For the first time in Sesame Street‘s 55-year history, the show’s format is about to undergo a massive change. Since its very first episode, Sesame Street has relied on the magazine format – short films and animations interspersed with “Street scenes” to highlight the activity on the titular set. Starting with Season 56, this magazine style will be gone and replaced with a direct narrative style, much like most other TV series.
The news, broken by The Hollywood Reporter, suggests that the new format will consist of two 11-minute narrative-driven segments, presumably featuring the Muppet and human characters on Sesame Street. Each episode will feature an original song and more direct interaction between the characters and the viewers at home. The two segments will be split by a 5-minute animated segment titled “Tales from 123,” which will take the Sesame cast inside the iconic brownstone. (The Hollywood Reporter article incorrectly claims that this will be “the very first time” viewers have gone inside 123 Sesame Street, and we all know that just isn’t true.)
Of course, this means that many other familiar segments will be gone. No more Elmo’s World, no more Monster Foodies, no more Number of the Day, no more experimental animations or celebrity moments (unless, of course, they fit into the narrative of the new show).
It’s important to remember that Sesame Street was designed to be adaptable, changing with the times and with new generations of kids. If this is the best way for Sesame Street to continue to resonate with young viewers, then we’re all for it. But of course, change is scary, even for former kids like us.
It’s equally important to remember that Sesame Street was created out of the idea that short-form storytelling is extremely effective in teaching kids through the power of television, mimicking TV ads to teach simple concepts through repetition and entertainment. No matter how good or bad the show may be after this change, this is a shocking loss for the history of the series.
The Hollywood Reporter article also reveals that Sesame Street‘s future with Warner Bros and Max is still up in the air. The current contract with Warner expires after Season 55, and it seems to be a complete unknown if they will continue to partner with Sesame Workshop or if Elmo and his friends will need to find a new home. The show’s new format may be a signal that Sesame Street is trying to look fresh and exciting for a new prospective distributor if things don’t work out with Max.
Obviously there are a lot of questions about what all of this will mean for the quality of the show. The article does mention that character work and humor are important to the new format, which gives us hope. (And it makes us wonder if it’s at all a reaction to our commentary that Sesame Street has lost its sense of fun.) We will be keeping watch, and we’ll be reporting on whether or not we believe these changes are for the better. But of course, we’ll have to wait until 2025 before anything takes effect.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com