Sesame Street's 40th Anniversary: Looking Back

Sesame Street is about to pass a milestone. How much has it changed?

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Flashier pop-culture sensations--think Seinfeld, the Cosbys, and the Jeffersons--have come and gone, but Sesame Street has outlasted them all. On November 10th, the venerable children's show celebrates its 40th season as the place where generations of kids have gone to learn their letters, numbers and life lessons. (This includes coping with death, an episode for which the show won an Emmy.) Though the new season doesn't start until next week, Google's tribute on Wednesday has commentators reminiscing. How has Sesame Street changed over the past 40 years?

  • The Street's Been Cleaned says CNN's Katie McLaughlin. "In the early days of "Sesame Street" -- that is, B.E. (Before Elmo) -- Sesame Street was a pretty grimy place...Now, some 4,000 episodes later, 123 Sesame Street has gotten that power washing. Peeling paint is nowhere to be found, and the only visible garbage can has a tenant. It's much more sanitized."
  • Hasn't Changed a Bit, says Time Out New York Film editor David Fear. In a review of the soon-to-be-released DVD box set, Fear reflects on the earlier episodes, noting how consistent the show has been since its inception. "Some things never go out of style—namely, establishing children’s moral foundation and educating impressionable minds in a remarkably fun manner. The same elements that made the show must-see kids’ TV back in the day are still front and center today."
  • Become More Politically Correct, says the Guardian's Jack Schofield, "In the UK, however, the series was considered too fast-paced and people frowned on its use of advertising techniques. Of course, a series made for disadvantaged inner-city kids also had lots of elements unfamiliar in suburban Surrey, or even Islington. And even the most brilliant of those early episodes would not pass through the Political Correctness barrier today."
  • Changing Locations  New York Magazine's Tim Murphy shows a map of where Sesame Street has been filmed over the years, and marks the milestones of when major characters appeared. Remember this? "In 1993, the show introduced "Around the Corner," a new block with new characters, but it was abandoned three years later after research showed that kids wanted the old block and the core characters."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.