(With apologies to Sgt. Pepper):
It was 39 years ago today that Big Bird asked us to come and play . . .
On November 10, 1969, Sesame Street made its debut and changed the face of children's television and education itself. Generations of children have since grown up learning the alphabet , numbers , manners , and picking out the freaks in a crowd with the help of a happy band of furry, fuzzy Muppets. We've laughed along with the sneaky antics of Ernie, craved cookies along with Cookie Monster, and felt the power of unconditional love and friendship courtesy of Big Bird.
The initial goal of Sesame Street was to provide educational opportunities to inner city children who didn't have access to the sorts of opportunities that middle and upper class suburban children enjoyed. Sesame Street, while a friendly neighborhood, was clearly a bit "ghetto," giving inner city kids something with which they could relate more so than the cozy cottage where Mr. Rodgers lived. In addition, those children could see faces that looked like them. Sesame Street was populated with black, Hispanic, Native American, and white kids -- a rarity for television in 1969.
The show clearly exceeded its own goals, not only reaching its intended inner city kids but pretty much every kid in America. Within a few years, the Sesame Street characters were a dominant force in children's television. Brilliant marketing took the characters from our television sets and into our homes whether via books, Colorforms, dolls, Speak-n-Says, disco albums, and more. The characters went on tour. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Cookie Monster live at Six Flags in the summer of 1976, and let me just say that you have not experienced the magic of "C is for Cookie" until you've seen it live! Of course, that excitement was nothing compared to what I experienced two years later when I saw the crew live . . .and on ice!
I've often thought that a lot can be revealed about a person by his/her choice of favorite Sesame Street characters. Cookie Monster fans clearly suffer from eating disorders. Big Bird fans are kindhearted but perhaps a bit naive. Ernie fans are mischevious. Fans of the Count have OCD. Those who prefer Grover are perhaps more imaginative and creative. And those who love Oscar, while a bit misanthropic, are intelligent and fiercely independent.
Of course, I am an Oscar fan. That grouch cracks my shit up!
So today, fellow Gen-X'ers and Y'ers and Millenials, take a moment to remember those kindly Muppets who taught us about the alphabet and how to count and, yes, how to recognize the freaks. Sure, we have crappy attention spans, but at least we can count!