It was once unthinkable – a complete episode guide of every episode of Sesame Street from 1969 to the present day. Not only were there hundreds… nay, thousands of episodes to catalog, but due to the nature of how it’s produced and aired (and TiVo not being invented yet), many of the episodes had not been seen since their initial TV debut. Much of the show had become a mystery, with only the smallest fraction of the series turning up in syndication or on DVD.
Well, the crazy folks at the Muppet Wiki, which includes myself, have managed the improbable – they have just completed the world’s first and only public episode guide to all 4,663 episodes of Sesame Street! Every page is now fully fleshed out with pictures and summaries of every street scene, Muppet sketch, and cartoon about the letter W. As an admin, I’ve been one of the many editors working on these for more than a decade and boy, it’s been a long time coming!
In the earlier days of the wiki, most of the episode pages looked like this:
Pretty sparse, huh? A typical Sesame Street episode was 60 minutes long and this covers maybe a third of the hour. But, as the technology started become more available for people to digitize their old tapes, and as official DVDs with classic episodes began to hit the markets, the guides could now look like this:
Fully visual with more detail than you could imagine. It’s an informational delight to the eyes and mind. This style was devised by none other than Danny Horn (the guy who co-created the Wiki and created the very website you’re reading right now!), and then expanded on by the rest of the Muppet Wiki team. The very first episode to get this treatment was a milestone not only in Sesame history, but for the wiki as well – Episode 2096 from Season 17, in which famous TV man Phil Donahue comes to visit! Oh, and there’s a minor subplot where the adults finally meet Snuffy after 14 years of doubting his existence. But Phil Donahue! Such a silver-haired fox that one!
The guide for that episode was completed on June 17, 2006, and the latest and final guide to be fully polished and detailed was just completed this weekend – Episode 1699 from Season 13, in which the Count helps take an inventory of every single, solitary item in Hooper’s Store and Oscar’s trash can. An obsessive person making gigantic, Muppet-related lists? Are we sure he didn’t create the Muppet Wiki instead?
But between that first guide getting started and the last guide being finished, a whole 17 years have gone by. In that time, we’ve seen five US Presidents in the Oval Office, four whole phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and one season of Netflix’s very bad Blockbuster sitcom. It’s been a long, arduous process, but it’s definitely been worth the wait.
Now, sad to say, the Wiki’s coverage is not exactly 100% complete. There are unfortunately a scant 53 episodes from the first eight seasons that are not in Sesame Workshop’s possession at all and, as far as we know, not in anyone else’s as well. Thankfully, there’s enough text-based information that allowed them to receive a full guide treatment without some visuals, so we must use our imaginations to picture Brother Kirk singing folk songs to Big Bird. We should also be grateful there’s only this small amount missing – just 0.01% of the entire series. There’s like whole seasons of early Doctor Who totally lost to the ages, so we should be lucky that all of Professor Hasting’s appearances are still intact.
Naturally, with so many episodes to comb through, there’s going to be a lot of special moments and unexpected surprises. The admin team and I are very happy about certain discoveries, such as:
- Surprise cameos from Yorick and Taminella Grinderfall
- Identifying the many recurring kids on the show
- The origins of Grover’s name
- Jim Henson substituting as Oscar the Grouch for an episode
- Sonia Manzano doubling as a Muppet performer
- Unexpected appearances by character actors like William Hickey and Phil Hartman
- Jim Henson performing in an entire street story as neither Ernie or Kermit
- Oscar running for Mayor of New York City
- Frank Oz’s Prince Charming inexplicably being a recurring character throughout the 70s
- Will Lee’s last-recorded episode as Mr. Hooper
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what surprises are in store for readers. But of course, the Wiki is never done. Now that the episode guide is finished, you may be wondering: What could possibly be the next mountain to climb? As you may or may have seen, the Wiki has already begun expanding into developing pages for individual Muppet sketches, like the Sesame News Flash bits. This task will take an insane number of volunteer hours, loads of research, and resulting in hundreds of new Muppet Wiki pages. So, one area of the show may be conquered for now, but there’s always more to expand on. Just when I thought I could kick up my feet and relax.
With over 4,600 episodes to read about, it’s certainly hard to know where to start. You can easily go with the premiere 1969 episode and work your way forward, or you can CLICK HERE and be taken to a random episode! Who knows what decade you’ll land in! Probably not the 1770s. They didn’t have Sesame Street back then, or so I’ve read.
The Wiki is not a one-person operation, so let’s give some props to all the various people who have helped form these guides over the years, including Danny Horn, Scott Hanson, Gulliermo Gomez, Shane Keating (hey, I know him!), Andrew Leal, Jonathan Brangwynne, Gavin Kline, Tony Whitaker, and editors Brian Hilley, Kathryn Ostrofsky, Frederic Fontus, Alexander Mack, Ian, Jeremy, Noah, Christian, Andrew T., Chris, Scotty J, and others. We couldn’t have done this without them!
Congratulations to the entire Muppet Wiki team for such a monumentous achievement! Your work is an invaluable service to Muppet fans everywhere, and a testament to what fandom can accomplish.
Click here to watch 4,600 hours of television on the Tough Pigs forum!
By Shane Keating