Sesame Street: not suitable for children
Monday November 26, 2007
Thrillingly, the early episodes of Sesame Street have just been released on DVD, but be warned - those shows are dangerous! Slapped across the front of the case is the message, "These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child."
And looking at the wobbly sets and be-stringed puppets, they probably are better suited to sentimental adults than kids raised on Pixar. But this sticker is an expression of concern.
It's not the psychedelic nature of the programme in its 70s incarnation that worries, but the behaviour it might encourage. Children dancing in the street! Grown men reading storybooks to kids - for no apparent reason!
is the number one problem, not because he is a monster, but because he eats cookies (encourages obesity), and when his addiction takes a special stranglehold, the plate (might hurt). His alter ego, Alistair Cookie, used to smoke a pipe before eating it, which, Sesame Street producer Carol-Lynn Parente explained to the New York Times, "modelled the wrong behaviour", and so Alistair was, tragically, dropped, and he now probably munches down on pipes in bitterness in illegal pipe dens.
The clearly depressed Oscar the Grouch
is another problem: "We might not be able to create a character like Oscar today," said Parente, which is possibly one of the most depressing sentences I have read in my life.
For those of us reared on Sesame Street, the degree to which the show is embedded in our psyche is hard to overstate. My favourite segment was the 1979 one when the Muppet band the Beetles, suitably mop-topped, if a little fuzzier of face than the originals, sang their poignant ballad Letter B (sample lyric: "When I find I can't remember/What comes after A and before C/ My mother always whispers, 'Letter B'," and yes, I am quoting from memory). But 30 years on, the perils here are overwhelming: their hair is in their eyes! They're playing electrical instruments! And, my God, one is playing the drums without any protective clothing! Frankly, it's astonishing I managed to grow up unscathed.