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Sesame Street is an American educational children's television series and a pioneer of the contemporary educational television standard, combining both education and entertainment. Sesame Street is well known for its Muppets characters created by Jim Henson. It premiered on November 10, 1969, and is the longest running children's program on US television. The show is produced in the United States by the non-profit organization Sesame Workshop, formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop (CTW), founded by Joan Ganz Cooney and Ralph Rogers.

Beginnings

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. Cooney suggested creating a program that would spread prolearning values to both viewers and nonviewers (including their parents) that would affect them for many years after they stopped watching it.

Sesame Street custom Children's Television Workshop logo used in seasons 1-13.


As a result of Cooney's initial proposal, the Carnegie Institute awarded her an $8 million grant to establish, in collaboration with Carnegie Institute vice-president Lloyd Morrisett, the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) and create a new children's television program. In 1968, millions more were invested by the Ford Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the US federal government. Cooney began to assemble a team of producers: Jon Stone, Dave Connell and Sam Gibbon. That summer, five three-day curriculum planning seminars, led by Harvard Universitymarker professor Gerald S. Lesser, were conducted in Bostonmarker. The seminars marked the beginning of Jim Henson's involvement in Sesame Street, and provided the show's producers and writers with a "crash course in child development, psychology, and preschool education". The new show, called the "Preschool Educational Television Show" in promotional materials, was built around an inner-city street, a choice that was "unprecedented". The producers and writers could not come up with a name they liked "up until the last moment". They finally settled upon the name they least disliked: Sesame Street, although they initially feared that it would be too difficult for young children to pronounce.

Two days before the premiere of Sesame Street, a thirty-minute preview entitled This Way to Sesame Street was shown on NBC. The show was financed by a $50,000 grant from Xerox. Written by Stone and produced by CTW publicist Bob Hatch, it was taped the day before it aired. Newsday called the preview "a unique display of cooperation between commercial and noncommercial broadcasters". Sesame Street premiered on PBS on November 10, 1969. The new show was praised from the start. As writer Michael Davis states, "...It became the rare children's show stamped with parental approval". The show reached only 67.6% of the nation, but earned a 3.3 Nielsen rating, or 1.9 million households.

Educational goals

As author Malcolm Gladwell has stated, "Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them". Sesame Street was the first children's show that structured each episode and made "small but critical adjustments" to each segment to capture children's attention long enough to teach them something.

Sesame Street uses a combination of animation, puppets, and live actors to stimulate young children's minds, improve their letter and word recognition, basic arithmetic, geometric forms, classification, simple problem solving, and socialization by showing children or people in their everyday lives. Since the show's inception, other instructional goals have been basic life skills, such as how to cross the street safely, proper hygiene, healthy eating habits, and social skills; in addition, real-world situations are taught, such as death, divorce, pregnancy and birth, adoption, and even all of the human emotions such as happiness, love, anger, fear, sadness, and hatred. Also, recently, the Sesame Street Muppets discussed the late-2000s recession with their most recent prime-time special Families Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times.

Coordinating "the clever use of Muppets and animation" with educational curriculum required what the CTW researchers called "careful thought" and influenced the show's structure. For example, they had to decide how to distribute the letters of the alphabet throughout each 130-episode season.

Format

Original format

From the first episode, Sesame Street's producers have used "different elements" of commercial television: "a strong visual style, fast-moving action, humor, and music". They also used videotaped spots, puppets, animation, live action, and music. Cooney was the first to suggest that they use "teaching commercials", or several twelve -to ninety-second shorts, and the repetition of several key concepts throughout an episode.

The producers and writers decided to build the new show around a brownstone or an inner-city street, a choice that was "unprecedented". They wanted to attract inner-city viewers, so they reproduced these viewers' neighborhoods as its setting—a realistic city street, complete with peeling paint, alleys, front stoops, and metal trash cans along the sidewalk". The cast needed to reflect the diversity of this kind of neighborhood, first with a mix of White and African-American actors, and then with Hispanics and Asians later on. Sesame Street was also the first children's show to utilize research as a production value. It addressed specific curriculum and goals for its preschool audience and used research to "inform production". The research team designated a "curriculum focus" every season, and identified and emphasized a "small set of related objectives" that were written into each episode.



In addition, the researchers and producers made use of repetition and reinforcement throughout the show's segments. The format remained the same from episode to episode, but the content was varied so that new concepts could be introduced. The show was designed to encourage "coviewing" with the use of humor, which was written into the show so that children and their parents could appreciate it together. Cultural references were used, which included bringing celebrities to appear on it, that only adults would understand. Music was also used, since as Cooney observed, children have an "affinity for commercial jingles".

When Sesame Street premiered, research about children's viewing habits assumed that they did not have long attention spans. As a result, each episode was structured like a magazine. They presented a story, dispersed throughout the hour-long show, broken up with segments, or skits, which usually totaled approximately forty each episode. Although the story, which occurred during what the producers called "the street scenes", usually lasted about ten-to-twelve minutes in length, it would take forty-five minutes to tell it. It was decided, by recommendation of child psychologists, that the Street scenes, which CTW researcher Edward Palmer called "the glue" that "pulled the show together", would never feature the human actors and Muppets together because they were concerned it would confuse and mislead young children.

Before the show's premiere, the producers created five one-hour episodes for the purpose of testing whether children found them comprehensible and appealing. They were never intended for broadcast. Instead, they were presented to preschoolers in 60 homes throughout Philadelphia in July 1969. The results were "generally very positive", but they found that although children attended to the shows during the Muppet segments, their interest was lost during the "Street" segments. As a result, the appeal of the test episodes were lower than they preferred, so significant changes were made. CTW researcher Gerald Lesser called their decision to defy the recommendations of their advisers "a turning point in the history of Sesame Street". The producers went back and reshot the Street segments; Henson and his team created Muppets that could interact with the human actors, specifically "two of Sesame Street's most enduring Muppets: Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird". These test episodes were directly responsible for what writer Malcolm Gladwell calls "the essence of Sesame Street--the artful blend of fluffy monsters and earnest adults".



Format changes of the 1990s and 2000s

Sesame Street's format remained intact until the show's later decades. By the 1990s, its dominance was challenged by other programs, and its ratings declined. New research, the growth of the children's home video industry, and the increase of thirty-minute children's shows on cable demonstrated that the traditional magazine-format was not necessarily the most effective way to hold their attention. For Sesame Street's 30th anniversary in 1999, its producers researched the reasons for the show's lower ratings. For the first time since the show debuted, the producers and a team of researchers analyzed Sesame Street's content and structure during a series of two-week long workshops. They also studied how children's viewing habits had changed in thirty years. They found that although the show was produced for three to five year olds, children began watching it at a younger age. As a result, the target age for Sesame Street shifted downward, from four years to three years.

In 1999, a 15-minute long segment that targeted the developmental age of the show's newer viewers began to be shown at the end of each episode. The segment, called "Elmo's World", used traditional elements (animation, Muppets, music, and live-action film), but had a more sustained narrative, followed the same structure each episode, and depended heavily on repetition. Unlike the realism of the rest of the show, "Elmo's World" took place in a stylized crayon-drawing universe as conceived by its host. Elmo, who represented the younger audience, was chosen as the host of the closing segment because younger toddlers identified with him and because he had always tested well with them.

In 2002, Sesame Street's producers went further in changing the show to reflect its younger demographic. They decided, after the show's 33rd season, to expand upon the "Elmo's World" concept by "deconstructing" the show. They changed the structure of the entire show to a more narrative format, making the show easier for young children to navigate. Arlene Sherman, a co-executive producer for 25 years, called the show's new look "startlingly different".

Production

Research in production

As Cooney has stated, "Without research, there would be no Sesame Street". In 1967, when Cooney and her team began to plan the show's development, combining research with television production was "positively heretical". Sesame Street was the first children's television program that included a curriculum "detailed or stated in terms of measurable outcomes". There was little precedent for incorporating research into television production. There was some concern that this goal would limit creativity, but Stone understood that there were an infinite number of ways to express the curriculum on screen. The Muppet characters were created to fill specific curriculum needs. For example, Oscar the Grouch was designed to teach children about their positive and negative emotions. It was decided from the beginning to have a research presence while the series was being filmed in the studio. As Cooney stated, "From the beginning, we—the planners of the project—designed the show as an experimental research project with educational advisers, researchers, and television producers collaborating as equal partners".

Sesame Street came along and rewrote the book.
Never before had anyone assembled an A-list of advisors to develop a series with stated educational norms and objectives.
Never before had anyone viewed a children's show as a living laboratory, where results would be vigorously and continually tested.
Never before in television had anyone thought to commingle writers and social scientists, a forced marriage that, with surprising ease and good humor, endured and thrived".

—Michael Davis, Street Gang



The producers of Sesame Street used laboratory-oriented research to test if what they were producing held children's attention. The researchers involved with the show found that preschoolers are more sophisticated television viewers than originally thought. Edward Palmer, Sesame Street's original researcher and the man Cooney called "a founder of CTW and founder of its research function", was recruited by the CTW to test if the curriculum developed in the Boston seminars were reaching their audience. Palmer's research was so crucial to Sesame Street that Gladwell asserted, "...Without Ed Palmer, the show would have never lasted through the first season". Palmer was of the few academicians in the late 1960s who was doing research on children's television.

Palmer and his research team utilized the concepts in the field of formative research, or "research conducted to inform the process of production". They were strongly influenced by behaviorism, which was a prominent movement in psychology in the late 1960s, so many of the methods and tools used were primarily behavioral. For example, Palmer developed "the distractor method", which he used to test if the material shown on Sesame Street captured young viewers' attention. Two children at a time were brought into the laboratory; they were shown an episode on a television monitor and a slide show next to it. The slides would change every seven seconds, and researchers recorded when the children's attention was diverted away from the episode. They were able to record almost every second of Sesame Street this way; if the episode captured the children's interest 80-90% of the time, the producers would air it, but if it only tested 50%, they would "go back to the drawing board". Palmer reported that by the fourth season of the show, the episodes rarely tested below 85%.

In research done in later seasons of Sesame Street, verbal measures began to be introduced, which strengthened their results and would "yield a richer picture of children's knowledge, reactions, and responses" than behavioral measures alone. The distractor method was modified, under CTW researcher Valeria Lovelace, into an "eyes-on-screen" method that collected data from larger groups of children simultaneously. Lovelace's method also tested for more "natural" distractions, or the distractions that other children provide in group viewing situations. More recent measures included a "engagement measure", which recorded children's more active responses to an episode, like laughing and dancing to the music. Throughout the history of Sesame Street, its research staff and producers held regularly scheduled curriculum seminars, as well as "its own robust internal review and critique", to ensure that their curriculum goals are being met and to inform future production. Curriculum seminars prior to Sesame Street's 33rd season in 2002 resulted in changes to the show's structure and format.

Writing

The show's research team developed an annotated document, or "Writer's Notebook", which provided extended and developed definitions of the researchers' curriculum goals. The notebook assisted the writers and producers in translating their educational goals into televised material. Suggestions in the notebook were free of references to specific characters and contexts on the show so that they could be implemented as openly and flexibly as possible. The research team, in a series of meetings with the writers, also developed "a curriculum sheet" that described their goals and priorities for each season, which were divided into four categories: symbolic representation, cognitive processes, the physical environment, and the social environment. After receiving the curriculum focus and goals for the season, the writers met to discuss ideas and story arcs for the characters, and when a script was completed, the show's research team analyzed it to ensure that the goals were met. Then each production department met to determine what each episode needed in terms of costumes, lights, and sets. The writers were present during the show's taping, which for the first twenty-four years of the show took place in Manhattanmarker, and after 1992, at the Kaufman Astoria Studiosmarker in Queens, New Yorkmarker, to make last-minute revisions when necessary.



Joey Mazzarino, head writer in 2008, has described the writing process as a "collaboration". Cooney has called this collaboration an "arranged marriage". The show's staff work to ensure that the relationship between producers and researchers is not adversarial, but that each side contributes "its own unique perspective and expertise". The production staff recognized early in Sesame Street's history that having access to researchers to gather children's reactions and to inform production was a valuable resource. Researchers and production staff were viewed as a team working together to ensure the best possible product. As CTW researchers Shalom Fisch and Lewis Berstein stated, researchers, as experts, acted as "advocates" for children while the show's writers and producers brought their instincts and past successes with entertaining children through television.

Sesame Street has tended to use many writers in its long history. As Dave Connell, one of Sesame Street's original producers, has stated, it was difficult to find adults who could identify a preschooler's interest level. Fifteen writers a year worked on the show's scripts, but very few lasted longer than one season. Norman Stiles, head writer in 1987, reported that most writers "burn out" after writing about a dozen scripts.

Music

Many of the songs written for Sesame Street have become "timeless classics" In order to attract the best composers and lyricists, CTW allowed songwriters like Joe Raposo, the show's music director, and Jeff Moss, a "gifted poet, composer, and lyricist", to retain the rights to the songs that they wrote. The writers earned lucrative profits, and the show was able to sustain public interest.

According to Michael Davis, Sesame Street's signature sound grew out of sessions with a seven-piece band consisting of a keyboardist, drummer, electric bass player, guitarist, trumpeter, a winds instrumentalist, and a percussionist. Jon Stone reported that a typical recording session with Raposo was "an on-the-fly, off-the-cuff experience". Raposo was especially inspired by the goals of Sesame Street, especially in the early days of the show's production, and responded by composing "a stack" of curriculum-inspired songs.



Raposo wrote Sesame Street's theme song, which Davis has called "jaunty" and "deceptively simple". Stone, although he (along with writer Bruce Hart) is listed as the song's lyricist, considered the song "a musical masterpiece and a lyrical embarrassment". Raposo enlisted jazz harmonica player Jean "Toots" Thielemans, as well as a mixed choir of children, to record the opening and closing themes."Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street" has since become a "siren song for preschoolers".

Raposo's "I Love Trash", written for Oscar the Grouch, was included on the first album of Sesame Street songs, recorded in 1974. One of Raposo's best-known compositions for the show was Rubber Duckie, and it was originally performed by Henson for Ernie. The song was recorded for the first Sesame Street album in 1970, performed by the Boston Pops in 1971, and became a hit in Germany in 1996.

Raposo also wrote Bein' Green in 1970, again performed by Henson, but this time for Kermit the Frog. Davis calls this "Raposo's best-regarded song for Sesame Street", and it was later recorded by Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles. Raposo's other notable songs written for the show include "Somebody Come and Play", "C is for Cookie", and "Sing", which became a hit for The Carpenters in 1973.

Entertainment Weekly reported that by 1991, Sesame Street had been honored with eight Grammys.

Cast and crew



Shortly after the CTW was created, and Joan Ganz Cooney was named as its first executive director in 1968, she began to assemble a team of producers, all of whom had previously worked on Captain Kangaroo. Jon Stone was responsible for writing, casting, and format; Dave Connell took over animation; and Sam Gibbon served as the show's chief liaison between the production staff and the research team. Cooney recruited researcher Edward Palmer, whom she called "a founder of CTW and founder of its research function" Palmer's research was so crucial to Sesame Street that Gladwell asserted, "...Without Ed Palmer, the show would have never lasted through the first season". Jim Henson's involvement in Sesame Street began when he and Cooney met at one of the curriculum planning seminars in Boston. Stone, who was familiar with Henson's work, felt that if they could not bring him on board, they should "make do without puppets".

"Sesame Street is best known for the creative geniuses it attracted, people like Jim Henson and Joe Raposo and Frank Oz, who intuitively grasped what it takes to get through to children.
They were television's answer to Beatrix Potter or L.
Frank Baum or Dr. Seuss."

-Author Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point

Jon Stone was responsible for hiring the first cast of Sesame Street. He did not audition actors until Spring 1969, a few weeks before the five test shows were due to be filmed. He videotaped the auditions, and Ed Palmer took them out into the field to test children's reactions. The actors who received the "most enthusiastic thumbs up" were cast. For example, Loretta Long, was chosen to play Susan when the children who saw her audition stood up and sang along with her rendition of "I'm a Little Teapot". It was Stone's goal to cast white actors in the minority. As Stone said, casting was the only aspect of the show that was "just completely haphazard".. Most of the cast and crew found jobs on Sesame Street through personal relationships with Stone and the other producers. Stone also hired Bob McGrath to play Bob, Will Lee to play Mr. Hooper, and Matt Robinson to play Gordon.

Sesame Street's cast became more diverse in the 1970s. The cast members who joined the show during this time were Sonia Manzano (Maria), Northern Calloway (David), Emilio Delgado (Luis), Linda Bove (Linda), and Buffy Saint-Marie (Buffy). Roscoe Orman succeeded Matt Robinson, the original Gordon, and Hal Miller, in 1975.

Reception

Ratings

When Sesame Street premiered in 1969, it aired on only 67.6% of American televisions, but it earned a 3.3 Nielsen rating, or 1.9 million households. It reached 7 million children a day by the end of its first season. By the show's tenth anniversary in 1979, 9 million American children under the age of six were watching Sesame Street daily. Four out of five children had watched it over a six-week period, and 90% of children from low-income inner-city homes regularly viewed the show.

The show's ratings significantly decreased in the early 1990s, when the ways children viewed television and the television marketplace had changed. In 1969, the choices in children's programming were limited, but the growth of the home-video industry during the 1980s and the boom in children's programming during the 90s on cable channels like Nickelodeon, which were directly influenced by Sesame Street, resulted in lower ratings for Sesame Street. As The New York Times reported in 2002, "learning to click the remote control has become a developmental milestone, like crawling and walking". The producers responded to these societal changes by making large-scale structural changes to the show.

By 2006, Sesame Street had become "the most widely viewed children's television show in the world", with 20 international independent versions and broadcasts in over 120 countries. By the show's 40th anniversary in 2009, it was ranked the fifteenth most popular children's show on television.

Influence

In Sesame Street's first season, the Educational Testing Service (ETS) reported that the cognitive skills of its young viewers had increased by 62%. They found that children who viewed the show the most often did 62% better at correctly recognizing a rectangle than less frequent viewers.

As a result of its extensive influence, Sesame Street is one of the most highly regarded, and most watched, educational shows for children in the world. The show has been called "perhaps the most vigorously researched, vetted, and fretted-over program". As of 2009, the series has received 118 Emmy Awards, more than any other television series. An estimated 77 million Americans watched the series as children.

Critical reception

Sesame Street was praised from its debut in 1969. Newsday reported that several newspapers and magazines had written "glowing" reports about CTW and Cooney. Although the series had been on the air for less than a year, Time Magazine featured Big Bird, who had received more fan mail than any of the show's human hosts, on its cover and declared, " ...It is not only the best children's show in TV history, it is one of the best parents' shows as well". David Frost declared Sesame Street "a hit everywhere it goes". An executive at ABC, while recognizing that Sesame Street was not perfect, stated that the show "opened children's TV to taste and wit and substance"... and "made the climate right for improvement". By the end of the show's first season, ratings were high, the song "Rubber Duckie" was on the music charts for nine weeks, and Big Bird appeared on The Flip Wilson Show. Also in 1970, Sesame Street won a Peabody Award, three Emmys, and the Prix Jeunesse award. President Richard Nixon sent Cooney a congratulatory letter. Dr. Benjamin Spock predicted that the program would result in "better trained citizens, fewer unemployables in the next generation, fewer people on welfare, and smaller jail populations". By 1995, the show had won two Peabody Awards and four Parents' Choice Awards. In addition, it was the subject of retrospectives at the Smithsonian Institutionmarker and the Museum of Modern Artmarker. A 1996 survey found that 95% of American preschoolers have watched the show by the time they are three years old.

Sesame Street was not without detractors, however. In May 1970, a state commission in Mississippi voted to ban Sesame Street. A member of the commission leaked the vote to the New York Times, stating that "Mississippi was not yet ready" for the show's integrated cast. Cooney called the ban "a tragedy for both the white and black children of Mississippi". The Mississippi commission later reversed its decision, after the vote had made national news. It was speculated that Sesame Street's fast pacing may cause epilepsy in its preschool audience. Some critics even took issue with some of the show's depictions of different races. For example, some upper-middle-class members of the black community viewed the Muppet Roosevelt Franklin, created by Matt Robinson, as a negative cultural stereotype. In spite of what Davis called "vigorous opposition" from Sesame Street's black performers, the CTW acquiesced to this criticism and took Roosevelt off the show.

Since federal funds had been used to produce the show, more segments of the population insisted upon being represented on Sesame Street. For example, Latino groups criticized the show for the lack of Hispanic characters during its early years. Davis reported that organizations like the National Organization for Women (NOW) expressed concerns that the show needed to be "less male-oriented". Members of NOW were, as Davis put it, "rankled by the portrayal of Susan, whom they saw as a subservient, powerless dispenser of milk and cookies". The show's producers satisfied these critics by making Susan a nurse and by hiring a female writer. As an interesting contrast, Sesame Street was also chastised by a Louisiana critic for the presence of strong single women on the show.

In 1995, journalist Kay Hymowitz called Sesame Street "a triumph of appearance over substance" and credited its success not with quality, but with "a combination of savvy timing, sophisticated image making, and vigorous promotion". She held the show partly responsible for the declining verbal abilities of American students, and accused the show of affirming negative stereotypes about women. According to Hymowitz, the show's creators discouraged children's natural curiosity about the world. She criticized the show for, instead of transforming television, being "devoured" by it. She took issue with its use of cultural references, stating that the show taught young children to embrace the negative values of commercialism, celebrity, and anti-intellectualism. She insisted that by using television's production values, the producers of Sesame Street emphasized their "jazzy medium" more than the educational content they were supposed to convey. Hymowitz took issue with the show's educational claims, stating that Sesame Street diminished young children's readiness for reading by limiting their abilities to engage in analytical and creative thinking. She reported that most of the positive research conducted on the show has been done by the CTW, and then sent to a sympathetic press. She charged that the studies conducted by the CTW "hint at advocacy masquerading as social science".



In 2003, one of Sesame Street's international co-productions, Takalani Sesame, caused some controversy in the US when the first HIV-positive Muppet, Kami, was created in response to South Africa's AIDS epidemic. It marked the first time AIDS and the goal of confronting the disease's stigma was included in a preschool curriculum. According to the documentary, "The World According to Sesame Street", the reaction of many in the US surprised Sesame Workshop. Some members of Congress attacked Sesame Street, Sesame Workshop, and PBS. According to co-producer Naila Farouky, "The reaction we got in the US blew me away. I didn't expect people to be so horrible... and hateful and mean". The controversy in the US was short-lived, and died down when the public discovered the facts about the South African co-production, and when Kofi Anan and Jerry Falwell praised the Workshop's efforts.

Rumors and urban legends

While many rumors have been started about the series, a few have been widely promulgated and perpetuated over the years.

Media information

Broadcast history

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. 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 but with specially filmed Canadian segments, which featured the French language. In 1995 the American version was replaced by a half-hour long all-Canadian version of the series entitled Sesame Park. Since the original Sesame Street was still accessible to Canadians, and more familiar, the format change didn't find acceptance with audiences and was taken off the air in 2002. Broadcasts in New Zealandmarker and Australia began in 1971.

In the United Kingdommarker its introduction was controversial. The ITV network company London Weekend Television first showed the series in the Londonmarker region in the early 1970s to much criticism (generally regarding its Americanism). In time the show was subsequently broadcast by other ITV regions in the early 1980s, after which it moved to Channel 4, where it was a lunch-time fixture for many years through to the early 2000s. Later broadcasts of the show featured the hour-long episodes in a format of two ½-hour episodes. 120 countries have aired the show, many of which partnered with Sesame Workshop to create local versions.

In recent years Sesame Street has made what area educators consider to be critical advances in its international versions. In the late 1990s versions appeared in Chinamarker and Russiamarker as these countries shifted away from communism. There is also a joint Israelimarker-Palestinian-Jordanianmarker project, called Sesame Stories, which was created with the goal of promoting greater cultural understanding. The show along with 123 Sesame Street and Sesame Street Unpaved aired on Noggin (originally a joint venture of Sesame Workshop and Viacom) until 2005.

Spin-offs

Spin-offs of Sesame Street include: Play With Me Sesame, a half-hour "interactive" program featuring new and old material; Sesame English, an English as a Second Language teaching tool, created in 1999 with Berlitz International; Elmo's World, Global Grover, and Global Thingy all originated as segments on the main series, split off for separate syndication; and Bert and Ernie's Great Adventures, a clay animation series created for international markets, and later shown as part of the parent series. Selected "classic" episodes of the series were shown nearly unedited as Sesame Street Unpaved, and segment-only show Open Sesame also has aired on various international channels.

Jennifer Monier-Williams, Vice President, Worldwide Television Distribution at Sesame Workshop commented "The expansion of the Sesame brand through wonderfully interactive shows like Play With Me Sesame and Elmo's World give children around the globe new ways to experience fun and learning in the way Sesame does it best."

Videos and specials



A series of Sesame Street telefilms have featured the characters on day trips or in foreign countries. Don't Eat the Pictures: Sesame Street at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983) saw the cast locked in the gallery overnight; Big Bird and Snuffy help a cursed boy pharaoh. NBC's Big Bird in China (1983) followed Big Bird, Barkley, and their new friend Xiao Foo traveling through China to find Feng Huang, the phoenix bird. In Big Bird in Japan (1988), the titular character gets lost. Out to Lunch (1974) features the cast of Sesame Street and The Electric Company taking over ABC News. Big Bird turned six in Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake (1991), despite being referred to as four years old previously. CinderElmo (1999) was a FOX special, with Keri Russell as the princess looking for her match in the kingdom. Telly fears what the New Year will bring in Sesame Street Stays Up Late! (1993, DVD in 2004).

Various strictly musical programs have been made. Julie Andrews and Perry Como performed with the Muppets on Julie on Sesame Street (1974). Special episodes of the PBS series Evening at Pops variety show have featured Sesame Street characters. The Sesame Street Special (1988) also included many guest performances.

Holiday special Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978) won an Emmy Award, while another special that year, A Special Sesame Street Christmas (1978), has mostly unfavourable reviews. Elmo Saves Christmas is a movie special in which Elmo uses a magic snowglobe to wish that Christmas were every day, and must go back in time to correct his mistake. Anniversary specials include A Walking Tour of Sesame Street with James Earl Jones (1979), Sesame Street: 20 And Still Counting (1989), All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever (1994) and Sesame Street Jam: A Musical Celebration (1994), and The Street We Live On (2004). Jon Stewart is set to host a "live" retrospective on the series on ABC, but is accidentally locked in his dressing room with the tapes. Elmo attempts to salvage the show, improvised, in Elmopalooza! (1998).

In 1987 and 1992, episodes of Shalom Sesame were produced, focusing on introducing Jewish culture, customs, and language to Jewish-American children. Some international co-productions of Sesame Street have created many of their own specials as well.

The characters have made appearance on television series including: Scrubs (2009), Between the Lions (2001), The Colbert Report (2008), The Electric Company (1972, 1975), Emeril Live, Paula's Party (2005), Fanfare, The Flip Wilson Show (1970), The Frugal Gourmet (1992, 1995, 1997), Hollywood Squares, Jeopardy!, Deal or No Deal, Martha (2006), Martha Stewart Living, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1981), Soul Man (1998), The Torkelsons (1991), The Muppet Show (1976), The West Wing (2004), What's My Line?, and numerous talk shows and mornings shows, ranging from The Ed Sullivan Show to the The Today Show.

Behind the scenes video of Sesame Street was never allowed until 2000 when PBS affiliate WLVTmarker in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, aired, for the very first time, footage of the cast and crew as they rehearsed and recorded an episode. Emmy award winning photojournalist Bill Mason captured actors and Muppeteers rehearsing lines and blocking scenes as part of a news magazine story celebrating Sesame Street's 30th anniversary. The only restriction placed on the video was that the Muppets and their respective Muppeteers could not be shown together in order to avoid confusing children viewers.

On November 10, 2009, Sesame Street celebrated its 40th anniversary that included a segment with First Lady Michelle Obama interacting with the Muppets.

Feature films

Two theatrical wide-release feature films based on the series have been made.

Co-produced with Warner Bros., the 1985 film Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird revolved around a social worker forcing Big Bird into adoption. Big Bird gets homesick and tired of his adoptive parents, and heads back to New York, when he is kidnapped by evil carnival leaders (played by Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty); the residents of Sesame Street launch a cross-country search to find him.

In the second Sesame Street theatrical film, co-produced with Columbia Pictures, 1999's The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, fourteen years after Follow That Bird, Elmo spends time with his favorite blanket. After Zoe accidentally tears the blanket, when Elmo refuses to share, the blanket winds up in Grouchland, ruled by the Queen of Trash (Vanessa L. Williams). Elmo ventures forth, to rescue his blanket from the villainous Huxley (Mandy Patinkin). Soon, the rest of the Sesame Street gang follow in pursuit, but end up in Grouch prison.

Big Bird also appeared in a cameo in The Muppet Movie. As the titular characters headed west to Hollywood, they met Big Bird heading East, explaining he was heading to New York "To break into Public Television".

The Follow that Bird movie poster.
The film was the first movie featuring the Sesame Street characters.
Additionally, several Sesame Street characters appear in The Muppets take Manhattan during the wedding scene.

Brand licensing

Sesame Street is known for its extensive merchandising, which includes many books, magazines, video/audio media, and toys. A percentage of the money from any Sesame Workshop product goes to help fund Sesame Street or its international co-productions. Among the successes from the licensing program are Tickle Me Elmo, Random House books, Sesame Street Live stage shows, and Sesame Placemarker.

International co-productions

Shortly after Sesame Street debuted in the US, the CTW was approached independently by producers from several countries to produce versions of the show in their countries. Cooney remarked, "To be frank, I was really surprised, because we thought we were creating the quintessential American show. We thought the Muppets were quintessentially American, and it turns out they're the most international characters ever created". She hired former CBS executive Mike Dann, who left commercial television to become her assistant, as a CTW vice-president. One of Dann's tasks was to field offers to produce versions of Sesame Street in other countries. Dann's appointment resulted in television critic Marvin Kitman, referring to the May 1970 Mississippi state commission decision to ban the show, stating, "After he [Dann] sells [Sesame Street] in Russia and Czechoslovakia, he might try Mississippi, where it is considered too controversial for educational TV". By summer 1970, Dann had made the first international agreements for what CTW came to call "co-productions".

The earliest international versions were what CTW vice-president Charlotte Cole called "fairly simple", consisting of dubbed versions of the show with local language voice-overs and instructional cutaways. Dubbed versions of the show continued to be produced if the country's needs and resources warranted it. Eventually a flexible model, which came to be called "the CTW model", was developed for independently produced preschool television shows, based upon Sesame Street, created in other countries. By 2006, there were twenty co-productions. In 2001 there were over 120 million viewers of all international versions of Sesame Street, and by the show's 40th anniversary in 2009, they were seen in more than 140 countries. In 2005, Doreen Carvajal of The New York Times reported that income from the co-productions accounted for US$96 million. As Cole reported in 2001, "Children's Television Workshop (CTW) can be regarded as the single largest informal educator of young children in the world".

Funding



Funding for Sesame Street is derived from a variety of public, private, and corporate sources. Beaches Family Resorts, McDonald's, Earth's Best Organic, New Balance, American Greetings, and The Good Egg Project are considered "Sponsors" of the show, receiving ad-like spots before the program, when it is shown on PBS. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a Ready to Learn grant, and contributions to PBS stations are also credited. Local entities can fund the series regionally.

When in 1988 Sesame Street joined the PBS standard of acknowledging underwriting, consumer advocate Ralph Nader criticized the program. Nader accused Discovery Zone's sponsorship of the program as "exploiting impressionable children." Producers defended the spots by noting that they help keep the show on air, despite cuts to PBS funding, and are aimed at parents, not kids. Later sponsorships, like McDonald's, also received condemnation through Nader's Commercial Alert non-profit organization. Being aired on a public station like PBS, Sesame Workshop replied that it is adhering to strict guidelines, and that "sponsorship messages do not show product, announce promotions or contain any call to action."

Web site

Since 1998 Sesame Workshop has provided additional content on its website and others such as Random House. The content is targeted at parents and children ranging in age from birth to school-age, and includes information on dozens of topics, such as appropriate parenting techniques, dealing with children's fears, development of literacy, and maintenance of good health.

Sesame Street's Web site was one of the first to include educational materials, for both parents and children. "There are downloadable games plus number- and alphabet-coloring pages for the children. Their parents can consult references covering everything from how to comb their baby's hair to how to play with their 4-year-old." The Web site has been recommended by academic journals. It receives over 1 million visitors daily. On August 11, 2008, a new site debuted with new features such as videos and games.

Footnotes

  1. Truglio & Fisch, p. xvi
  2. Finch, p. 53
  3. Cooney, p. xi
  4. Gladwell, p. 89
  5. Palmer & Fisch, p. 3
  6. Lesser & Schneider, p. 27
  7. Davis, p. 143
  8. Davis, p. 156
  9. Borgenicht, p. 15
  10. Davis, p. 189
  11. See Davis, pp. 192-194 for a description of the first episode, which was sponsored by the letters W, S, and E and the numbers 2 and 3.
  12. Davis, p. 197
  13. Gladwell, p. 100
  14. Gladwell, p. 91
  15. Palmer & Fisch, p. 11
  16. They viewed the alphabet as a set of 36 letters: 21 consonants, five vowels, with the vowels repeating twice, which resulted in the vowels receiving triple the exposure as the consonants.
  17. O'Dell, p. 70
  18. O'Dell, p. 72
  19. Lesser & Schneider, p. 36
  20. Palmer & Fisch, pp. 12-13
  21. Fisch & Truglio, p. 241
  22. Palmer & Fisch, p. 17
  23. Palmer & Fisch, p. 8
  24. When 130 episodes were made each season, about 2,400 segments had to be produced.
  25. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 39
  26. Gladwell, p. 105
  27. Gladwell, p. 106
  28. Fisch & Bernstein, pp. 39–40
  29. Davis, p. 338
  30. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 45
  31. Clash, p. 75
  32. Clash, pp.46–47
  33. At first, the same segment was repeated daily for a week, but this practice was dropped at the end of the first season of "Elmo's World".
  34. Cooney, p. xi
  35. Palmer & Fisch, p. 9
  36. Palmer & Fisch, p. 14
  37. Borgenicht, p. 16
  38. Palmer & Fisch, p. 5
  39. Borgenicht, p. 9
  40. Davis, p. 118
  41. Gladwell, p. 101
  42. Palmer & Fisch, p. 4
  43. Gladwell, p. 102
  44. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 40
  45. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 48
  46. Palmer & Fisch, p. 15
  47. Gladwell, pp.102-103
  48. Gladwell, p. 103
  49. Fisch & Bernstein, pp. 48-49
  50. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 34
  51. Palmer & Fisch, p. 10
  52. Lesser & Schneider, p. 28
  53. See Lesser & Schneider, pp. 31-34 for a complete list of curriculum topics for seasons 1-30.
  54. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 52
  55. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 53
  56. Borgenicht, p. 145
  57. Davis, p. 255
  58. Davis, p. 162
  59. Davis, p. 159
  60. Davis, p. 160
  61. Davis, p. 161
  62. Bergenicht, p. 152
  63. Davis, p. 256
  64. Borgenicht, p. 147
  65. Whitburn, p. 788
  66. As one of the first women executives in American television, Cooney's appointment was called "one of the most important television developments of the decade". See Davis, p. 128-129
  67. Davis, p. 147
  68. Gladwell, p.99
  69. Borgenicht, p. 15
  70. Davis, p. 172
  71. Davis, p. 167
  72. See Davis, pp. 172-182
  73. Davis, pp. 226-237
  74. Davis, p. 277
  75. Karen Barss et al., " Enhancing Education: A Children's Producer's Guide: Sesame Street: Case Study", Corporation for Public Broadcasting (accessed June 29, 2005)
  76. Davis, p. 357
  77. Davis, p. 198
  78. Fisch & Truglio, p. xvi
  79. Borgenicht, p. 135
  80. Davis, p. 249
  81. Davis, p. 213
  82. Cole, p. 148
  83. Davis, p. 209
  84. Giklow, p. 252
  85. Cole, p. 147
  86. Giklow, p. 263
  87. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting did not fund the American production of Sesame Street from 1972–1991, or from 1998–2000.
  88. Sesame Workshop Parents
  89. Random House: Introduction to Sesame Beginnings
  90. , accessed through EBSCOhost.
  91. , accessed through EBSCOhost.
  92. Sesame Workshop: Sesame Street Season 37 Press Kit


Notes

  1. Truglio & Fisch, p. xvi
  2. Finch, p. 53
  3. Cooney, p. xi
  4. Gladwell, p. 89
  5. Palmer & Fisch, p. 3
  6. Lesser & Schneider, p. 27
  7. Davis, p. 143
  8. Davis, p. 156
  9. Borgenicht, p. 15
  10. Davis, p. 189
  11. See Davis, pp. 192-194 for a description of the first episode, which was sponsored by the letters W, S, and E and the numbers 2 and 3.
  12. Davis, p. 197
  13. Gladwell, p. 100
  14. Gladwell, p. 91
  15. Palmer & Fisch, p. 11
  16. They viewed the alphabet as a set of 36 letters: 21 consonants, five vowels, with the vowels repeating twice, which resulted in the vowels receiving triple the exposure as the consonants.
  17. O'Dell, p. 70
  18. O'Dell, p. 72
  19. Lesser & Schneider, p. 36
  20. Palmer & Fisch, pp. 12-13
  21. Fisch & Truglio, p. 241
  22. Palmer & Fisch, p. 17
  23. Palmer & Fisch, p. 8
  24. When 130 episodes were made each season, about 2,400 segments had to be produced.
  25. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 39
  26. Gladwell, p. 105
  27. Gladwell, p. 106
  28. Fisch & Bernstein, pp. 39–40
  29. Davis, p. 338
  30. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 45
  31. Clash, p. 75
  32. Clash, pp.46–47
  33. At first, the same segment was repeated daily for a week, but this practice was dropped at the end of the first season of "Elmo's World".
  34. Cooney, p. xi
  35. Palmer & Fisch, p. 9
  36. Palmer & Fisch, p. 14
  37. Borgenicht, p. 16
  38. Palmer & Fisch, p. 5
  39. Borgenicht, p. 9
  40. Davis, p. 118
  41. Gladwell, p. 101
  42. Palmer & Fisch, p. 4
  43. Gladwell, p. 102
  44. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 40
  45. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 48
  46. Palmer & Fisch, p. 15
  47. Gladwell, pp.102-103
  48. Gladwell, p. 103
  49. Fisch & Bernstein, pp. 48-49
  50. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 34
  51. Palmer & Fisch, p. 10
  52. Lesser & Schneider, p. 28
  53. See Lesser & Schneider, pp. 31-34 for a complete list of curriculum topics for seasons 1-30.
  54. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 52
  55. Fisch & Bernstein, p. 53
  56. Borgenicht, p. 145
  57. Davis, p. 255
  58. Davis, p. 162
  59. Davis, p. 159
  60. Davis, p. 160
  61. Davis, p. 161
  62. Bergenicht, p. 152
  63. Davis, p. 256
  64. Borgenicht, p. 147
  65. Whitburn, p. 788
  66. As one of the first women executives in American television, Cooney's appointment was called "one of the most important television developments of the decade". See Davis, p. 128-129
  67. Davis, p. 147
  68. Gladwell, p.99
  69. Borgenicht, p. 15
  70. Davis, p. 172
  71. Davis, p. 167
  72. See Davis, pp. 172-182
  73. Davis, pp. 226-237
  74. Davis, p. 277
  75. Karen Barss et al., " Enhancing Education: A Children's Producer's Guide: Sesame Street: Case Study", Corporation for Public Broadcasting (accessed June 29, 2005)
  76. Davis, p. 357
  77. Davis, p. 198
  78. Fisch & Truglio, p. xvi
  79. Borgenicht, p. 135
  80. Davis, p. 249
  81. Davis, p. 213
  82. Cole, p. 148
  83. Davis, p. 209
  84. Giklow, p. 252
  85. Cole, p. 147
  86. Giklow, p. 263
  87. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting did not fund the American production of Sesame Street from 1972–1991, or from 1998–2000.
  88. Sesame Workshop Parents
  89. Random House: Introduction to Sesame Beginnings
  90. , accessed through EBSCOhost.
  91. , accessed through EBSCOhost.
  92. Sesame Workshop: Sesame Street Season 37 Press Kit


References

  • Borgenicht, David (1998). Sesame Street Unpaved. New York: Hyperion Publishing. ISBN 0-7868-6460-5
  • Clash, Kevin and Gary Brozek & Louis Henry Mitchell (2006). My life as a furry red monster: What being Elmo has taught me about life, love and laughing out loud. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-7679-2375-8
  • Cole, Charlotte F., Beth A. Richman, and Susan A. McCann Brown (2001). "The world of Sesame Street research". In "G" is for growing: Thirty years of research on children and Sesame Street, Fisch, Shalom M. and Rosemarie T. Truglio, eds. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. ISBN 0-8058-3395-1
  • Cooney, Joan Ganz (2001). "Foreword". In "G" is for growing: Thirty years of research on children and Sesame Street, Fisch, Shalom M. and Rosemarie T. Truglio, eds. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. ISBN 0-8058-3395-1
  • Davis, Michael (2008). Street gang: The complete history of Sesame Street. New York: Viking Penguin. ISBN 978-0-670-01996-0
  • Finch, Christopher (1993). Jim Henson: The works: the art, the magic, the imagination. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-6794-1203
  • Fisch, Shalom M. and Lewis Bernstein (2001). "Formative research revealed: Methodological and process issues in formative research". In In "G" is for growing: Thirty years of research on children and Sesame Street, Fisch, Shalom M. and Rosemarie T. Truglio, eds. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. ISBN 0-8058-3395-1-4
  • Giklow, Louise A. (2009). Sesame Street: A celebration— Forty years of life on the street. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57912-638-4.
  • Gladwell, Malcolm (2000). The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference. New York: Little, Brown, and Company. ISBN 0-316-31696-2
  • Lesser, Gerald S. and Joel Schneider (2001). "Creation and evolution of the Sesame Street curriculum". In "G" is for growing: Thirty years of research on children and Sesame Street, Fisch, Shalom M. and Rosemarie T. Truglio, eds. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. ISBN 0-8058-3395-1
  • O'Dell, Cary (1997). Women pioneers in television: Biographies of fifteen industry leaders. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-7864-0167-2.
  • Palmer, Edward L. and Shalom M. Fisch (2001). "The beginnings of Sesame Street Research". In "G" is for growing: Thirty years of research on children and Sesame Street, Fisch, Shalom M. and Rosemarie T. Truglio, eds. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. ISBN 0-8058-3395-1
  • Truglio, Rosemarie T. and Shalom M. Fisch (2001). "Introduction". In "G" is for growing: Thirty years of research on children and Sesame Street, Fisch, Shalom M. and Rosemarie T. Truglio, eds. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers. ISBN 0-8058-3395-1
  • Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard book of top 40 hits, 8th edition. New York: Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7499-4


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