The Debut of Sesame Street – 11/10/1969

US History |

There has been television shows since the history of TV began that were created to be entertaining while educating their viewers. On November 10th, 1969 gave rise to a show that would pioneer how generations of young children would learn how to count as well as the alphabet; this is the day that the TV show “Sesame Street” makes their debut. “Can you tell me how to get/How to get to Sesame Street” was the memorable and theme song to the historic program that continues today and the show would be recorded as the most popular program for children in the world! Since its’ debut, the program has been aired in over 120 countries.

The creator of this educational and entertaining show was Joan Ganz Cooney who previously worked for public television as a documentary producer. Cooney’s mission was to come up with a new way for preschoolers to use her program that would educate the viewer while making it entertaining. Another area she wanted to focus on was to use this medium as a means to assist 3-to 5- year-olds that were underprivileged to be better prepared for kindergarten. The setting for “Sesame Street” was a fictional representation of a New York neighborhood that provided positive social themes as well as characters that were ethnically diverse.

The format for the show had a resemblance to a popular variety show in the 1960s known as “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.” Episodes were broken into short segments (many of them funny) that featured live actors, puppets and animation. Although the format would be hugely popular, critics over the years have accused the program for children’s attention span to shrink as a result of the quick segments they used.

One of the most treasured parts of the show since the first airing has to do with the family of puppets known to the world as Muppets. Joan had the right idea when she brought puppeteer Jim Henson (1936-1990) to produce a band of characters that would become the institution of “Sesame Street.” Some of these characters included Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch.

What many give the show credit for was their ability to stay relevant with the times as seen by the subjects they tackled. South Africa had their own version called, “Takalani Sesame,” in 2002 and they created a Muppet character who is 5-years-old named Kami. Kami is HIV-positive and was brought in to help children that were forced to live with the stigma of a disease that has tragically increased to epidemic proportions. Another attempt to stay relevant with the world came in 2006 with the birth of a new Muppet named Abby Cadabby. Her debut positioned her as the program’s first female star character to represent a positive role model for girls as well as encouraging diversity. Since the show’s debut, “Sesame Street” has been viewed by over 74 million Americans and at present, roughly 8 million people in the U.S. alone tune in weekly to watch the show.

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