Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sesame Street is an American educational television program for young children, which led the way for many of the current standard of combining education and entertainment in the shows. It is known for the inclusion of Muppet characters created by the legendary puppeteer Jim Henson. About 4,100 episodes of the show have been produced in 36 seasons, making it one of the longest-running shows in television history. Because of its worldwide reach, with the show shown in over 120 countries, many with adapted regional versions, Sesame Street is considered the world's largest educator.
Sesame Street is produced by Sesame Workshop, formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop or CTW.
Produced in the United States, Sesame Street has millions of viewers worldwide. It premiered on November 10, 1969 on the National Educational Television network, and later that year moved to NET's successor, the Public Broadcasting Service. Sesame Street has received more Emmy Awards than any other program.
The program uses a mixture of puppets, animation, and live action to teach young children basic reading, arithmetic, colors, letters, numbers, and days of the week. It also has segments focusing on basic life-skills, e.g., how to cross the road safely, the importance of basic hygiene, and so on. Many of the skits and other 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 "Monsterpiece Theater."
Several of the characters on the program are aimed at an older audience, such as the character Flo Bear (Flaubert); Sherlock Hemlock (Sherlock Holmes parody); and H. Ross Parrot (based on Reform Party founder Ross Perot). Hundreds of actual celebrities, from James Brown to Kofi Annan, have made guest appearances on the show. The purpose of sophisticated humor is to encourage parents to watch with their children. By making the show not only something that educates and entertains kids, but keeps adults entertained, the producers hope that more discussion about the concepts on the show will occur.
History of the Show
- Main article: History of Sesame Street
The original format of the show called for the humans to be shown in plots on the street, intermixed with the segments of animation, live action shorts and Muppets. These segments were created to be like commercials: quick, catchy and memorable. This format would make the learning seem fun, and were the stepping stones in creating the now common edutainment-based program.
To make sure that this revolutionary new format was going to work, CTW aired the program for test groups. The test watchers were entranced when the ad-like segments, especially those with the jovial puppets, but were then seriously uninterested by 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 this mixing of fantasy and reality elements. A simple dose of cartoon-like characters let the humans deliver messages to watchers without such viewer dismay.
Sesame Street, along with several other Sesame Workshop produced shows (including The Electric Company) are all taped in New York City. Originally, they were taped at the Teletape Studios at 81st and Broadway in Manhattan until Teletape's parent company Reeves Entertainment went bankrupt. The show was then moved to and remains to this day at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in neighboring Queens.
- Main article: Major characters in international versions
The show is broadcast worldwide; in addition to the U.S. version, many countries have locally-produced versions adapted to local needs, some with their own characters, and in a variety of different languages. Broadcasts in Australia began in 1971. In Canada, 15-minute segments called Canada's Sesame Street were broadcast starting in 1970, and by 1972 a re-edited version of the one-hour American program was airing featuring specially-filmed Canadian segments. In 1995, the American version was replaced by a half-hour, all-Canadian version of the series entitled Sesame Park, which never caught on; it was cancelled in 2002. One hundred and twenty countries have aired the show, many partnering with Sesame Workshop to create local versions.
In recent years, Sesame Street has made monumental advances in their international versions. In the late-1990s, versions popped up in China and Russia, as the countries shifted away from communism. There is also a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian project, called Sesame Stories, created with the goal of cultural understanding.
As a result of creating a revolution in children's television standards, Sesame Street has helped contract its own audience share. According to PBS Research , the show has gone from a 2.0 average on Nielsen Media Research's "people meters" in 1995-96 to a 1.3 average in 2000-01. Even with this decrease, Sesame Street's viewership on an average week comes from roughly 5.6 million households with 7.5 million viewers.
This places Sesame at 8th place in the overall kids' charts, as of 2002. It is actually the second-most-watched children's television series for mothers aged 18-49 with children under 3.
A format change has recently helped the show's ratings, boosting them up 31% in February 2002 among children aged 2 to 5, in comparison to last year's ratings.
Regional variations of the show
Some countries have actually created their own, completely unique versions of Sesame Street, which characters and segments represent their own cultures. Other countries simply air a dubbed version of Sesame Street, or a dubbed version of Open Sesame. The UK, like many other countries, simply broadcasts the American show.
Locally produced adaptations of Sesame Street, include:
- 1972: Vila SÚsamo, Brazil
- 1972: Plaza SÚsamo, Mexico
- 1973: Sesamstra▀e, Germany
- 1973: Sesame Park, Canada
- 1976: Sesamstraat, Netherlands
- 1978: 1, rue Sesame, France
- 1979: Iftah Ya Simsim, Kuwait
- 1979: Barrio SÚsamo, Spain
- 1981: Svenska Sesam, Sweden
- 1983: Rechov Sumsum, Israel
- 1984: Sesame! (Batibot), Philippines
- 1989: Susam Sokagi, Turkey
- 1989: Rua SÚsamo , 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
- Main article: List of Sesame Street characters
Sesame Street has a strong multicultural element and is inclusive in its casting, incorporating roles for disabled people, young people, senior citizens, Hispanic actors, black actors, and others. While some of the puppets look like people, others are animal or "monster" puppets of different sizes and colors. It encourages children to believe that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and that no one physical 'type' is any better than another.
One major aspect of this "multicultural element" is that the show pioneered the idea of occasionally inserting very basic Spanish words and phrases to give young children a "feel" for a foreign language, doing so almost three decades before Dora the Explorer debuted on Nickelodeon. Perhaps in response to the popularity of Dora, the recently revamped format gives Rosita, the bi-lingual muppet who "immigrated" in 1993 from the Mexican version of the show, more screen time; and also introduced the more formalized "Spanish Word of the Day" in every episode.
Each of the puppet characters have been designed to represent a specific stage or element of early childhood, and the scripts are written so that these characters reflect the developmental age level of a child that age. This helps the show address not only the learning objectives of different age levels, but also the concerns, fears, and interests of children of different age levels.
- Big Bird
- Ernie and Bert
- Monsters: Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover, Telly Monster, Zoe, Herry Monster
- Oscar the Grouch
- Count von Count ("The Count")
- Mr. Snuffleupagus
- The Bear family: Baby Bear, Curly Bear, Papa Bear, Mama Bear
- Rosita, la Monstrua de las Cuevas
- Kermit the Frog
- Monster's Clubhouse: Googel, Narf, Mel and Phoebe
- Two-Headed Monster
- The Furry Arms: Propietors Natasha, Humphrey and Ingrid , bell-hop Benny Rabbit
- Forgetful Jones , Buster the Horse , Rodeo Rosie
- The Big Bad Wolf
- Prairie Dawn
- Guy Smiley
- Sully & Biff
- The Robinsons: Susan , Gordon, and son Miles ; also Gordon's sister Olivia , and father Mr. Robinson
- The Rodriguezes: Maria, Luis, and daughter Gabby
- Hooper's Store operators: Mr. Hooper, David, Mr. Handford , Alan, Natalie
- The Noodles: Mr. Noodle and Mr. Noodle's Brother, Mr. Noodle and Mr. Noodle's Sister, Miss Noodle
- Around the Corner: Ruthie , ballet teacher Celina
Famous guest stars and various children from New York schools and day care centers are a constantly changing part of the cast. Minor puppets also have come and gone over the years.
Some educators criticised the show when it debuted, feeling that it would only worsen children's attention spans. This concern still exists today, although there is no conclusive proof of this being the case, even after more than 35 seasons of the show airing.
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, the programme-makers vehemently deny this, however, insisting that the characters are asexual puppets . The pair's relationship bears similiarity with that of Laurel and Hardy, who were also occasionally shown sleeping together; this became such a comedy staple as to be adopted by Morecambe and Wise in the 1970s, all of whom were similarly asexual. The Odd Couple is another contemporary comparision.
In 2002, Sesame Workshop announced that a HIV-positive character would be introduced to Takalani Sesame, the South African version of the show. Many conservatives and religious groups wrongly presumed that the American version would be getting a "gay Muppet", but the HIV-positive character is only present on this international version of the show.
Sesame Street is known for its merchandising, including many books, magazines, video and audio media, toys, and the "Tickle Me Elmo" craze.
Its fiction books, published primarily by Random House, always carry notice that money from the publications goes to fund Sesame Workshop, and often mention how kids don't have to watch the show to benefit from the books.
There are also a live touring show, Sesame Street Live, which has toured since 1980. There is a Sesame Street theme park in Langhorne, Pennsylvania near Philadelphia (USA), Sesame Place, and there was a Plaza SÚsamo themed park in Mexico. Also, there is a three-dimensional movie of the show at Universal Studios Japan .
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 (1978)
- A Special Sesame Street Christmas (1978)
- Big Bird in China (1983)
- The Adventures of Super Grover (1987)
- Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street (1987)
- Big Bird in Japan (1988)
- Sesame Street Special (1988, released to DVD as Put Down The Duckie)
- Big Bird's Birthday Celebration (1991)
- Sesame Street Stays Up Late! (1993)
- CinderElmo (1999)
- The Street We Live On (2004)
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 issued on tape and/or DVD.
- Sesame Street - Learning About Letters (1990, DVD on June 8, 2004)
- (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 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)
- 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 portmanteaux of Sesame Street has been made.
Direct and indirect parodies:
- Avenue Q, a Broadway musical that mirror various elements of the show.
- Bert is Evil, a parody website that gained world-wide attention when a picture from the site was used by an Afghani rebel.
- List of Sesame Street animators
- Bibliography of fictional works based on the show
- Sesame Street discography
- List of Sesame Street puppeteers
Lists relating to characters:
- List of Sesame Street characters
- Characters, exclusively in books, movies
- Characters ordered by date of debut
- Characters ordered by last known appearance
- By type: Grouch characters, Monster characters, Celebrities guests
- Characters from international versions
- 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
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