Subversive Charm of Classic Sesame Street

Jim Henson was a towering pillar of American popular culture and the pinnacle of his output was Sesame Street. After his death in 1990 the show slowly became less and less alive. After the show debuted in 1969 it had 21 years with him and has since had 27 years without. And the division between the two periods is clear. The franchise now makes more money than ever before but in doing so it's been reduced to a slick overly moderated safe space. It's what can happen to the band when the lead singer/songwriter dies. The classic muppet monsters on the show were interesting because they tended to have the same kind of big problems and character flaws that one might associate with grown adult humans. Snuffy was sort of depressed. Oscar was very angry all the time. Tele had crippling nervousness. Ernie bullied Bert all day but because he was so funny he got away with it. Big Bird was an orphan relying on the kindness of strangers. Grover was a pathetic lunatic. Count von Count was this sort of eccentric European freak. And Cookie Monster had an eating disorder, obviously. All of these classic characters are still on the program but they've been adjusted downwards, the edges have been polished away. It probably began with the massive success of Elmo. He joined the show before Jim Henson's death and afterwards went on to produce millions and millions of dollars in merchandising revenue for the production company. The newer characters such as Abby Cadabby, Zoe, and Rosita are really just newer variations of Elmo. They're all highly functional wunderkinds designed to charm the viewer rather then inspire pathos. The classic version of the show was so revolutionary that it took almost 30 years for other children's programs to catch up. But at some point during the later half of the now nearly 4,500 episodes Sesame Street began to feel a lot like all the other things made for kids on TV. And it was not just that the new programs caught up, Sesame Street also slowed down. With Jim Henson gone the characters stopped sprinting and began jogging, losing much of the humour. The undeniably reality is that Sesame Street used to be every kid's favourite show but today it's just another one of the things that parents use to babysit their offspring.