This past year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Sesame Street‘s 20th anniversary. And what better way to celebrate a 20th anniversary than with the traditional gift of fine china? But since we don’t have any china laying around, we’ll have to settle for a classic Sesame special on DVD for the very first time.
Yep, Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting, Sesame‘s 20th anniversary special, was released on DVD this week. So head on out to your local Woolworths and pick up a disc or two!
We’re gonna go ahead and skip writing our review since we already reviewed it a few months ago. So in lieu of that, we’d like to present to you our list of 20 Things I Learned from 20 and Still Counting!
1. Jim Henson and Bill Cosby share the same taste in sweaters
Hey man, it was the 80s. People did crazy stuff back then! Crazy stuff that looks sensible with a pair of loafers.
2. Even frogs who are ON Sesame Street need to know how to get to Sesame Street
That’s Kermit’s big question of the day, which he asks to passers-by on the street. Of course, he starts his fact-finding mission by asking Bill Cosby while standing right in front of Hooper’s Store, leaving me to wonder how anyone gets anywhere in that neighborhood.
3. Sesame Street in 1989 was freaking awesome
I was seven years old in 1989, which means that this is the Sesame Street I remember best. I was young enough to still get a thrill from watching the show every day, and old enough to have the ability to hang on to the memories I didn’t lose while sniffing all that glue. I guess everyone thinks that the Sesame of their own youth was the best era. But you’d be wrong, because it’s this one here.
4. Big Bird used to be in the middle of everything
Before the Elmofication of Sesame Street, Big Bird was the unimpeachable king of the mountain. The special even gives him a whole montage all to himself. Bert and Ernie don’t get that. Or Cookie Monster. Or Kermit. Or even Luis. And while I’ve come to terms with Big taking a back seat to the Red Menace, it’s nice to be reminded that he used to be our ever-present collective best friend.
5. Bert and Ernie appreciate a good meta reference
A sub-plot in this special (assuming there’s a plot at all) involves Bert and Ernie filming a documentary about Sesame Street. But Bert asks, “Who wants to see Sesame Street on TV?” Pause for dramatic irony.
6. Susan can predict the future
Bob McGrath, Roscoe Orman, and Loretta Long spend their portion of the special enjoying a cuppa coffee at Hooper’s Store, reminiscing about their many years on the Street. When Bob recalls the great 20 years they’ve had, Loretta replies, I’m up for 20 more, how about you guys?” And twenty years later, she’s probably ready for 40 more. That is, unless someone mistakes her predictions for witchcraft and they attempt to burn her at the stake. Yikes, I hope I’m not psychic too!
7. Bill Cosby loves to make the face
He loves makin’ that face! Ruuudy!
8. Kids who were on Sesame Street grow up to be hotties
Some of the kids from way back when surprise us with all-grown-up appearances, including Fannie and Shola and John-John. Fannie and Shola are now (or, then) brainy college students, and John-John is a soldier in the U.S. Air Force. All three were cute kids, and that cuteness eventually turned into hotness. Rawr!
9. Herry Monster, on the other hand, did not
Herry must’ve been left underneath a box in the back of someone?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s closet. Dude’s lookin’ a little flat 20 years later.
10. Somehow NBC got away with only 4 commercial breaks in an hour
Even though there aren’t any commercials on a DVD, we’re still treated to the number by The Count, who’s been counting ads since the beginning of the special. You’d never see an hour-long special with so few breaks on this side of PBS nowadays.
11. People who watched Sesame as kids aren’t necessarily too bright
Here are a few quotes from the Sesame Street graduates that were interviewed for this special:
“Sesame Street was instrumental in me becoming a celebrity in kindergarten because I could say the alphabet backwards.”
“My two favorite characters were Bert and Ernie. I liked them the most because they shared everything and they teach youngsters how to share and not fight. I mean, well, they did have fights with each other.”
“I came over from the Dominican Republic when I was two months old, and I didn’t really know any English.”
“I always wanted to be tall when I grew up… I would always tell my friends, one day I’m going to be as tall as Big Bird, and you guys better watch out!”
Maybe they should’ve watched the show a little bit longer.
12. Big Bird looks great for his age
Bill Cosby attempts to solve the mystery of the Richard Alpert-like bird who never ages. Bill asks him how he managed to stay 6 for the last 20 years. Big Bird’s reply: “Just lucky, I guess!” My guess is that he’s got some Fountain of Youth water hidden inside Radar.
13. “Sesame Street keeps up with the times” isn’t so accurate
Dr. Cosby explains the idea that Sesame Street works because it caters to adults as well as their kids. And they do this by “keeping up with the times.” But the examples they use are anything but current. For example, “Monsterpiece Theater” is a parody of a show that premiered in 1971. “Squeal of Fortune’s” namesake has been around since 1975. “Honk Around the Clock” is based on a song from 1954. Come on, Sesame Street, get with the times!
14. Even after 20 years, they’re still trying to sell the show
It seems like Bill Cosby is trying pretty hard to convince the viewers that Sesame Street is worth watching. He stresses the educational content, the varied curriculum, the racial diversity, the presence of the disabled, and the show’s effect around the world. Seems to me that any show that’s been around for 20 years shouldn’t need to try so hard to convince people that it’s a good thing.
15. Sesame creators have lofty dreams
We all know the story of how Jim Henson created Fraggle Rock as a method to create world peace. But almost the exact same words came out of Joan Ganz Cooney’s mouth when she explained her dream of harboring peace in the Middle East through the Arab version of Sesame Street. It’s nice to have goals, but it must be nicer to try and achieve those goals via your puppet show.
16. No Sesame Street special is complete without reminding us that Mr. Hooper is dead
In 1983, Mr. Hooper shuffled off his mortal coil. And every year since then, we’ve been reminded of his sacrifice through every documentary, news article, retrospective, and coffee table book. We were talking about it 20 years ago, and we’re still talking about it today.
17. Kermit can be retroactively demoted to “guest star”
In 1989, Kermit the Frog was still kicking about the Street in a pretty regular fashion. Cut to 20 years later, and the Frog has been traded around to a few different companies, finally ending up in the arms of Mickey Mouse. And since special permission was needed to secure Kermit’s likeness for this DVD, he’s given second billing to Bill Cosby as a “guest star”. Oh how the mighty have fallen!
18. This special was a great way to kick off The Jim Henson Hour
The special begins with Jim Henson and Kermit chillin’ in an empty studio and introducing the Thing You’re About to Watch. But what you won’t know after watching your brand new DVD is that they ended the special too, with a special message letting you know to tune in to the Muppets’ brand new show, The Jim Henson Hour, premiering next week. I’m hoping that exactly one week after viewing this DVD, Jim Henson Hour DVDs will magically show up at my doorstep.
19. Placido Domingo was proud to be imitated by a goofy-looking bird
For a guy like Domingo, you’d think he might not be quite so excited to appear on a kiddie show and sing with a talking flamingo. I mean, the guy was one third of the most famous operatic trio in recent musical history! But he still put on his finest Cosby sweater and belted out a tune with the other Placido like the champ he is.
20. The more things change, the more they stay the same
I think we’d all agree that Sesame Street is possibly the finest televised institution in the history of the medium. And looking back a couple decades, we can clearly see all of the elements that we loved when we were young. And comparing it to today’s Street, we see that many of them are still there. It’s still our home away from home, where our childhood friends live, and it will remain so after 20 more years. And 20 after that.
Remember to buy your copy of Sesame Street: 20 Years and Still Counting, in stores now!
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com