Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Very Happy 40th Birthday to Sesame Street

Forty years ago today, Sesame Street went live.

Around 16 years later, I was around to be their demographic.

By virtue of not knowing any other channels existed (I spent my weekend early mornings enthralled by the bass fishing I watched on tv), I was a PBS kid from the start.

And my absolute favorite program was Sesame Street. Well, that and the bass fishing.

I don't know how much Sesame Street affected me, because there was no click moment; there was no moment in my life when there wasn't Sesame Street. I'm not sure how much I really learned. I could never recite the alphabet backwards. The two-headed monster sketches did absolutely nothing for my pronunciation abilities. I never mastered double dutch. Letters and numbers I picked up along the way, but I'm pretty sure I would have learned to count at some point or another.

What Sesame Street did give me, though, was a path to another world; in the early years, Sesame Street was actually gritty. It still seemed gritty through the '80s. It seemed real, like there were real people and real monsters and real giant birds living side by side on this street with a roving frog reporter. And because it seemed real, the things the show discussed and the way the show discussed them were real. It gave me characters I adored, from Big Bird to Grover, to Oscar to Telly Monster. It gave me Luis and Maria. It gave me Linda and Barkley. It gave me Bob.

I've read numerous books about Sesame Street. I've learned about the effort that went into making the show, the reasons for the different characters, the growing pains, and everything else. But what stands out is how Sesame Street was a show that understood kids, didn't talk down to kids, and then gave a little something for the grown-ups as well.

And so, as my own little gimmick suggests, I'm inordinately fond of Sesame Street. I'm glad it has made it to year 40, and I hope it has another couple of decades left.

Also, check out the Sunday Sweets: Sesame Street. Those cakes are the awesome.