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Sesame Street

Sesame Street is an educational television program designed for children of all ages, and is recognized as a pioneer of the present-day standard of combining education and entertainment in children's television shows. It is well-known for the inclusion of the Muppet characters created by the legendary puppeteer Jim Henson. More than 4,000 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 the world's largest informal educator of young children[1], by viewers, international recognition, and outstanding success. The original series has aired in 120 countries, and more than 20 international versions have also 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.


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 show's original format 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 without causing such viewer disinterest.

Sesame Street, along with several other Sesame Workshop–produced shows (such as The Electric Company, produced when the company was still CTW) 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, beginning in 1970, 15-minute shows called Canada's Sesame Street were broadcast, and by 1972 an 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 quite caught on and was cancelled in 2002. One hundred and twenty countries have aired the show, many of which partnered 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 these countries shifted away from communism. There is also a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian project, called Sesame Stories, which was created with the goal of promoting greater 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.

Funding for season 35 of Sesame Street is provided for the Ready To Learn The No Child Left Behind Act and the U.S. Department of Education, The Public Broadcasting Service, Chuck E. Cheese's, and McDonald's. Major funding for Sesame Street is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by contributions to your PBS station from "Viewers Like You".


As a result of its success in revolutionizing the standards of children's television, Sesame Street has inadvertently diminished 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 in 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 who have children under the age of 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 its ratings in 2001.

Rosita poses.
Rosita poses.
Fat Blue (left) with Grover, in A Celebration of Me, Grover
Fat Blue (left) with Grover, in A Celebration of Me, Grover
Oscar the Grouch, peering out of his can.
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.
Gabby, Elmo, and some kids sing the Kitten-Bird-Cow song, in front of 123 Sesame Street.
Bob singing "People in Your Neighborhood" with Ralph Nader.
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. This encourages children to believe that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and that no particular 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 bilingual muppet who "immigrated" in 1993 from the Mexican version of the show, more time in front of viewers, 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 colorful 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 bellhop 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 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, 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 were not 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 character on television. Linda owns Barkley, a Muppet dog. The Robinsons are an African-American family that includes schoolteacher Gordon, nurse Susan, and adopted son Miles. The Puerto Rican Rodriguezes include Maria and Luis, who ran the Fix-It Shop, which was turned into the Mail-It Shop; Maria gave birth to daughter Gabby in the 1980s, and her pregnancy was covered on the show.

Candy store operator Harold Hooper was a mainstay, at Mr. Hooper's Store. When he died in the early 1980s (an event discussed in a landmark episode of Sesame Street), 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. Among various other countries, the UK simply broadcast the American show.

Locally produced adaptations of Sesame Street, include:

    * 1972: Vila S鐃�amo, Brazil
    * 1972: Plaza S鐃�amo, Mexico
    * 1973: Sesamstra鐃�, Germany
    * 1973: Canadian Sesame Street, Canada (reformatted as Sesame Park in the 1990s)
    * 1976: Sesamstraat, Netherlands
    * 1978: 1, rue Sesame, France
    * 1979: Iftah Ya Simsim, Kuwait
    * 1979: Barrio S鐃�amo, Spain
    * 1981: Svenska Sesam, Sweden
    * 1983: Rechov Sumsum, Israel
    * 1984: Sesame! (Batibot), Philippines
    * 1989: Susam Sokagi, Turkey
    * 1989: Rua S鐃�amo, Portugal
    * 1991: Sesam Stasjon, Norway
    * 1996: Ulitsa Sezam, Russia
    * 1996: Ulica Sezamkowa, Poland
    * 1998: Rechov Sumsum and Shara's Simsim, Israel and Palestinian Territories
    * 1998: Zhima Jie, China
    * 2000: Takalani Sesame, South Africa
    * 2000: Alam Simsim, Egypt
    * 2004: Sesame Street, Japan
    * 2006?: Sesame India, with radio program

Other countries include Greece (on ERT, later on a private network), Poland and Mexico. In 2004, one Japanese network cancelled the dubbed American Sesame, while another created a local version. Sesame Street was axed in recent years from Britain.


Sesame Street has had a rigourous research standard since its foundation, to make sure that the programming is fulfilling the needs of viewers. The Education and Research (E&R) department of Sesame Workshop is currently headed by Rosemarie T. Truglio, Ph.D. and Jeanette Betancourt, Ed.D..

When Truglio was ask on the level of interaction between Education and Research, Content, and Production working together is "[i]ntimately·hand-in-hand. They are not creating anything without our knowledge, our guidance and our review. We are involved in content development across all media platforms." This close-knit organizational structure has been around since the start of the Workshop.

Sesame Workshop provides great volumes of content on its website since 1998[2], and others like Random House.[3] Content ranges from birth to school-age, and includes information on dozens of topics like proper parenting techniques, dealing with children's fears, development of literacy, and maintaining a good level of health.

Research is funded by government grants, corporate and private donations (including recently from The Prudential Foundation for the Sesame Beginnings program), and the profits gained from Sesame Workshop merchandise.

When writers create a plot for a Street scene or segment, the content is reviewed by the E&R team reviews the script. They have the power to outright deny a script, and force rewrites, if the content is "is flat out wrong". Presuming the script is factually on track, but has gray areas such as things that may not be comprehensible to children, the writers and E&R work together to tweak everything to be factually correct, but include "a balance between content and humor".

Healthy Habits for Life

In 2005, Sesame Street launched its Healthy Habits for Life programming, to encourage young viewers to led a more active and nutritious lifestyle. This was spurred on by data on obesity in children by the US Centers for Disease Control.

Health content has existed on Sesame Street for years, but in limited quantities. Once the press kits for the project were made available, and news wires latched onto the story, literaly hundreds of newspapers touted that Cookie Monster was "going on a diet". In actuality, there was no change to Cookie's character. The new season featured a new segment with rapper Wyclef Jean, singing the praises of fruits and vegetables. Like segments in the 1990s featured Cookie doing nearly the same.

According to people from Sesame Workshop, "Health has always been a part of our Sesame Street curriculum, therefore we will always be committed to ensuring kids are given information and messages that will help them become healthy and happy in their development. For season 36, we have turned up the dial in health, but it will always be part of our curriculum."

The Workshop formed an Advisory Board, consisting of experts like Woodie Kessel, M.D., M.P.H., the Assistant Surgeon General of the United States government. This Board not only looks at outside research, but lead pilot studies to find which directs to go in for expanded research, based on social, ethnic and socioeconomic sections of the population.

The cover of the book Brought to You by . . . Sesame Street #1! shows several of Sesame Street's muppet characters.
The cover of the book Brought to You by . . . Sesame Street #1! shows several of Sesame Street's muppet 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 S鐃�amo 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 and 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.[4]

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

    * Julie on Sesame Street (1974, starring Julie Andrews)

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

    * Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978)
    * A Special Sesame Street Christmas (1978)
    * Big Bird in China (1983)
    * Don't Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983)
    * The Adventures of Super Grover (1987)
    * Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street (1987)
    * Big Bird in Japan (1988)
    * Sesame Street: 20 And Still Counting (1989)
    * Sesame Street Special (1988, released to DVD as Put Down The Duckie: A Sesame Street Special)
    * Big Bird's Birthday Celebration (1991)
    * Sesame Street Stays Up Late! (1993)
    * All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever (1994)
    * CinderElmo (1999)
    * The Street We Live On(2004)


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

    * Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985, co-produced by Warner Bros.)
    * Elmo in Grouchland (1999, co-produced by Columbia Pictures)



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.

    * Sesame Street - Learning About Letters (1990, DVD on June 8, 2004)
    * Sesame Street's 25th Anniversary: A Musical Celebration (1993, DVD on August 31, 1999)
    * Elmo Saves Christmas (1996)
    * Sesame Street - Do the Alphabet (1996, DVD on November 9, 1999)
    * Sesame Street - The Best of Elmo (1996, DVD on November 20, 2001)
    * Sesame Street - 123 Count With Me (1997, DVD on December 7, 1999)
    * Elmopalooza (1999)
    * Sesame Street - Elmo's World - Happy Holidays (2000, DVD on September 16, 2003)
    * Sesame Street - Kids' Favorite Songs (DVD on November 20, 2001)
    * Three Bears and a New Baby (2003)
    * Sesame Street Songs - Dance Along! (DVD on March 11, 2003)
    * Sesame Street - What's the Name of That Song (DVD on April 6, 2004)
    * Sesame Street - The Street We Live On (DVD in 2004)


Controversy and rumors

Some educators criticized 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.

Although extremely popular with children, the character of Elmo is very controversial. When first introduced, he was a minor character with no lines. He even appeared briefly (and silently) in the Sesame Street movie Follow That Bird. However, following the death of muppeteers Jim Henson and Richard Hunt in 1992, a number of muppet characters were retired, elevating Elmo to a more prominent role. Elmo quickly replaced Big Bird as the central character of the program, eclipsing the other muppet characters to the point that a full 20 minutes of the one-hour program became devoted solely to "Elmo's World", a segment that came to be viewed by many as dubious. Critical support of the program began to wane, as educators quickly noted that "Elmo's World" contained little to no educational value, and in fact often contained misinformation (such as Elmo incorrectly informing children that a horse in a picture is a "pony"). It is believed that Jim Henson had never intended Elmo to literally "run the show" as he now does. A critical blow had been struck to the venerable program, and rating dropped as parents tuned out. Sesame Street was no longer one of the best shows on TV for kids, and parents began to embrace other programs, such as Blue's Clues. Not understanding the reason for the drop in ratings, writers gave Sesame Street an overhaul, yet completely failed to dethrone Elmo. New videos feature Elmo almost exclusively, and the 2nd Sesame Street movie Elmo in Grouchland features only a couple of series regulars, and the main body of the story does not even take place on Sesame Street. The rise of Elmo is generally considered to be the moment when Sesame Street jumped the shark, although some fans contend that it was actually the rise of Sonia Manzano, whose character Maria Rodriguez, has eclipsed the other human characters in the same manner that Elmo has eclipsed the other muppets. Coincidentally, this began when Sonia began writing for the show.

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 producers vehemently deny this, however, insisting that the characters are "merely lifeless, hand-operated puppets."[5] The pair's relationship bears similarity to 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 comparison.

In 1992, puppeteer Jim Henson's death spurred rumors that Ernie would be "killed" off the show, much the way the character of Mr. Hooper was after actor Will Lee's passing some years earlier. Rumor said that he would be either killed by a vehicle, AIDS, or cancer. There is no legitimacy to this rumor, but as producers took their time recasting a puppeteer for Ernie, this delay allowed the claims to burgeon.

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.


    * 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.



   1. ^  Karen Barss et al., "Enhancing Education: A Children's Producer's Guide: Sesame Street: Case Study", Corporation for Public Broadcasting (accessed June 29, 2005)
   2. ^  San Vicente, Romeo: "Bert and Ernie outed from film festival", PlanetOut, (March 27, 2002)
   3. ^  Moreau, Nicholas: "Sesame Beginnings are new infant products", Suite101, (May 5, 2005)


See also

    * Sesame Street, Season 35
    * The Annual Sesame Street Cookie Baking Contest

Direct and indirect parodies:

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


    * List of Sesame Street animators
    * Bibliography of fictional works based on the show
    * Sesame Street discography
    * List of Sesame Street puppeteers
    * List of songs from Sesame Street



    * 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



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