Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunny Day...Sweepin the Clouds Away

Tomorrow is one day I will let H watch TV before preschool. The new season of Sesame Street premieres tomorrow. First Lady Michelle Obama will be featured in a segment promoting growing vegetables as part of the show's new two-year "curriculum" called "My World is Green and Growing." I had the opportunity this past Friday to meet puppeteers Carroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar) and Fran Brill (Zoe and Prairie Dawn) to discuss their history with Sesame Street and its past 40 years.

I remember from my childhood that there were a lot more new shows a year and they confirmed that the show had been cut from 110 shows a year to 26. Mr. Spinney revealed that the producers wanted to do 25, but then someone said, "which letter of the alphabet do you want to cut?" Hence the 26. I was surprised to hear that the show that basically taught my sister and me English after we moved to the US has also been hit by the downturn in the economy. I thought, if there is any show that should get public support, it's Sesame Street! Instead the show has been hit by layoffs and funding cuts along with the rest of America.

Talking with Ms. Brill really made me think about things I hadn't thought of before, like the disproportionate male/female ratio of monsters on the show. She also pointed out that the male monsters were free to do whatever they wanted, but they had to be extra careful with what the female monsters did because everything could create a backlash. Consider the example of Cookie Monster--it's ok for a male to be eating everything in site but if a female did that, people would say she had an eating disorder. I began to appreciate even more how much thought went into planning the show and the responsibility the puppeteers took on in creating their characters.

After my fellow LA mom bloggers and I wrapped up our discussions with the legendary puppeteers, it was time for H and R to meet Oscar and Zoe. H was so excited. He ran right up to Zoe and gave her a big hug. He showed her his best ballet moves. R was scared as usual. He preferred to hold onto the friendly PR representative for support. Finally he let me get a picture of him with Oscar. I don't think they made the connection between the puppets and the puppeteers so they're still safe in their magical world where little furry monsters are real.

We were lucky enough to be able to preview the new DVD Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days. They have been watching it nonstop since we got home. It can be credited with getting H to pee standing up (because I said he could watch more if he did that), a huge milestone after ten months of sitting down. Thank you Grover! This DVD set is awesome and may tie their all time favorite, the Sesame Street 25th Birthday Celebration. (That DVD's last segment with the African acapella troupe, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is the best rendition of Sing I have ever seen/heard. H could probably watch that over and over again for hours.)

I hope to see Mr. Carroll and Ms. Brill at a 50th anniversary Sesame Street event. It was truly special to meet people who have made such a positive impact on the world. These days there is just so much bad news, it's nice to know that there is a place where there are friendly neighbors and the air is sweet. Let's hope for many more sunny days.
Update 11-11: I watched the show this morning and guess what the letter of the day was---H! The segment with the First Lady was really funny because of her interchange with Big Bird. At one point, Big Bird says to her something like, "We could be in the same family." On Friday Mr. Carroll told us that he was a distant cousin to President Obama, so this was clearly an inside joke. Watching Big Bird and knowing there was a 75-year old man in there was pretty surreal.

The format of the show was a little different, every so often Murray would come out and say what was coming up. I'm not sure why they inserted that and took up time they could be using to focus on the letter and number of the day. The past seasons definitely spent more time on showcasing the letter and the number. Perhaps it was a special episode to commemorate the milestone. I'll definitely be paying attention to that in future shows. All in all a great show!

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