Photo Credit: Richard Termine/PBS
Since I’m not in line to get a slice of Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary birthday cake, I celebrated the best way I could: with a generous helping of Sesame Street on TV: episode 4181, to be exact (selected with care by my DVR).
In this particular show, most of the cast were afflicted with "Mine-itis,” an illness that—to Oscar’s elation—makes monsters, humans, and chickens(!) completely selfish and possessive. “Mine!” they shouted when asked to share something. Know any 3-year-olds like that?
I’ve never laughed harder than when Brian Williams showed up every five seconds with “breaking news reports”, complete with newsy music, newsy graphics, and Williams’ own Ted Baxter-ish bravado.
While laughing maniacally, I realized what's so special about Sesame Street’s most enduring strength. So many kids’ shows and movies travel way over kids’ heads to throw jokes at adults in the room (see Aliens vs. Monsters and Jimmy Neutron). Other kids’ programs are so earnest they don’t even bother appealing to grown-ups at all (see Clifford and Barney).
But the humor in Sesame Street—from Mad Men parodies to celebrity drop-ins to Abby Cadabby’s pumpkin goofs and Elmo’s baby memories (in which his entire family laughs with that infectious stereophonical laugh)—is age-neutral. It’s just laugh-out-loud funny to anyone with ears.
In many ways, Sesame grows as we do—premiering new characters, new graphics, new Web sites, new social media platforms, and new blogs (See: “Sesame Family Robinson”) all the time. Star Wars is the only other media institution about which I can tell my children, “I loved this when I was a kid, too.” And that’s an amazing thing to say about anything.
So, Happy Anniversary, Sesame Street! In a world where "Mine-itis" seems to be sweeping every real-world corner, I’m thankful there’s one Street that still shares so much with so many.
(And if there’s any cake left, I’ll take a corner slice, por favor).