I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m gonna be honest with you, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s been a long time since I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve watched anything on PBS other than Sesame Street. I know there?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s quality programming out there, but who has the time for ?¢‚Ǩ?ìquality?¢‚Ǩ¬ù TV when there?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s great shows like Studio 60, The War at Home, and Punk?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d to keep me busy?. Now that the regular TV season is over, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve taken notice of PBS once again. And their new commercial campaign, which they call ?¢‚Ǩ?ìReady To Learn,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù is outta this world. I mean that in a wow-this-is-great kinda way and not a yip-yip-yip-uh-huh-uh-huh kinda way.

The commercials go back to what made shows like Sesame Street entertaining back in the day. They took an educational lesson in one hand, hilarious parody in the other hand, then began a round of applause. It?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s like friggin?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ chocolate and peanut butter over here! So while the child watching won?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t get the Casablanca reference, they?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll still giggle over Grover?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s shenanigans.

The commercials also show the latest collaboration between Sesame Street and Between the Lions. If you want to jump in my phone booth time machine, we can take a peek at the other times we?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve seen Theo, Cleo and the gang team up with their Sesame brethren.

Our first stop is 2001, in which Bert, Ernie, and Big Bird all appeared in a bird-themed episode of Between the Lions. The cameos were just brief enough to tease the idea that they would visit the lions?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ library, yet so short that it makes the viewer wish he had Tivo.

Next up, 2002, when the Between the Lions gang teamed up with characters from the Muppets, Sesame Street, and Bear and the Big Blue House (as well as a shload of other characters and celebrities) for ?¢‚Ǩ?ìWe Are Family,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù a video that promoted diversity and tolerance. Actually, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m more amazed that they got characters from the Muppets, Sesame Street, and Bear in the same room at the same time. Rumor has it that they don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t get along so well after the Cookiegate incident of 1999.

Our last blast to the past is 2006, where PBS first began to produce ?¢‚Ǩ?ìReady To Learn?¢‚Ǩ¬ù commercials. The only one that featured a BtL/Sesame crossover was an American Idol parody, featuring Ernie?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s desperate attempt at rhyming on stage while being judged unscrupulously by BtL?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Theo, Emily Elizabeth from Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Oscar the Grouch. Other commercials featured a faux BtL family sitcom, a CSI parody starring Ernie and Bert, and a game show which featured the triumphant return of Guy Smiley, along with his constant contestant Cookie Monster.

While the last set of commercials featured television parodies, this year?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s batch focuses on film parodies, old and new. And really old, and not-so-new-anymore.

First up is a ToughPigs favorite, the West Side Story parody. Theo and Ernie are leading two dangerous street gangs who may be tiny, but will rip your ear off if you look at them funny. Plus, they?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve got some wicked choreography. In all seriousness, I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m glad they didn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t rumble, because Ernie vs. a lion isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t the fairest bout they could have had. I was a little thrown off by the Jet/Pet graffiti in that one scene, but I guess they were having a tough time rhyming ?¢‚Ǩ?ìShark?¢‚Ǩ¬ù with anything. And a nice Great Muppet Caper-esque cameo by Oscar at the end. Totally unnecessary, which is one of the things that make the Muppets great.

Next we?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve got the Mission: Impossible spoof. Now, far be it for me to put down any production that features a full-bodied Cookie Monster puppet being dangled on a string, but come on, how old is this spoof? Not only was Mission: Impossible released in 1996, but the parody was already overused by 1999. Heck, even Fozzie Bear took a turn at being a suspended spy in a Muppet parodies calendar. In any case, the scene is still hilarious. That little guy on the screen is BtL?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Arty Smartypants, which is a fun name to say out loud. Go ahead, try it. And Cookie Monster shows a wide array of emotions, from frightened to anxious to content, all within a few seconds. Needless to say, his acting abilities were fueled by his need for one single cookie. Now that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s dedication!

Commercial #3 is a Casablanca parody, featuring Grover and BtL?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s Cleo. Now, I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t think I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve seen Grover in black-and-white since Monsterpiece Theater?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s ?¢‚Ǩ?ì39 Stairs.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù And he doesn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t let down here either. Though a love affair between a monster and a lion seems a little?¢‚Ǩ¬¶ unnatural, I completely buy the idea that Grover would get caught up in a rhyming game, well past his partner?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s patience. And that look of accomplishment on his face at the end is simply priceless.

Finally, we?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve got my favorite, the Superman parody. The world has been begging for more of a Super Grover/Superman connection, other than the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìSmarter than a speeding bullet?¢‚Ǩ¬ù speech. And now that Superman Returns is a solid part of pop culture, it?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s about time Super Grover takes full advantage of that. I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ve got a Super Grover toy next to a Superman toy on my shelf, both of which depict the character flying upward with a fist in the air. That right there makes me think that there?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s a world of possibility for parody in Grover, and I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d love to see Sesame Workshop take full advantage of that.

So there you have it. Four new commercials and four wonderfully executed parodies. But this begs the question: if this is the kind of entertainment they can create with just a little bit more of a budget, why can?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t we see a larger parody akin to this on the Street? Or better yet, on the big screen? Maybe once someone discovers the connection between Abby Cadabby and Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, a new world of parody will be opened to us.

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