There are over 4,500 episodes of Sesame Street, many of which are primarily lost to the fans. We’re reviewing some of the best, strangest, and rarest episodes out there in our series Sesame Rewind!
Over the past few months, we’ve been spending a good amount of time remembering Caroll Spinney for all of the amazing content he created through his two most well-known creations, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. But those aren’t the only puppets he ever performed. Among the not-quite-as-famous characters he performed is Granny Bird.
Big Bird’s grandmother doesn’t get a lot of attention from the fans, but she’s always been a part of her grandbird’s life. Actually, she’s been in the picture a lot longer than we originally thought. She made her first appearance in episode #30, just over a month after Big Bird’s debut.
Not only that, but the episode features some extremely rare appearances by Big Bird’s father, mother, and brother. Ever seen them before? Me neither!
This episode starts with good ol’ Orange Oscar complaining that he never gets any mail, because nobody wants to write to a Grouch. Thankfully, he learns about the important concept of “junk mail”, which likely encouraged him to put his address on a few unnecessary mailing lists.
Anyway, none of this has anything to do with the episode’s plot. Y’see, Big Bird’s grandmother is coming to visit Sesame Street for the first time! He’s pretty excited, so he went to the barbershop and got the “duck tail cut”. He looks quite dapper.
Over at Hooper’s Store, Big Bird is shopping for a few things his Granny might like. He asks Mr. Hooper for some Gs. “American Gs, Swiss Gs – my Granny loves Gs!”. Mr. Hooper corrects him – Big Bird must be thinking of cheese, which doesn’t even start with the letter G.
Instead, Big Bird asks for the “Gs cake” on the counter, and Mr. Hooper is shocked to see a cake covered in Gs in his own store that he likely baked himself. Only 30 episodes in to this new Sesame Street show and Mr. Hooper is already losing his mind.
In preparation for Granny Bird’s impending appearance, Big Bird shows Bob his family photo album. And for the first time (and maybe the last?), we meet Big Bird’s immediate family.
Wanna know who Big Bird’s father is? It’s this guy, who happens to look just like Big Bird, but with a suit and pipe. Because, as everyone knows, you can’t be a father unless you’re also a smoker.
But most people say that Big Bird looks more like his mother, which is evident by this lovely photo of a Big Bird with eyelashes wearing some sort of apron/blouse.
And then there’s Granny Bird, who looks a bit older and… grandmotherly? than she will be a few years later. She’s wearing glasses, a dress made out of doilies, and some sort of hat with a diamond brooch in the center. She also has white feathers on her head, which may mean she’s a different type of bird altogether (I said, as if I knew anything about ornithology). I mean, it’s almost like they only had one Big Bird puppet that they just redressed over and over again to make a whole Bird family.
Finally, we see Big Bird’s younger brother. You can tell he’s younger because he’s sitting lower in the frame of the picture. According to Big Bird, he’s only 6’5″ tall. Of course he’s that short – he’s only 4 years old.
It’s easy to forget how dopey Big Bird was in that first year of Sesame Street. The sad sack is seen holding a bouquet of dead flowers. Apparently he dropped them in the street and they were run over by two buses, four taxis, and a boy on a bicycle. He also bought (and lost) a new hat, and he busted his thumb (sorry, his wing) while trying to hammer a “Welcome Granny Bird” sign to the wall.
Thankfully, Susan gave him a new bouquet of flowers and Mr. Hooper baked a pumpkin seed cake for him to give to Granny Bird. Big Bird exclaims to the camera, “I may be the dumbest and the slowest and the clumsiest bird there ever was, but I’m also the luckiest!” Damn, Big Bird, way to teach kids about self-deprecation.
Finally, after a whole hour of anticipation, Granny Bird arrives. She looks exactly like Big Bird (again, there’s only one Big Bird puppet) but with glasses and a shawl and a hunch. She’s got a high, trembling voice, almost like her grandson’s, but as if he was an old woman. You get the idea.
Gordon points out, “You must be Granny Bird.” “Land’s sakes, how could you tell?”
Granny Bird enters Big Bird’s nest and you can hear their reunion, naturally performed live (and off-screen) by Caroll Spinney alternating voices. It’s actually quite cute picturing Caroll inside the Granny Bird outfit having a full conversation with himself that continues through the entire credits sequence.
Granny Bird adds, “Of all my grandsons, you’re the smartest and the fastest and the most graceful. You’re the best runner – oh, I think you’re just marvelous, grandsonny!” Finally, Big Bird gets the validation he needs to convince him that he’s not so dumb/slow/clumsy after all.
And isn’t that just the greatest gift a grandmother could give?
Click here to call your grandma, she worries, on the ToughPigs forum!
by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com