Sweepin' the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet. Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?
Practice. Isn't that the punchline? Maybe that's Carnegie Hall, but it's somewhere in that corner of the mostly mythical United States of America. Next week, the home of Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and everyone's favorite ambiguous couple Ernie and Bert marks its forty-fifth anniversary. This makes it the longest running children's TV show in our country's history, mythical or not. A pretty amazing accomplishment. So why do I feel cheated?
It could be that I am skeptical of this cloud-swept, sweet-aired sunny spot located somewhere in the vicinity of New York City. The demographics are pretty close, but all this singing and smiling seems somehow oddly out of place in the Big Apple. Maybe it's in Brooklyn. It just never rang true, even though they do have a guy living in a trash can who hates most everything. I never felt I was getting a clear picture of life in the city that never sleeps.
Of course, this is probably because it was never intended to be a gritty, realistic portrait of life on the streets. It was created to teach us all the ABC's, and how to count to ten. I am bitter because in November of 1969, that job had already been done on me by somebody else. Ernie and Bert and Cookie Monster and Grover were instant reminders of where I had been only a few short years before. I was in the second grade. I didn't need puppets to tell me how to read and count. But these weren't just puppets. These were Muppets. I had been enamored with the fuzzy creations of Jim Henson since I first spied them on The Ed Sullivan Show. Now they had their own show, more or less, only I was excluded from their demographic. While The Count was busy doing his thing, and Grover was trying hard not to be scary, I was busy at school. My younger brother, three years younger, was the beneficiary of all this carefully researched and modulated TV curriculum. Lucky lad. My viewings of the Street called Sesame were restricted primarily to days when I was home sick from school. It was a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.
Now it's forty-five years later. PBS is proud to tell you that forty-nine percent of its viewers are over eighteen years old. Most of them know their letters and numbers. I do too, but when I'm flipping around the digital dial, every now and then I find myself in that happy place where I come to play and everything's A-OK. It's hard to stay mad at a bird that big.