How Michael Jackson Saved Sesame Street

Published: July 8, 2009
Categories: Feature, Reports

Last week, the King of Pop unexpectedly passed away. No, not Dr. Pepper. Michael Jackson shed this mortal coil, leaving a trail of press coverage in his wake. Every news source, including blogs, has been talking about Michael, so why should we be left out?

Long before MJ became the poster child for all things creepy, he crossed paths with the Muppets a few times. The most notable example is his appearance in A Special Sesame Street Christmas, the goofy special nobody saw because Christmas Eve on Sesame Street completely overshadowed it. Michael’s afro (and Michael) passed by Oscar’s can to donate the book, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex Ghosts”, to the Scrooge-ified grouch. He doesn’t count to (Jackson) 5, he doesn’t Moonwalk in the shape of the letter R, he doesn’t organize a cadre of celebrities to sing about how we are the world. He just hands Oscar a book and exits, stage right. Check out the video below for Michael’s cameo, which is sandwiched in between Ethel Merman singing the Christmas classic, “Tomorrow,” and the moustacioed Smothers Brother dressed as an astronaut.

Michael was parodied and referenced a few times here and there: a Muppet Babies comic book cover, “Beat It” in the Muppet Show on Tour show, “Billie Jean” light-up sidewalks in the “I’m Gonna Always Love You” music video. But Jackson only had one other significant connection to Sesame Street, which Chris Cerf related at a book signing last winter.

For all of the musical parodies that Sesame Street produced, very few of them resembled the original song enough to warrant legal action. “Letter B”, a parody of The Beatles’ “Let It Be”, had the unfortunate distinction of being too similar to the original. Northern Songs, which owned the Beatles’ library, threatened to sue the Children’s Television Workshop for $5.5 million. Thankfully, before the case went to trial, Michael Jackson swooped in on wings of angels and purchased the Beatles catalog. He decided not to pursue legal action, and CTW was only fined $50, which Cerf paid out of his own pocket.

Did Michael decide to drop the suit because of his appearance in A Special Sesame Street Christmas? If so, maybe the special wasn’t so bad after all. It might’ve saved Sesame Street $5.5 million (minus $50, of course). And we’ll just tack that on as one of the many, many ways Michael Jackson left his mark on the world.
Special thanks to Guillermo for uploading the video!

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by Joe Hennes –

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Written by Joe Hennes

Co-owner and Editor-in-Chief.
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