REVIEW – “Sesame Street: 50 Years and Counting”

Published: October 15, 2019
Categories: Feature, Reviews

So we don’t know if you know this or not, but Sesame Street’s 50th anniversary is this year. (I know, we don’t talk about it a lot on ToughPigs.) And what better way is there to celebrate this milestone occasion than with a brand-new DVD with memorable moments from throughout the show’s history? Sesame Street: 50 Years and Counting is available now!

And what better way is there to mark this DVD’s release than with a review? But 50 years of moments is too much for just one person to take on. Thankfully, we have our own Two-Headed Monster, Matthew Soberman and Evan G., here to share their thoughts! Take it away!

MATTHEW SOBERMAN: Sunny days, Evan! We’ve taken in nearly six (SIX!) hours of classic Sesame Street memories. What did you think?

EVAN: Hola, Matthew! (That means hello!) I’m so happy with this DVD set. I enjoyed it even more than I expected, and I expected to enjoy it a lot. I’ve almost finished my second watch.

MATTHEW: I agree. I always figured this would be a good collection (five decades will allow for that), but even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, it surpassed my expectations.

EVAN: Matthew, we now own “Shapes in My Room” on DVD. That alone is worth the price of admission. Speaking of, what do you feel were the highlights on the DVD?

MATTHEW: To be honest, I thought it would be more of a “greatest hits” package, and we do get a lot of them, but what really struck me as particularly fascinating were the more obscure clips, like “Gimme 5” and “There’s a Bird on Me” getting to share the same disc space as “C Is for Cookie” and “Born to Add.”

EVAN: Yeah. When this was first announced, I definitely figured it would be all stuff I had seen time and time again. Like, look, I love “Rubber Duckie” but I have seen “Rubber Duckie” so many times now. This set definitely has the hits if you’re looking for them: “C Is for Cookie,” “I Love Trash,” “ABC-DEF-GHI,” “Dance  Myself to Sleep,” but it also has stuff I hadn’t seen in years and some things I had never seen before.

MATTHEW: Another thing I like is that they ran several of the classics in forms that aren’t well known. Sure, everybody knows “I Love Trash,” but has everyone seen Oscar singing it in a giant trash can with enormously sized garbage? The folks who put this together definitely designed this one for the fans who have bought the compilations over the years.

EVAN: Absolutely. The second disc in particular is fascinating for this. It’s easy to find sketches and songs online–thanks in large part to Sesame Workshop themselves–but “street stories” are much less accessible. I honestly hadn’t seen the full version of any of the included stories from pre-1990, so that was delightful.

MATTHEW: YES. I’ve seen the standalone clips of the New York Marathon episode where Snuffy’s running across the bridge, and the tear-jerking Mr. Hooper episode where we see Big Bird give the pictures, but seeing the whole street stories really add something to the experience. I mean, the Mr. Hooper thing kinda blindsides you as to where it is in the episode. You start out with Big Bird acting silly “just because,” and a few minutes later, we’re having an honest discussion of death.

EVAN: Man, yeah. I mean, part of the thing is, that so beautifully explains how death just… fits into our normal routines? But like, we could spend an entire day just talking about the Hooper episode. Obviously. So to prevent us from doing that and making me cry all over again, let me ask you: What clip or episode’s inclusion surprised you the most?

MATTHEW: In terms of episodes, there are these milestone episodes like the Mr. Hooper episode, Around the Corner, and both Abby Cadabby and Julia’s arrivals on Sesame Street, but including the episode with Bob’s brother, Minneapolis, is a pleasant surprise. Of course, any time Jeff Goldblum shows up on Sesame Street and just Jeff Goldblums it up, it’s a special occasion in itself.

EVAN: Yeah. I had no idea what to expect when that episode began, and honestly its inclusion was a huge curve in an otherwise pretty predictable lineup. I’d also like to say that the Count tribute was a lovely surprise. I feel like many more casual fans might not realize that episode’s significance: it was filmed and aired shortly after Jerry Nelson’s death as a tribute to his most famous character and it is a delight.

MATTHEW: Oh yeah, I remember when that episode aired. That was a funny, sweet tribute to someone whose contributions helped form the show into what it is. Also, getting back to your question, I think in terms of clip, another ToughPigs favorite, “The Subway,” is a delight. It had been a while since I had seen it, and call me crazy, is the lesson here that the subway kind of sucks?

EVAN: The lesson is that the subway is full of contradictions. Both a “ride that’s super wow” and a place where someone may “lose their purse” or “something worse.” I love “The Subway,” though. (The song and the vehicle.) I still believe it and “Telephone Rock” (also included on here!) are not only great Sesame sketches but like, legitimately good songs that could’ve (and should’ve) gotten radio play?

MATTHEW: There are some definite “bangers,” as the kids like to say, on here. I genuinely couldn’t help myself from singing along to “Do De Rubber Duck” and “Put Down the Duckie” (shown here without the celebrities!). It definitely reminds you of the talents that the show’s songwriting staff has had over the years. Another surprise, because I spend my nights hanging around Muppet Wiki: when the 40th anniversary collection, “40 Years of Sunny Days,” was being created, there was a fan vote on the final clip. Several of the runners up that didn’t make their way onto that set found their way here. Justice for “Martian Beauty,” “King of 8,” and “The Alligator King!”

EVAN: Yeah, I was glad to see so many “atypical” clips on here, and by that, I mean clips that didn’t have any Muppets in them. Feels like a weird thing to say, but those animations and live action segments were such a key part of Sesame Street. There’s a clip in here about how saxophones are made, and what’s old-school Sesame Street without some of that? Along the same lines, I was surprised to see so many clips just involving Bob, Maria, Gordon and the other adults just singing together without any of the more popular characters.

MATTHEW: This really feels like a great summation of the last fifty years on the show. It’s not all the most popular clips, but yeah, if you said, “what about those videos where they show how to make things,” or “how about those goofy sketches with the human cast members,” well, there they are. If there was a style of sketch on Sesame Street, it’s represented here. A very enjoyable set, and recommended at the price.

EVAN: Sure, but now the controversy. What do you think is missing? What would you have liked to see represented that wasn’t?

MATTHEW: “Peanut Butter.” Just for starters. But seriously, I guess what I would’ve changed slightly was to include the original intros to stuff like “Monsterpiece Theater,” and the Super Grover sketch. But those are little things that only irk an anal-retentive fan like me. I guess I would’ve liked more parodies, but hey, I guess you have to save something for the 60th anniversary DVD. What about you? What would you have included?

EVAN: Teeny Little Super Guy. A whole disc of him. No, I kid, just one Teeny Little Super Guy would’ve been fine. Also, and this is weird, but these discs have almost no Joey Mazzarino content? I would’ve liked to have seen Stinky or Murray or Horatio once or twice. But seriously, it’s a good set. I can’t complain too much.

MATTHEW: Yeah, also, it is kind of strange that it’s so heavy on 70’s and 80’s content, but only little bits and pieces from the 90’s onward. But hey, nostalgia sells.

EVAN: It sure does. Would you like to buy a retr-o, Matthew? Er-hem. Yeah, there isn’t much modern stuff, but the modern stuff included is honestly some of the best modern stuff. I’m a huge fan of “What I Am,” which I’ve long considered to be deserving of a spot in the pantheon of great Sesame songs, and I was so thrilled to see it here.

MATTHEW: Also, “Upside Downton Abbey” is another winner. I would’ve loved to see “Spider-Monster the Musical,” but beyond that, a winning lineup from the recent era. Well, I hear my mom calling me (and the Commissioner of Fun and Games) in for supper. Any final thoughts?

EVAN: Well, like my super mommy always used to say… this is a good DVD set. If you like Sesame Street, you should consider checking it out. And if you don’t like Sesame Street, why did you read so far into this review? Why did you go to ToughPigs at all?

MATTHEW: I mean, we’re here to review the DVD, which I guess we just did. So it’s over. Why are you still here?

EVAN: I’m just waiting for the baker to deliver my nine coconut custard pies. I guess I’ll watch the DVD again as long as I’m still here. 

MATTHEW: Sounds like a plan.

Click here to Jeff Goldblum it up on the ToughPigs forum!

by Matthew Soberman and Evan G.

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