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 and sometimes 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, 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 1.5 billion views. 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 the highest "co-viewing" experience of any preschool show. That means adults watch with their kids. Nearly half of "Sesame Street" viewers are over age 18.

"We're very proud of that," said Chambers. "We design the show to engage the parent because we know that's more educational. 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," with Elmo telling 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 that 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" that helps "Sesame Street" compete with the many other kids shows that are animated.

"Sesame Street" also is 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 (18)
  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    11/06/2014 - 09:58 a.m.

    I am surprised that Sesame Street is still airing and changing over time. I remember whenever I was younger, I did not take a liking of Sesame Street because the characters creeped me out.

  • jocelync-Koc
    11/06/2014 - 10:32 a.m.

    I like this article because it's about sesame street, and who hasn't watched that show. It's sad that Sesame Street is changing for the new generations that have arrived, because they want to make it more modern and put animation into it so Sesame Street can fit in like the rest of the 84 kid shows. I guess it is for the best of it and it is nice to know there is still an almost original kids t.v. show out there.

  • GigiSylvester-Ste
    11/06/2014 - 01:02 p.m.

    Wow! I wonder if they still show the old episodes. When was the last one made, or are they still making them? I can't believe its 45 years old!!

  • NashMcComsey-Ste
    11/06/2014 - 02:37 p.m.

    I agree. The terrifying Big Bird was the cause of many a sleepless night thoughout the majority of my youth. I was terrified of trash cans until age 10, afraid that i would bring about the wrath of the Grouch, which made burning the trash every weekend into a great undertaking

  • STy-Sti
    11/06/2014 - 03:55 p.m.

    I used to love to watch Sesame Street when I was younger! But I haven't seen an episode of Sesame Street for absolutely years! So I bet when I watch the latest episode, I am going to be very confused. And not only am I going to be confused, I will be disappointed. I guess its true that Cookie Monster eats vegetable's and fruit now, I thought it couldn't be but...I guess deep down I knew it was true.
    "The puppet sometimes now eats fruits and vegetables instead" I am just too disappointed to see that.
    But times have changed, but I certainly haven't, and I am not going to let a silly show change that.

  • NJesse-Cas
    11/06/2014 - 07:20 p.m.

    I absolutely loved Sesame Street as a kid! Elmo was my absolute favorite! I am very upset though to see that Cookie Monster eats vegetables because that is just not his character role. I understand the value of teaching kids self control with eating, but they did not have to change his character! Overall, Sesame Street was a big part of my childhood and taught me a lot of things. It is great to see them continue to tech kids!

  • devonm-3
    11/07/2014 - 12:47 a.m.

    Sesame Street has been on TV for almost 45 years. The shows 45th anniversary is on November 10th. It's debut was on November 10th 1969. Many parents watched the show as a kid and still do with their children. Sesame Street is not only watched on TV but also watched on smart phones, YouTube, Netflix and on countless apps that can be downloaded. Older episodes had more real people apperences. Now there are more puppets, they captivate the kids more. World famous Cookie Monster now eats some fruits and vegetables not just cookies to teach kids to eat healthy. When I was little my mom put on Sesame Street for me. The colors and music was really entertaining and that's probably why the show has gone on for so long. Children really benefit from the education and have fun watching too.

  • jadayciao
    11/09/2014 - 05:08 p.m.

    I remember when I was like 5 or 4 that I used to watch this how with my grandmother and sister and cousin. This article was about Sesame Street. How it has been out for a 45 years. This is the highest viewing preschool show. This show started in November 10 1969.

  • carsonl-Orv
    11/10/2014 - 01:13 p.m.

    i think that the reason why people get less air time is because it makes the show more fun. if they were to have humans on the show it would be boring. with the monsters it makes the show more interesting for kids.

  • Savannahwi-Fre
    11/11/2014 - 01:01 p.m.

    Based on what I read, this is an article about how after 45 years, "Sesame Street" is still popular to kids in the ages of 2-5. When I was younger, I used to love watching "Sesame Street", and I liked it not just because it helped my education, but it really interested me. I hope this show still exist as the years go on. One thing I really don't understand is why they had to put Cookie Monster on there when they makers should have known that he would influence to eat cookies to the loads of little kids that watch it. The reason that Cookie Monster is now eating fruits and vegetables because kids were influence about eating cookies. It bothers me how people can not know that the little ones get more interested into things that they watch, like Cookie Monster eating loads of cookies.

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