characters have 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.
Big Bird, an 8-foot-tall yellow bird, lives in a large nest on an abandoned lot adjacent to 123 Sesame Street, located behind the building's trash heap. A regular visitor to Big Bird is his best friend Mr. Snuffleupagus simply called Snuffy. Oscar the Grouch and his pet worm Slimey live in a trash can in the heap. Friends Ernie and Bert room together at the basement apartment of 123 Sesame Street where they regularly engage in comedic banter. Ernie's flowerbox, though seen less often in recent years, is the home of the Twiddlebugs a colorful family of insects.
The bear family from Goldilocks and the Three Bears resides on Sesame Street. The family, headed by Papa Bear and Mama Bear recently welcomed their second child Curly Bear. Their son Baby Bear is a good friend of monsters Telly, Zoe Mexican-born Rosita and Elmo. Beginning in 1998, Elmo was given his own segment, "Elmo's World", occupying most of the show's second half as viewers explore topics in a crayon-drawn, imaginary version of Elmo's house.
Currently, Grover's regular segment, "Global Grover", follows the self-described "lovable, furry pal" around the world exploring local cultures and traditions. Cookie Monster fights with his conscience daily during Letter of the Day, as he tries to control his urges to eat the letters, drawn in icing on cookies.Prarie Dawn often attempts to help Cookie refrain from eating the letters, but always leaves 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 worked at The Furry Arms hotel with baby Natasha in tow, while bellhop Benny Rabbit begrudgingly helped out.
Kermit the Frog hosted the segment "Sesame Street Newsflash". The Two-Headed Monster sounded out words coming together, and the Yip Yip Martians discovered telephones and typewriters. For two seasons, Googel, Narf, Mel and Pheobe hung out in the Monster's Clubhouse.
Other characters over the years have included gameshow host Guy Smiley construction workers Biff and Sully and the large Herry Monster (who does not know his own strength), and The Big Bad Wolf, who is not a terror to the Street. Forgetful Jones, a cowboy with a short-term memory disorder, rode trusty Buster the Horse with his girlfriend Clementine, and Rodeo Rosie was an early cowgirl character.
A slate of human regulars pull the zaniness of the Muppets back to reality, and serve different pedagogical functions, showing literal integration and tolerance rather than metaphorically through colorful Muppets, and representing different personalities and adult "roles" and occupations.
Music teacher Bob has been on Sesame Street since its inception. For several years, he had a close friendship with Linda, the local librarian who was the first regular deaf character on television. The Robinsons are an African-American family that includes schoolteacher Gordon, nurse Susan and adopted son Miles. Maria and Luis Rodriguez are a Hispanic couple who run the Fix-It Shop. Maria gave birth to daughter Gabi in 1989, and her pregnancy was covered on the show.
Candy store operator Mr. Hooper was a mainstay at Hooper's Store during the show's first decade. Actor Will Lee dies in 1982 and when the producers opted to help their young viewers deal with the death of someone they loved rather than cast a new actor in the role, the character's death was discussed in a landmark 1983 episode. Afterwards, Mr. Hooper's apprentice David inherited the store, and was assisted by Gina. Next came Mr. Handford, who ran the store for several seasons before turning it over to Alan, the current proprietor of Hooper's, in 1998. Gina stopped working at the store in the 1990s to earn a degree, and is currently a veterinarian.
Mr. Noodle and his brother and sister, who appear only in Elmo's World are meant to provide a vaudevillian perspective on subjects, contrary to most of the show's current human characters (though reminiscent of such earlier insert characters as Buddy and Jim, Larry and Phyllis, and The Mad Painter.
Sesame Street - History
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