Friday 14 August 2015

HBO Adopts Big Bird


One of these things is not like the other,

One of these things is not the same.

Can you tell which thing is not like the other,

Now its time to play our game.

I heard it announced on television this morning that HBO is the new home of Sesame Street.  I understand the financial side of the deal … “Sesame Workshop”, the non-profit organization behind the production of “Sesame Street” needs a cash infusion to remain functional and obviously it is not going to hurt HBO’s bottom line to have what is probably the most recognizable children’s television show in their lineup, but somehow, something about this does not sit right with me?

Okay, I am the first person to admit that I do not like change, but Sesame Street began in 1969 in response to a study that found although preschool children watched an average of 27 hours of television per week, programs available at the time were considered too violent or commercial; or too simplistic to hold their attention.  Many of the children’s programs were produced on a local level.

I remember a television show called “Romper Room” that was on a local television station when I was a youngster – it fit the typical style of children’s program’s at the time – a simple, one-camera-eye view of a “classroom” filled with children and a “teacher” reading from story books and showing pictures, followed by some simple activities and a guest appearance by Mr. DoBee (do bee a good girl, do bee a mommy’s helper, etc.)

Of course, the children were all impeccably dressed, attractive and well-behaved.  There was no Oscar the Grouch in that little group.

Then Joan Ganz Cooney walked into the arena of children’s programming pronouncing it “a wasteland”. 

In 2010 I enjoyed and reviewed a book called “Street Gang” by Michael Davis.  In his book he explains that Ms. Ganz, with her knowledge and research into developmental psychology, understood that changes in early childhood education could increase children’s success level when they enter the school system.  Unfortunately, children from low-income families did not have the resources to prepare them for school.

From this stemmed Sesame Street; a program that had a low-key set, short educational vignettes that would hold the child’s attention span, was super colorful and had a neighborhood setting and characters children could relate to without regard to race, economic level or family dynamic.


Ms. Ganz led a valiant fight to bring Sesame Street to fruition so on November 10th, 1969 the first episode of Sesame Street aired on public broadcasting.  Public broadcasting is available to a wide variety of households of various social and economic levels.  I know I do not include HBO in my cable package because of the extra expense, so will this leave a large number of children … those who would benefit the most from Sesame Street … without the program?  No.  Sesame will still air on PBS but with new episodes airing 9 months after they are shown on HBO.  Not a great tragedy, but is it necessary to make that distinction?

I like to think that my time investment of reading to my daughters, coloring with them and playing “learning games” helped them when they got to the scary world of kindergarten as well as helping them become adults who enjoy reading, but I fully admit that in a pinch – don’t judge – Sesame Street was an ideal, temporary babysitter.  I have to give Sesame Street it’s due in helping my girls “learn” before they entered the hallowed halls of formal education.

I certainly hope moving the show to HBO will not deprive a new generation of falling in love with the residents of “Sesame Street”.

And of course, in writing this blog post I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, despite the news being not yet 24 hours old, the memes and tweets have started to flow fast and furiously.


Ya' know what they do to rats on HBO

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