How We Got to Sesame Street
Sesame Street, the most widely viewed children's television show in the world, turned 40 years old in November, 2009. Since its humble debut in 1969, this educational program has evolved into a worldwide phenomenon that is broadcast in more than 120 countries.
Sesame Street teaches young viewers letters, numbers, days of the week and other basic skills. It also introduces children to important values like sharing, kindness and playing fair. Over 8 million people learn and laugh with Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Elmo and the rest of the Sesame Street gang each week.
The program was originally created in response to a 1968 Carnegie Corporation study that revealed a significant amount of television viewing among preschoolers and a need for something constructive to fill those hours. It was designed to be a learning tool for inner-city children and was quite revolutionary at a time when educational (and non-commercial) programming for kids was almost unheard of.
Sesame Street officially premiered on November 10, 1969 on PBS. The show was an instant hit, and by the mid-70s, it was considered an American institution. Sesame Street has continued to be successful over the years, earning more Emmys than any other children's television show.
Forty years later, Sesame Street has evolved to meet modern standards. Although some of the first episode's most beloved characters - including Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster - can still be seen each week, aspects of their personalities have changed. In 2006, Cookie Monster cut down on sweets, reminding children that cookies should only be a 'sometimes food.' Oscar, meanwhile, has become more of a mild grump than the downright nasty character he was in the beginning. The scenery has changed too - sets now feature clean, colorful buildings in place of the original dingy, gritty storefronts. In fact, today's Sesame Street has changed so much that DVDs of early episodes include a disclaimer that warns: 'These early 'Sesame Street' episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today's preschool child.'
Viewers looking for a quick Sesame Street fix will be happy to learn that the show's format has been updated too. You can go on the Sesame Street website at any time to watch short videos. Clips include the Count's 'Number of the Day' and highlights from the weekly episode. The site also offers a free Sesame Street podcast and several fun and educational games.