Taking a stand on Sesame Street

I’ve written before about my love for the original, unadulterated Sesame Street of my childhood, and how Simon and I have spent hours enjoying the old clips – first on YouTube and then on our Sesame Street Old School DVD collection. I’ve even added the latest collection (Old School: 1974 to 1979) to my Christmas wish list. Not Simon’s wish list, mind you. Mine.

What I didn’t notice was that apparently somewhere on the DVD collections there is a disclaimer that states: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”


I mean, you only have to watch some of those old episodes to see how they are fundamentally different – and, IMHO, far richer – than what’s available on PBS today. But not suitable for a preschool child? What, because of the psychedelic colours, the folky music, the blissful naivety, the 1970s peace-and-love groove? Granted, it’s a little disturbing that Oscar the Grouch starts out as orange and Big Bird has obviously had recent exposure to a malicious barber in the very first season, but in general I find the oldest episodes are by far the most engaging, intelligent and entertaining of the lot.

And what’s not to love about the old episodes? I pine for the days when the Count’s counting ended in thunder and lightning, not confetti, and when Snuffleupagus could only be seen by Big Bird. You might argue that preschoolers like the predictability of routine, but did they have to make the show so painfully formulaic? And really, can anyone explain what on earth is the appeal of Journey to Ernie, let alone the pedantic and overwrought Elmo’s World, and why they are given so much air time every. single. episode? I miss the old days when they’d mix it up a little, and you never knew if the next clip would be Kermit the Frog reporting live on scene, or a flashy clip of Hindu-inspired animation, or Maria and Bob and Gordon bursting into song on the stoop. (Oh, how I wanted a stoop when I was a kid.)

Yeah, I know, I’m just a bitter old curmudgeon pining nostalgically for my youth. But I can guarantee you that Simon would much rather sing “C is for Cookie” than “A Cookie is a Sometimes Food” and that my preschoolers will always be encouraged to watch the earliest episodes of Sesame Street.

Some things are just better old school, yanno?

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

18 thoughts on “Taking a stand on Sesame Street”

  1. You don’t suppose that you might need to discuss part of an episode with your kids to understand it, do you? I bet that’s why they’re not for preschooler. Who wants to talk to their kids, anyway? Mindless pap is so much easier. Bring on the Disney princesses (with apologies to Disney princesses fans).

    I’ve been casting about for a present for me, I’ll add this.

  2. Sing it, sister!! I totally agree: there’s no school like the old school. And on a silly sidenote, my apartment at Metcalfe & Frank had the coolest stoop. Until people started calling the cops, we gathered there for stoop parties before heading to Elgin St, and — yes — we often broke into Sesame Street antics. There was a lot of “yip-yips” à la the aliens making First Contact with the telephone. Good times.

  3. I totally agree! My husband and I had this discussion a while back… how the original was just soooo funny… with lots of adult humour too! And when we heard “A Cookie is a sometimes food” we were very depressed!

  4. Here Here! Totally agree with you. I loved the show the way it was. Nathan has not seen the recent ones. I just refuse to let hime see this. And I think he would have been bored by it anyways. I bet Jim Henson is rollign in his grave over this.

  5. Dani, FYI, (you probably already know but anyway) on Treehouse, on Play With Me Sesame, they have lots of old clips of the original Sesame Street thrown in there!

  6. I completely agree. It is also really disturbing to me that I can not find any Bugs Bunny cartoons on TV. They just don’t run them anymore. So sad. We are living in such a PC world that even Bugs Bunny is seen as too risky. Where have people’s sense of humor gone?

  7. I’ve ranted similarly in the past.

    What I remember reading somewhere is that as people got more and more fixated on academizing preschool, and as they started having younger and younger kids watch Street, the target audience for Street has gotten younger and younger. Where once it was a pre-kindergarten show, featuring Grover (a typical 4-ish year old), it is now a toddler and early preschoolers, featuring Elmo (a VERY young 3yo).

  8. I’m with you on this one. The only difference between prechoolers today vs those of days gone by is how neurotic society around them has become.

    I never see enough of the Yip Yips. You know, those martian guys? I miss them.

  9. Old school Sesame Street is definitely the best! Play With me Sesame and Elmo’s World just about drive me nuts. The franchise has lost it’s magic I think.

    And Kathryn, they do show Bugs Bunny cartoons on Teletoon Retro. They used to on regular Teletoon as well, I’m not sure if they still do since launching Teletoon Retro. Retro has all the old cartoons, Tom and Jerry, Rocket Robin Hood, The Super Friends and the Jetsons (and more). My five year old and I just watched Bugs and the crew tonight before bed.

  10. I love the retro cartoons. Sesame Street, Electric Company, Bugs Bunny. We all seemed to turn out alright after watching them. J won’t even watch the new ones, he finds them boring.

  11. you’re preaching to the choir there danigirl. our house is a happy house when the four of us are crowded around the computer with hubby and I calling up old favourites on YouTube. Grace especially loves the trippy “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-tweeeellllllvvvveeee! pinball cartoon!
    i don’t think the girls have watched the more modern ses. street…..

  12. Ummm – so if they’re not suitable for preschoolers today, are we to assume that they weren’t suitable for us when we were preschoolers watching? Sure my parents had to explain death when Mr. Hooper died, but that was probably the most controversial of all the subjects I encountered back then.

    I will be keeping an eye out for the old school when I have babies…

  13. MM found the new Sesame Street boring. I got him a couple of the anniversary cds a few years ago and he liked those much better.

  14. There was an article about all this in the NYT last week. Did you see it. It came flying through on my child lit listserv but my reference shift ended before I could get to it.

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