So what’s all this I keep hearing about “going green?” People are going on and on about how recycling is good and carbon footprints are bad… or is it the other way around? Are my feet made of carbon? I don’t understand. You know what I need? I need somebody to explain the “green” movement to me as if I were three years old.
Well, I’m in luck, because there’s a new Sesame Street DVD out now called Being Green, which is all about saving our planet and crap like that. I couldn’t wait to find out about environmentalism, so I drove my Hummer to the video store, left it idling while I ran in to buy the DVD, then drove home and turned on all the lights in the house while I watched it.
With so few episodes of Sesame Street produced these days, these direct-to-video specials are like extra bonus episodes, and this one isn’t about to waste any of its running time… There are no opening credits, just the title, and then boom!, we’re on Sesame Street, where Elmo and Abby Cadabby are playing Hide and Seek.
Hey, remember when Zoe was Elmo’s best friend? Lately it sure looks like he’s ditched her for Abby. Man, Elmo’s so fickle. Or maybe Zoe was playing Hide and Seek with them, and she was so good at hiding that they never found her.
Anyway, the game is soon interrupted by a guy wearing a big, puffy globe. Why, it’s comic actor Paul Rudd, in the role of Mr. Earth! And he’s hosting the Earth-a-thon, a TV show that’s happening right here on Sesame Street!
So here are two things I like about this special: 1) They never try to pass Rudd off as being the actual planet Earth, or even the Spirit of the Earth or something silly like that. He comes right out and admits he’s “an actor in a ridiculously awkward Earth costume,” and it allows him some room to be loose and irreverent. 2) Every time anyone mentions the Earth-a-thon, they have to sing it, like this: “THE Earth-a-THOOOOON!” I highly recommend you do the same while reading this.
Elmo’s all like, “What the heck is an Earth-a-thon?” and Rudd explains that they’re taking calls from all over from people who want to help the Earth. Then he has to explain to Elmo and Abby what the Earth is. Man, those kids are stupid.
Of course, a telethon needs volunteers to answer the phone, and fortunately for us, three familiar monsters are standing by: Telly, Rosita, and Cookie Monster. One has to wonder: Who thought it would be a good idea to trust Cookie Monster with this job? I don’t think it’s an enormous spoiler to say that before the end of this DVD, the telephone will find its way inside Cookie’s mouth. (One of my favorite parts has Cookie struggling to focus on pledges rather than cookies while Rosita yells at him: “You’ve got to pull yourself together, Cookie!”)
The special goes back and forth between Paul Rudd and the Muppets on the street doing the Earth-a-thon — sorry, I mean “THE Earth-a-THOOOOON!” — and various films and cartoons with an environmental theme. So it’s a lot like an episode of the show. Some of the segments I had definitely seen before. Yep, they’re recycled, which is perfect for this video.
There’s a clip about kids planting trees in Turkey… one about some other kids making paper out of old clothes… and one about kids in New York City working on a garden. That one looks to be from the early-to-mid-90s, and I swear one of the kids is a young Rosario Dawson, who shows up onscreen for about one second.
And then there are some segments that look like they might be new, including a cartoon about people of all the colors of the rainbow joining together to help the Earth… At this point in my notes, I wrote “Sign me up for WORLD PEACE!” Oh, and one with an all-kid band doing a surprisingly rockin’ song about… well, I don’t remember what it was about. Compost heaps, maybe?
But hey, what’s going on here? We’re 17 minutes in and Elmo is still red! I thought the whole point of this video was that Abby accidentally turns Elmo green! Where’s Elmo screaming frantically, as seen in this amazing “Being Green mashup” video on YouTube?
(Speaking of that YouTube clip: I love that Sesame Workshop made this official promo for the DVD that looks exactly like something a fan would come up with just for kicks. It’s really smart to use internet video tricks to sell projects to fans on the internet… Muppet Studios did something similar with that “Glad All Over” lip-synching video to promote Letters to Santa, and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more stuff like it in the future. Too bad none of the clips seen in the Being Green mashup are actually present on the DVD.)
A-ha, here we go. Elmo is inspired by the words of Mr. Earth, and says he wants to be green, so Abby obliges with a wave of her wand: “Make Elmo more green than we’ve ever seen!” At first, Elmo thinks it’s fun being the color of green paint and green beans, but when it becomes clear that Abby doesn’t know how to change him back (“Um, well, here’s the thing,” she says, “and you’re gonna laugh… I don’t know how to do that.”) he FREAKS THE HELL OUT. As seen above.
Will Elmo ever return to his normal color? Well, I’m not going to tell you, because that would COMPLETELY SPOIL THE ENDING, and I would never want to do that.
But I will answer the obvious question: When does the song “Bein’ Green” show up? And the answer is… never! Well, that’s not exactly true. When Elmo thinks he’s going to be green forever, he starts to sing the song, but Paul Rudd interrupts him after about a line and a half to sing a song about how it is, in fact, easy being green. I don’t mind that Kermit doesn’t show up. I wouldn’t expect him to, these days. But the title of this DVD is clearly meant to evoke the song, so would it have killed them to at least let Elmo finish a verse?
Misleading title aside, this is an entertaining special. Paul Rudd is clearly having a blast in that uncomfortable Earth suit, and I’m guessing a few of his funnier lines were ad-libbed. All the Muppets get to do what they do best — Oscar even shows up for one scene, in which he’s mean to Telly. Oscar being mean to Telly was a staple of Sesame Street during my childhood, so that moment was particularly enjoyable for me. Much more enjoyable than for Telly, anyway. They even manage to squeeze in a closing musical number… It’s pretty low-budget, but the performers really sell it, so you almost don’t notice.
But what about the “green” agenda? Will it inspire kids to save the planet? I don’t know… A four-year-old who hears Elmo saying it’s cool to pick up trash is probably not going to run out and adopt a highway. But it couldn’t hurt to plant the seed, much like those Turkish kids planted those trees. And maybe in time, as that seed matures, the kids who watch this video over and over will grow into responsible adult trees who try to reduce their carbon emissions instead of douchebag trees who throw empty bottles out the windows of their tree cars.
And you know what? Since I watched this special, I’ve been thinking a little more about turning off lights and not wasting water. I’m green! Thanks, Elmo and Paul Rudd!
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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com