Seen Sesame Street? It's been on for 45 years Kevin Clash, the voice and movements behind Sesame Street's Elmo (AP photos)
Seen Sesame Street? It's been on for 45 years
Lexile

You don't get to be the longest-running children's show in U.S. TV history by doing the same thing over and over. So even though parents who grew up watching "Sesame Street" can still see old favorites like Big Bird, things on the street have changed since the show debuted 45 years ago on Nov. 10, 1969.

Cookie Monster now exercises self-control. Sometimes he even eats fruits and vegetables. Millions of kids watch the show on phones and computers instead of TV. And there's less time spent on the street with human characters. They're just not energetic enough for today's viewers.

That "Sesame Street" still exists at all says a lot. In 1973, it was one of two TV shows for preschoolers. Now it's competing with 84 kids' shows on TV and countless others online. Yet "Sesame Street" still holds its own. It ranks 20th among kids ages 2 to 5 with 850,000 viewers per TV episode. That's according to Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the show.

But now half the viewers watch it in digital formats. Options include SesameStreet.org, PBSKids.org, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and some 50 apps. A "Sesame Street" YouTube channel has a million subscribers. And touchscreens have been "a magic wand for us in terms of engagement," says "Sesame Street" senior vice president Scott Chambers. Kids can trace letters or point to colors or shapes, and the app provides positive reinforcement.

"Sesame Street" also has a high "co-viewing" experience. That means adults watching the show with kids. Nearly half of "Sesame Street" viewers are over age 18.

"We're very proud of that," said Chambers. " If you have a parent watching with you, you're going to learn much more."

That's why sketches often have contemporary celebrity guests. Or pop culture references that 2-year-olds don't get, but adults do. A James Bond parody stars Cookie Monster as a secret agent, Double-Stuffed 7, in "The Spy Who Loved Cookies."

Another show celebrates "what makes people special." Elmo tells Lupita Nyong'o that her skin "is a beautiful brown color." The actress responds, "Skin comes in lots of beautiful shades and colors ... I love my skin!"

It's a classic "Sesame Street" lesson about diversity. It goes back to its groundbreaking roots as one of the few shows in the 1970s to feature all races and ethnicities. Today the show also routinely features children with disabilities.

The music has changed too. Those memorable lyrics, "Sunny day, sweepin' the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet," still open every episode. But now the song has a syncopated, jazzier beat. Other sketches feature hip-hop or Latin music.

Newer seasons also feature less of the actual street with human characters, and more puppets in skits with animation or other technical wizardry. Executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente says the puppets "have a madcap energy to them." It helps "Sesame Street" compete with the many other kids shows that are animated.

"Sesame Street" is also unique because before any scripts are written, child development experts offer input on what today's kids need to succeed in school. That's why in addition to teaching letters, numbers and values, the show now teaches behaviors like impulse control and listening to directions.

"Cookie Monster has been our poster child for self-regulation because of his love of cookies," said Parente. The puppet sometimes now eats fruits and vegetables instead although he may also devour the plate, table and chair.

Critical thinking challenge: Why do human characters get less air time now?

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COMMENTS (116)
  • Jake7010
    11/06/2014 - 11:11 a.m.

    I use to love this tv show. I grew up on it, and all the charters, in it. The new message they are sending on it is great, I think it will help the kids a lot. But I don't think they should have not changed a thing. I know the he is not healthily but I like the cookie monster.

  • Christian881
    11/06/2014 - 11:22 a.m.

    It's crazy how long this show has been on television. I have never heard of a show that's been on for 45 years. You would think because its been on T.V. so long that people wouldn't watch it, but that's not the case. It usaly has 850,000 kids watching per episode. It also says that just under half of the vewers are 18!

  • JackR-5
    11/06/2014 - 11:50 a.m.

    Sesame street has been on air for 45 years now. It still has many watching this classic show, with about 800,000 viewers per episode. The puppets are still the same as they were 45 years ago. The music is still the same as it was when the show started. One major change is that Cookie Monster no longer always eats cookies, but now fruits and vegetables. Many adults are watching the show with their children. The producers say that it helps the kids learn when there is a parent to watch with. There aren't as many guests on the show but when there is, it is normally disabled kids. I think it is great that so many kids watch the show because it is interesting and educational. I used to watch Sesame Street when I was little, so many generations can share something in common.

  • BeccaBoo123
    11/06/2014 - 12:06 p.m.

    I remember watching Sesame Street as a kid. It was my favorite TV show. I loved that they used puppets and real people,But I had no idea Sesame Street has been on for 45 years!

  • Hugh12345678901234567890123456
    11/06/2014 - 12:26 p.m.

    It is very surprising that people 18 or older still watch Sesame Street. I have forgotten all of Sesame Street's character names in the past seven years.

  • AJ_Slater
    11/06/2014 - 12:35 p.m.

    Sesame street is the longest running children's TV show. It has been on for 45 years. It hasn't gotten that way by staying the same, it has changed many characters and mini shows. It surprises me that my parents might have watched this show and that many aspects have stayed the same when I watched this show.

  • jacksonsk-Mag
    11/06/2014 - 12:44 p.m.

    I also remember watching Sesame Street too! It was the best show ever! Now I know why my mom also knows about Sesame Street because she knows all the characters!

  • Haileymhmm
    11/06/2014 - 12:46 p.m.

    Wow that's amazing that Sesame Street has been going on for 45 years. I personally love cookie monster and Big Bird. Elmo's awesome too! I used to watch Sesame Street when I was little and I loved it! It's great to see that it is still played today.

  • FRosenFS
    11/06/2014 - 12:52 p.m.

    Woah, this show is older than I thought! I knew it was old, but not 45 years old! That's quite a surprise there for me! I used to watch this show alot when I was young.

  • Hailey2002
    11/06/2014 - 12:55 p.m.

    I think that the owner's of Sesame Street made Cookie Monster exercise self-control, and eat fruits and veggies because they are worried kids would start eating a lot of junk food. I bet they would be displeased if they became an unpopular show because of this, but I think they should keep Cookie Monster the way he was.

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