By Phil Dzikiy
Perhaps, “Sesame Street” isn’t quite what it used to be. There are so many children’s programming options now — numerous channels are devoted to kid TV — that one show just can’t have the same kind of impact it once did.
I usually hate to wax nostalgic about how everything, or anything, was better then. It’s even worse coming from a 20-something. But with the 40th anniversary of “Sesame Street” now upon us, I can’t help but feel grateful to grow up during a time when “the Street” was the dominant force in children’s television.
It’s impossible to quantify how much of an effect “Sesame Street” had on my formative years, but there are many segments that stick with me to this day.
Some of the old “Sesame Street” songs are still stuck in my head. Like the animated segment, with a pinball going through a machine while singers belted out, “One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten-eleven-twelve!” Or the 12 ladybugs at the ladybugs’ picnic. Or “Somebody Come and Play.” Or Bert, “Doin’ the Pigeon.” Or “A New Way to Walk,” as sung by dancing pigs. Destiny’s Child remade that tune not long ago, but even Beyoncé couldn’t beat the Oinker Sisters.
And of course, my personal favorite, “There are chickens in the trees, there are chickens in the trees ... won’t you listen to me, please? There are chickens in the trees.” A fable about believing in something, maybe, but it was also grand nonsense.
Countless articles and studies have been published regarding “Sesame Street’s” educational and cultural influences, both of which are hard to overstate. Speaking from personal experience, the show also did a great job of instilling a love of music in children.
Not to mention the life lessons. Who could forget the moment when Big Bird finally introduced the one and only Mr. Aloysius Snuffleupagus to the adults? He was real all along. If you’re truly convinced of your convictions, stick with them, kids.
I don’t know if I attended a wedding before Maria and Luis tied the knot on “Sesame Street.” Who expects a kid’s show to introduce marriage?
“Sesame Street” is also perfect in the way it has tackled racial equality. Rather than constantly harping on those differences, most of the time, “Sesame Street” simply doesn’t talk about them. People of different races (and creatures of different kinds) get along, and that’s that. It’s part of their wonderful world.
The show even tried to explain death to kids. Not only did it succeed, but it could be argued that few shows — even adult shows — have tackled the subject so well.
Nevertheless, I’m still not over the death of Mr. Hooper. I wasn’t even 2 years old, and though I didn’t completely understand everything about death when Mr. Hooper left us, it stuck with me.
On the downside, a “Sesame Street” segment where kids were eating fruit stuck with me in a bad way. It was all over their faces and everything ... not pretty. But that’s life, isn’t it?
I’m not an authority on just how much “Sesame Street” has changed recently. It’s no surprise that I haven’t been watching in recent years, though I do know that Elmo certainly wasn’t anywhere near the star of the show when I was a young boy. I don’t know if the current setup is a good thing or a bad thing, but I’m guessing the latter.
But this I do know. My brother always says that the problem with kids today is that they’re not getting enough Muppets. I can’t argue with him. But as long as they know how to get to “Sesame Street,” they should be OK.
By Phil Dzikiy
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