December 27, 2009

Sesame Street Versus Mr. Rogers

I'm a bit late to the party here, but November 10 marked the 40th anniversary of "Sesame Street," and I'm just now finding the time to adequately appreciate that noteworthy milestone.

You see, like countless millions, I'm an adult product of Sesame Street. My formative daycare years consisted of daily morning doses of Sesame Street. My fellow daycare peeps and I would gather around the warm, chromosome-altering glow of the television and learn such valuable life lessons as "near versus far," how to identify the "people in our neighborhood," and correctly determine "which one of those things just doesn't belong there."

In retrospect, Sesame Street was all about teaching us how to prepare for a career in airline security.

Back in my day, an age now referred to as B.E. (Before Elmo), the most beloved Sesame Street character was Grover, who I now think of as Smurf Elmo; although Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie and the Cookie Monster all held places of honor in the pantheon of Sesame Street muppets.

In the B.E. era of PBS morning broadcasting, Sesame Street was followed by Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, which almost all of us viewed as a colossal disappointment. It was generally understood the only kids who watched Mr. Rogers were those who couldn't keep up with the fast pace of Sesame Street. Sesame Street was the Miami Vice of children's television. Mr. Rogers, on the other hand, was basically The Waltons as a one man show.

Mr. Rogers was the ultimate bureaucrat policy wonk. Every day, the man would enter his house, PUT ON A CARDIGAN and CHANGE HIS SHOES. Those two acts alone told you he didn't like paying for heat and his floors were probably too dangerous to trod upon wearing socks or to risk going barefoot. The man had a stoplight in his home, for crying out loud, which indicated he was a major stickler when it came to rules and regulations.

There was an entertaining rumor whispered eagerly between myself and my daycare colleagues that Mr. Rogers was an ex-marine sniper with over 100 confirmed kills in Vietnam. That rumor fascinated me, and I imagined Mr. Rogers in his cardigan and sneakers (standard jungle wear), drawing the crosshairs on Charlie from half a mile away, and whispering "Boomerang! Toomerang! Zoomerang!" before pulling the trigger.

Alas, the rumor eventually proved to be ridiculously false, so Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood morphed back into the boring, plodding show I always secretly knew it to be.

Sesame Street, by comparison, was a place where you could "come and play" and "everything's A-Okay." I had no idea what the "A" in "A-Okay" even meant, and I STILL don't, but it seemed like a definite improvement over plain old "Okay." It was like adding the "e" to "e-mail." Nowadays, I suppose it's not even "A-Okay;" it's no doubt been upgraded to "everything's @-Okay." That's just how innovative Sesame Street is.

The point is, Sesame Street was, and continues to be, cutting-edge children's entertainment, and I've discovered I'm woefullly behind the Sesame Street times as I try to re-educate myself in preparation for my son's upcoming formative years. By the time he's absorbing all things Sesame Street, "Open Heart Surgery Elmo" will be the holiday gift item I simply HAVE to obtain for my child.

Now that I think about it, maybe I should try to hook my son on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Then I'd only have to worry about buying my boy a new cardigan each Christmas. There's a certain peace of mind to that.

Posted by Ryan at December 27, 2009 11:34 AM | TrackBack

RE Sesame Street: If you haven't seen it already, go to YouTube and search for "the count censored".

My nine-year-old niece showed it to me. I sure as hell hope we were filling in different words in our heads....

Posted by: Stephen R at January 5, 2010 12:19 PM

I actually saw that Sesame Street/Count YouTube video back in July of 2008, the same week I discovered "Charlie Bit Me."

YouTube has changed my life.

Posted by: Ryan at January 5, 2010 01:28 PM
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