So... in the "we've been meaning to blog about this" category... Sesame Street turned 40 (!) on the tenth of this month. It was a pretty big deal and rightly so.
Now that's the Good news. There's Bad News, too. As with everything these days... and most especially "things" that appear on PBS and NPR... Sesame Street has become Politically Correct, and more's the pity. Proof:
Those early years are now available on DVD; and the discs contain a disclaimer that essentially states that they are intended for nostalgia purposes only. The warning reads as follows:
"These early 'Sesame Street' episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child."
Say what!? Never did I ever think I'd see "Sesame Street" and "intended for grown-ups" in the same sentence.
On the DVDs, Cookie Monster can be seen as his character of Alistair Cookie in his "Monsterpiece Theatre" segment (a spoof of Alistair Cooke's "Masterpiece Theatre") smoking a pipe.
Yep, Cookie Monster smoked.
He later eats the pipe because, as he was often prone to doing, he thinks the pipe is a cookie. Cookie Monster used to become so overwhelmed by his desire for cookies that he'd start seeing (hallucinating about?) cookies that weren't actually there. He'd eat (rotary) telephones, typewriters (what are those?), pencils, almost anything. It was funny.
Today, Cookie Monster's diet is much more balanced, as he has adopted the philosophy that cookies are a "sometimes food." Cookie coincidentally changed his tune in 2006 amidst reports that childhood obesity had reached epidemic proportions.
Early "Sesame Street" had some other elements that would not pass muster today. Oscar the Grouch is just plain nasty, children are seen riding their bikes without helmets, and there's even a sketch where the human character of Gordon can be seen approaching a little girl on the street. He takes her by the hand and brings her into his house for milk and cookies (again with the cookies!). Clearly, that could be misinterpreted by today's standards.
Now, some 4,000 episodes later, 123 Sesame Street has gotten that power washing. Peeling paint is nowhere to be found, and the only visible garbage can has a tenant. It's much more sanitized. I'm tempted to make fun of this, but then I notice the bottle of anti-bacterial hand gel on my desk and bite my proverbial tongue.
For better or worse, today's preschooler is very different from the 1969 version. And children's television programming simply has to reflect that.
Worse, I'd say. But CNN is right when they say early Sesame Street was as much for grown ups as it was for the kids. One of my favorite memories of SN1's and SN2's early childhood are the days when I would get off a mid shift, come home, go to bed and the three of us... SN1, SN2, me (and quite often The First Mrs. Pennington, as well)... would watch Sesame Street as I slowly drifted off to sleep. But sleep wouldn't come easy when the show was on... as The Count would crack me up and so would Oscar. Big Bird not so much. I always thought he was kinda cheesy. All that said: Congrats to Sesame Street and may you have 40 more years!
Time flies, eh? Which is a left-handed introduction to posting a gratuitous pic of the boys from around that time...
That would be SN1 (about five) on the left and SN2 (about three) on the right. SN1 pins on his major's leaves a week from today and SN2 will pin on the silver leaves of a squidly commander sometime in the coming year. Time does fly right by, indeed. Both boys have far exceeded their Ol' Man when it comes to military success, and that's (a) a good thing and (b) no big-ass surprise. I'm bettin' I had more fun, though.