One of the items I put on my Amazon Wish List (go ahead – click the link and buy me something…. I’ll wait) this year was Sesame Street: Old School, a DVD compilation of shows from 1970s-era Sesame Street. Back when The Count was actually scary, Mister Snuffleupagus was still invisible to everyone except Bird, and LONG before that Grover-wannabe Elmo took over the show – that’s what’s on these DVDs.
Little did I know that this supposedly “educational” TV show was actually causing damage to my young impressionable brain. Yes – that’s right. Bert, Ernie, and Mr. Looper are responsible for the hollow shell of a person I have become! Those old Sesame Street episodes are now considered unsuitable for children. From The NY Times Magazine:
Sunny days! The earliest episodes of “Sesame Street” are available on digital video! …
Just don’t bring the children. According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”
Say what? At a recent all-ages home screening, a hush fell over the room…What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar’s depression was untreated…
Nothing in the children’s entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then — as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 — a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but… well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.
It all makes sense now. The Gen-X stupor of the 1990s wasn’t a result of grunge, disaffection or lack of direction, but those monsters at Children’s Television Worship!
I asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of “Sesame Street,” how exactly the first episodes were unsuitable for toddlers in 2007. She told me about Alistair Cookie and the parody “Monsterpiece Theater.” Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. According to Parente, “That modeled the wrong behavior” — smoking, eating pipes — “so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether.”
I always wondered where my penchant for devouring pipes originated; now I know. Thanks Sesame Street. Thanks a lot.
(In all seriousness, nothing in those early shows can hold a candle to the disturbing “Snuffy’s Parents Get a Divorce” – a canceled episode that was supposed to be aired in 1992.)