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!
I’m going to be honest with you all: these are scary times. Every day, we hear new information about a terrible virus, and like all of us, I’m desperate for some level-headed guidance.
The CDC? The WHO? Sure. They’re legitimately the right people to turn to right now. But what if I want information about diseases delivered to me by puppets? Where can Elmo, I mean, Becca, learn more?
The year was 1972, and Sesame Street was in its third season. Kermit had returned as a featured character after being retired. Tom and Molly were America’s favorite adult characters. And, in Episode 0343, Hooper’s Store was transformed into a clinic to administer the measles vaccine to Sesame Street’s innumerable children.
Honestly, this was so nice to see. Stuff like this is important! The measles vaccine was fairly new at this point – its widespread use began in 1963 – and it was great to see that it was being readily made available to the inner-city kids of Sesame Street. The episode begins with Big Bird reading a sign that says DON’T WAIT: VACCINATE. Folks, Sesame Street would not lie to you. Vaccines are important!
Big Bird is eager to learn all about vaccines, and so the most memorable of all Hooper’s Store employees, Tom, tells him the basics. Big Bird is curious about who’s running this “hospital,” and is astonished to see his good friend Susan working as a nurse. Susan is helping her friend, Dr. Marzullo. One thing I really appreciated was that this whole operation was being led by two black women! That’s still a big deal, 48 years later.
In fact, the episode has these nice moments of progressiveness scattered throughout. For instance, Luis helps convince a young boy named Antonio to get the vaccine. Antonio is scared, so Luis calms him down by talking in Spanish. The two have a full conversation in Spanish that is not translated or repeated in English. Some kids speak Spanish! That’s OK! Not to mention, it’s impressive that the show respected its audience to get what was happening even if they couldn’t understand the literal words.
But you’re not here for this serious stuff. You learned about vaccines. You took your medicine. Now, you get a reward. Big Bird’s reward for getting his shot is a balloon, which he says he’ll “someday” name George. You, as the viewer, get a better reward. Y’see, Season 3 introduced a new Muppet named “Mr. Snuffleupagus.” Maybe you’ve heard of him. And here he is, in all his horrible Season 3 glory, with giant yellow wall-eyes, shapeless body, and weird kicking toes.
Snuffy already got the vaccine from his doctor last week, but he really wants a balloon. Big Bird tells him he should go to the clinic and ask if he can take one. So Snuffy ambles up to Hooper’s Store and asks for a balloon. Poor, overworked Dr. Marzullo doesn’t even look up to talk to this intruder, and we think that it’s going to be yet another time Snuffy goes unseen by the adults.
But then, just as Snuffy is leaving, she glances up at him, and seeing his horrific, monstrous, shambling form drives her to madness. She refuses to speak to the other adults about what she has seen, leaving the show forever to go take a nap.
I think we can all learn a valuable lesson from this episode of Sesame Street. Medical science, compassion, and progressiveness can help us through all the serious fears of the world except one: Season 3 Snuffleupagus.
Click here to see Snuffleupaguses as a side-effect of the ToughPigs forum!
by Becca Petunia