Michelle Obama, Cameron Diaz, and the Letter H

Published: November 11, 2009
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Maybe you heard: The season premiere of Sesame Street aired yesterday. (What season are they on now, anyway? I’m not sure.) It was episode 4187 — that’s the four thousand, one hundred and eight-seventh episode — and when 7:00 AM rolled around, I was sitting too close to my TV impatiently waiting for the show to begin. It was exactly like it was when I was four years old, only I was slightly stubblier.

I’ve been doing jumping jacks of anticipation for season 40, but I’ll confess that when I heard that the show was switching to a “block programming” format hosted by Murray Monster, I was a little nervous. Of course I trust the Sesame people to know what holds a child’s interest better than I would, and I think Murray is great, but I was crossing my fingers and hoping it wouldn’t feel like a completely different show. In fact, it feels a lot like Sesame Street, which is good, because it would have been very difficult for me to type this with my fingers still crossed. Here’s what we saw in this show:

A new theme song sequence. I think it’s actually the same arrangement of the theme as last year but with a nifty new animated chalk drawing motif.

It’s interesting to note that the itty-bitty Zoe puppet is seen here… In early 2009 we heard that they were switching permanently to the smaller Zoe, but in recent interviews she’s been back to her normal, non-freakishly-small self. I wonder if she’ll grow and shrink throughout the new season, kinda like Oprah.

The street story. When Big Bird complains about the cold on Sesame Street, he’s ambushed by Frank Flapman from Flychert Real Estate, who insists that what Big Bird needs is a new habitat. (Habitat! That’s the Word on the Street! Take a shot!) Flapman is played by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Broadway’s In the Heights, and as he takes Big Bird on a virtual tour of various habitats, he raps about them. Man, how great would it be if all real estate agents rapped their descriptions of their properties? I’d love to hear a rhyme for “Jacuzzi bathtub.”

So Big Bird decides to migrate (“migrate” being a sort of secondary Word of the Day, apparently) away from Sesame Street and go to live in the rain forest. He says goodbye to everyone, and everyone is completely baffled, but then it becomes clear that Big Bird doesn’t quite realize how far away the rain forest is. Hooper’s doesn’t deliver there, and Snuffy won’t be around, so Big Bird decides to stay, and he sings a nice-but-forgettable song about how Sesame Street is his habitat, and then everyone’s happy again. “Welcome back, Bird,” says Snuffy, which is a lovely thing to say even though that he didn’t actually go anywhere.

This was a fine street story: I’m always happy to see all the humans, and it’s great to have the season start off with a Big Bird-focused show. It was lacking in silliness, but we still have the rest of the season for that.

Cameron Diaz and some Muppet animals explain habitat. Have we ever seen that raccoon before? He looks less Muppety than his pals there, somehow.

The Letter of the Day. Today it’s H, and Murray talks about H words before introducing a film about kids looking for H words. Is it me, or did they used to spend more time focusing on the Letter of the Day?

Abby’s Flying Fairy School. The new show-within-a-show took up a pretty large chunk of the episode, as an animated Abby and her fairy friends chased down Niblet, the class pet gerbilcorn. It’s definitely kids’ stuff, but it’s bright and colorful, and it had a few pretty good jokes. (Fairy kids: “We’ll never find him!” Teacher: “Never? Do fairies say never?” Fairy kids: “NEVER!”) “Gerbilcorn” is supposed to indicate the fact that Niblet is a gerbil with a horn, but it kind of sounds like a brand of pet food. The fairies end up jumping into a crayon drawing in their pursuit of Niblet, and I was halfway expecting them to take a wrong turn and end up in Elmo’s World.

I’m sort of hoping Flying Fairy School doesn’t show up every day, so as to make room for other material, but it’s charming enough. But wow, it’s weird to see Abby blinking.

Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventures. I think this was recycled from last year, but I had never seen it: Bert and Ernie are detectives investigating a maltese duck. Pretty good, but I hope we see the puppet Ernie and Bert on the show soon, even if it’s in an existing sketch.

Elmo’s World. It’s a plague of frogs! And Kermit makes a very brief cameo! That’s pretty amazing right there. But hey, if this is a new episode, it looks like Elmo’s World is still being shot in a standard 4:3 ratio, while the rest of the show is in widescreen. I hope Elmo asks about aspect ratios sometime this year so we can figure that one out.

And that’s pretty much it. I was entertained by this episode, and while I hope they vary the format a bit from day to day, I have no major complaints. Oh, and I almost forgot… Michelle Obama showed up to teach kids how to bury things.

Yay! Golly gee whiz, I want to be the First Lady when I grow up, so a tomato will cheer for me. So did you see the show today? What did you think? Drop by the Tough Pigs forum to let us know!

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Written by Ryan Roe

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