Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch could be attributed with teaching most of America’s children their ABCs. The characters from “Sesame Street” have entertained children since 1969 and this Tuesday the show celebrates its 40th anniversary in nearly 120 countries.
According to Time Magazine, the concept began when Lloyd Morrissett, a Carnegie Foundation executive, shared his daughter’s enthusiasm for television in the presence of producers. Joan Ganz Cooney, the show’s creator, was one of the producers who recognized it as an opportunity to redefine television for young children.
They drafted a concept and the combination of furry Jim Hensen Muppets and educational television became a phenomenon.
“I watched ‘Sesame Street’ every day of my life when I was little, right before lunchtime. It was a part of my daily schedule,” said sophomore, Lindsey Daniels.
Daniels wasn’t the only child watching the beloved Muppets. According to www.tv.com, “no show is more recognized the world over by as many generations and walks of life.”
On Tuesday, Michelle Obama, Cameron Diaz and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony Award-winning creator and performer from “In the Heights,” joined the cast. Obama helped the children grow a cucumber and shared with them the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.
While remaining popular for younger generations, as our generation grew a little older the lessons on “Sesame Street” became common knowledge and our attention shifted. For many the list of favorite shows evolved and soon “Hey Arnold” and “Doug” replaced Grover and Cookie Monster.
“I would come home every day after school to watch [‘Hey Arnold’]. I loved it because I thought the kids were cool because they got to do whatever they wanted,” said sophomore Ariana Christo.
Each children’s network had its niche and across America and abroad we tuned in to watch it all.
Nickelodeon produced some of the most memorable shows for our generation. “SpongeBob SquarePants,” was one of the networks’s most popular shows. According to PRNewswire, “Nickelodeon’s precocious porous pal soaked up nearly 8 million total viewers with the premiere of the ‘SpongeBob SquarePants.’” Characters like Alex Mack (“The Secret World of Alex Mack”) and Kevin “Ug” Lee (“Salute Your Shorts”) redefined our television viewing. Nickelodeon provided our generation with television shows like “Allegra’s Window,” “Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies,” “Rocket Power,” “CatDog” and countless others.
Another popular channel for children was created in the early 1980s by Disney. Their channel, appropriately called The Disney Channel, included “Pepper Ann,” “Boy Meets World,” “Bear in the Big Blue House,” “Growing Pains” and “Timon and Pumba.”
PBS, the service that brought us “Sesame Street” also gave us shows like “Arthur,” “Clifford the Big Red Dog,” “The Puzzle Place,” “Zoom” and “Dragon Tales.”
The characters that taught us our ABCs and the lessons of life will remain timeless. Twenty years from now there will be many new shows, but hopefully some of our childhood favorites will prevail.