August 1, 2008

Sesame Street Is Brought To You By The Letters T and V

Feist can't help you now; there are way more than 1,2,3,4 celebrities stuffed into this trailer [sic] for the new season of Sesame Street. Which is nothing new. This 35th anniversary montage is full of celebrity cameos over the years. This extended mix of "Put down the duckie" features everybody who was anybody in 1988, never mind that half of them are now nobodies.

But seriously "30 Rocks"? "Preschool Musical"? Kim Cattrall vamping as Samantha? What's even the point of pretending the Street's educational or even beneficial if the season preview consists entirely of way-out-of-demo cultural references? Is it purely to an appeal to parents, to get them to plop the kid in front of the show? Or are kids actually supposed to benefit from this?

From Elmo's daily insistence on learning about whatever by watching "The Whatever Channel!" to the daily letter sponsors to the show's founding concept, as discussed by Kermit and Ralph the dog, to apply the persuasive, entertaining tools of advertising to child development, Sesame Street's most consistent lesson for kids is How To Watch TV.

Not that there's anything wrong wi--actually, yes, there is, and I find myself opposing a show I should be trusting. We're no hippies; we have a TV and we use it. And like anyone else raised on Sesame Street, I've got a strong, nostalgic connection to the show; and I'm predisposed to let the kid watch it over almost anything else, if & when she watches TV. But kids' TV is designed to sell stuff by creating emotional relationships that draw kids to a particular character's merchandise. And the current Sesame Street is no different. The most prominent muppet in the season preview was Abby Cadabby, the pink fairy answer to Dora and Elmo, which was created as a girl-oriented licensing concept first, then written into the show.


I'll say right out that since my own kid is only just one, I haven't watched Sesame Street in some time, pretty much since I was a kid (actually, I was already eight when it began but I watched it faithfully for years anyway. Then again, I played with Barbies till I was nearly sixteen...)

I know about Abby Cadabby and find the character repulsive. I wish Elmo wasn't on my kid's diapers. But from what I've seen through links here, I don't mind the grown-up pop culture references; it makes me think of the multi-layered Warner Bros. cartoons, or cartoons like Rocky & Bullwinkle, Tennessee Tuxedo, Underdog, etc. Ok, granted these aren't meant to educate (maybe Sherman & Peabody?) and are really in a different category, but they share something in common - both kids & adults can enjoy them, and isn't the idea that we're supposed to be watching tv with the kid? I know that doesn't always happen, but for when it does, I don't mind if the show has something I enjoy as well as something for the tiny tyke. In the interest of full-disclosure, my kid is now playing with the Sesame bath toys with which I played, so I may not be the best critic of character merchandise.

As for "Put Down the Duckie," any montage with Edith Prickly, Stan Shmenge, & Pee Wee is alright by me.

We're as character brand and merchandise adverse as the next hipster parents, so I can't argue with you there, Greg. And the kid mostly watches shows that don't have any merch. or breakfast cereals to sell me (i.e. Barbapapa, Oui Oui au Pays des Jouets, Oswald, Max & Ruby). But she does also love to watch Yo Gabba Gabba! and carries her officially licensed KidRobot "Foofa" doll around wherever she goes (sound familiar?). So we can't escape either.

Yeah, Yo Gabba Gabba is totally different--for another five seconds, when the Season Two/Holiday merchandise tsunami breaks on our heads.

Edutainment for the sake of both. Education and entertainment. We don't get mad at entertainment when it solicits us and the purist in us wants also to have education for the sake of education. Where do the two meet? Henson had a great idea in the muppets and their various offshoots. A child friendly package to the agenda of education. He was more human and less Disney industrial complex yes but he had the same end goal. Smiling, happy connected and educated children.

I find the connected part to be my biggest problem. Connected to what? Can High School Musical help you connect? Children who look to connect find anything around them. Even commercial crap from Disney. The value is the kid can relate to a stranger on the level of which guy is cuter and who is the worst girl.. etc.

I can't help but love anything in a children s television workshop outfit.

Is it just me, or are there more characters ever year that have trouble pronouncing the letter R? My kid better not develop a speech impediment *shakes fist at the tv*.

So now it's Preschool Musical and 30 Rocks. In our youth it was Monsterpiece Theatre with Alasdair Cookie!

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