Retro: Sesame Street

“Me want cookie!”, “Me eat cookie!”, “Om nom nom nom” – the words of the eponymous Cookie Monster, and, for many of us, the soundtrack of our youth.

Sesame Street, with its gaudy colours, a variety of eccentric Muppets and abundance of singing and dancing, was a way of life. Some of its fantastic characters included the brilliant Elmo, the furry red monster who sounded like he was continually sucking helium out of balloons, Oscar the Grouch, the scary garbage monster, and (the alleged gay couple) Bert and Ernie.

Sesame Street was a pioneer of educational television, retaining our young minds’ attention whilst at the same time educating us. It does sound strange to think that Big Bird (what kind of bird was he?!) ever taught us anything but in 1966 the Carnegie Institute hired a television producer to discover how young children, particularly those from lowincome families, could prepare for school: Sesame Street was the result.

Amongst the dancing, singing and comedy were several twelve-to-ninety-second shorts that repeated key concepts throughout an episode. Producers had a set of teaching objectives in each episode that addressed preschool curriculums; and at the end of Sesame Street’s first season, the Education Testing Service estimated that the cognitive skills of its young viewers had risen by 62%.

Fourty-one years later, Sesame Street has won 118 Emmy awards, more than any other television series, and an estimated 77 million Americans have watched the series.

All in all, then, a lot more edifying than today’s Spongebob Squarepants and Teletubbies – there was always a home to go to on Sesame Street.