Saturday, November 13, 2004

Sesame Street Report Card

When you're the parent of a toddler, you get to know your Sesame Street. It's fun to see what's changed and what hasn't since you were it's target audience. I was watching back when Snuffy was still imaginary (and silent?), and "Beets Beets Sugar Beets" was among the more memorable tunes.

It's impossible to tell whether my more sophisticated observations could've applied to the Sesame of a quarter century ago. Have the old-timers in the cast acquired new undertones, or was I merely incapable of seeing them as a child? Grover has a subtle edginess; he sometimes--not often, but sometimes--comes across as a Krusty the Clown in blue fur, tired of children and ready for more adult pursuits. Our old friend Bob somehow manages to look self-conscious in some of those embarrassing sketches he perpetually finds himself in, earning chuckles from my wife and I as he dances, clucking and pecking, in a chicken suit, or stars as the insidious Trianglebob Trianglepants. Bert and Ernie continue to bother me as they glorify Ernie's playfulness at the expense of intellectualism. And Big Bird seems to be immune to the passage of time, remaining 100% in character despite 30 some-odd years housing the same actor.

I'm even less qualified to remark on the newer cast additions, but I'm going to do it anyway. Rosita, the fluorescent blue monster from south of the border, immediately won me over when she played the blues on her Spanish guitar. Gabby, the human teenager, couldn't have a bigger smile if she had a run-in with the Joker; she uses this warmth to good effect in the classic style of a children's entertainer. She's cloyingly sweet, but definitely seems to enjoy what she's doing, and she does it well. Miles, the other teen, would've gotten along just fine on either the Cosby Show or a preliminary round of American Idol, but lacks conviction in his faddish pop star voice.

But what's this? I saw something that looked like sexual tension between Gabby and Miles... We'll have to keep an eye on those two. They probably shouldn't be allowed in Oscar's trash can alone together. Take it to another street!

The celebrity sketches don't seem to have room for mediocrity. Nora Jones gave an ingenious acting performance alongside her musical one in "Don't Know Why 'Y' Didn't Come," while Natalie Portman ran Hooper's store for a day with a sickening demeanor suggesting an underage prostitute at church. Was she coming on to Big Bird? Maybe size does matter.

Here's my quick, totally subjective, and highly selective report card for the Sesame Street I've seen this past month. I trust my fellow viewers will understand.

  • Thumbs Up: Rosita, Prarie Dawn, Bob, the number 16, the dancing vegetables, Nora Jones, Natasha, Aaron Neville, Beijing acrobats, tie dye, 'Hace Calor', Suzie Kabloozie, Seth Green, Dr. Feel.

  • Thumbs Down: Elmo, Baby Bear, Dr. Phil, Natalie Portman, Trash Gordon, the Noodle family, Grunchetta, Madlenka, 'Do De Rubber Duck', Global Thingy.
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