"We set our sights too low last year. We taught children to count from one to ten—we could at least have taught them to count from one to twenty. This year, we’re going to."
WHERE IT’S AT—THE SECOND YEAR
A famous woman of the theater once remarked, “The only trouble with giving a totally smashing performance is what on earth you do for an encore?” Precisely Sesame Street’s state of affairs. What to do next?
More of the same, naturally. And so the eager viewer waiting impatiently in front of the TV at the kick-off of the show’s second season, was relieved to find business as usual on Sesame Street—almost. True, the street set has been redesigned relocating the stoop of number 123 from center stage. And Sesame is having a small population explosion with Gordon, Susan and Bob hobnobbing with Muppets and preschoolers plus babies, teenagers and grandmothers. Missing are a few familiar faces such as Buddy and Jim and Professor Hastings. But the bumbling pair Buddy and Jim have been replaced by comrades in ineptitude—Alan Arkin and wife Barbara Dana—as the “cooperation couple,” Larry and Phyllis. The professor, more boring than broadening, is no real loss considering all the new groovy friends Roosevelt Franklin brought back home with him from vacation. To be sure the alphabet hasn’t changed. And the psychedelic numbers still continue to pop forward and push backwards like so many balls shot from a cannon: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14…! Hey, wait a minute. Where are the numbers going? All the way up to 20 this season. And that's not all that’s grown. While the Sesame Street format remains fundamentally unchanged (as well as its target audience the country’s 3- to 5-year-olds, particularly the disadvantaged), the curriculum has been expanded. Besides the increase in number recognition this year’s Sesame Street aims to prepare its viewers for reading (specific emphasis on letter sounds and carefully selected right vocabulary), reasoning (such as problem-solving) and arithmetic (including sets and simple addition and subtraction).
When Susan smiles and says, “Bienvenidos a Sesame Street. Como estan todos ustedes, hoy?” don’t start switching channels, thinking you have the wrong station. It’s all part of a master plan to reach key ethnic groups by teaching English to Spanish-speaking children bi-lingually.
When Sesame Street went back on the air this fall, it boasted the biggest network any regular series has ever enjoyed: more than 250 stations, 50 or so of them commercial outlets in communities with no educational TV stations. Even Mississippi has finally swung over to Sesame’s side of the street. Last season, that state’s commission for education vetoed showing Sesame because of its racial variety. A member of the commission stated, “Mississippi was not yet ready for it.” Ready or not, this year here it comes. The commission has had a change of heart. Now Mississippi, like everyone else, will get Kermit the Frog’s message when he sings, “It’s Not Easy To Be Green.”