Over the past ten years, I have ingested a great deal of kid TV. From DJ Lance to Peppa Pig to Swiper No Swiping, I’ve seen them all. None, however, hold a candle to Sesame Street.
Of course, with raising children comes repetition so I’ve seen these episodes hundreds of times. Having a non-verbal son with Autism sometimes allows me to see some episodes hundreds of times within a matter of days. Either way, there’s a lot of Children’s Television Workshop working its way into my brain and hibernating.
Sometimes, the depths in which I take my thoughts can be surprising. For example, one of Lucas’s nonstop programs is “Sesame Street Presents – Kid’s Favorite Songs”. Elmo, in preparation to do a Top Ten Countdown on the radio, keeps sneaking away to practice. Of course, all the Muppets stalk him from trash can to nest in order to suggest their own favorites. Their songs include mega-old classics like Row, Row, Row, Your Boat and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Considering that they welcome celebrity singers on the show all the time, you’d imagine they’d pick some more contemporary titles, but to each his own. If I was John Legend or Destiny’s Child, I couldn’t help but be a little offended.
Sesame Street’s most trusted adult, Gordon, begins the video listening to his snazzy yellow radio. That’s when my least favorite puppeted resident, Zoey, asks:
Gordon…what’s that mean? Top Ten Countdown?
To this, he replies:
Well, I GUESS that means that Elmo is going to be counting down the ten best songs on the radio.
Maybe in the real world, but not here where the air is sweet. Nope. On Sesame Street, you later learn, that a countdown means Elmo counts backwards from ten to one on the radio. That’s it. Just counting backwards. He spends 40 minutes practicing for this. Lame.
Every time the video plays, I listen as Gordon seems to enunciate “I guess that means” before telling Zoey what a Top Ten Countdown is. His words crawl into my head and I picture a meeting somewhere in the heart of Hollywood. A hot shot producer chomping on a cigar and adorned with Sesame-inspired jewelry pounds his fist on the table.
No! He has to say “I guess”! If not, we’re gonna kill his credibility with the kids! Damnit, I won’t let this empire crumble because you have Gordon out there lying to the children! What the hell kinda operation do you think this is?!
The visual makes me laugh. I know that it’s probably not true, but I’m using my imagination. Sesame Street taught me that.
Also, while we’re at it, why does Elmo need to sneak away and practice counting? That is pretty much all he has done on Sesame Street for thirty years. Every time we turn it on, someone is helping him learn numbers or letters. I’ve heard Ricky Gervais sing him that friggin’ “N” Song a million times. He still doesn’t get it? How is that possible? Actually, none of the Monsters seem to retain anything they’ve been taught. That’s concerning, no?
Big Bird has been learning the alphabet since before I was born. He’s still learning it. For half a century, they write songs and play games, all designed to teach the ABCs. Yet, he still flaps around with that furry elephant asking how to spell cat. What’s the deal there? Is he even trying? I’m starting to think he’s not even a real bird.
I know the obvious response is that they’re supposed to be childlike. After all, Elmo insists that he’s only five years old. That seems to be true for all the Muppets on the show…for the entire time they’re on the show. No matter how many months, years, or decades pass, they remain young in heart and, frighteningly enough, chronologically too. Of course, the argument could be made that Elmo is really 40 and says he’s five because, as we have discovered, he still can’t count. But, for the purposes of this, I’m going to accept that he’s really five. Got it. Time apparently stands still on Sesame Street, except that it doesn’t.
All the actual humans on the show grow up, grow old, and die. We see that. So why don’t the Muppets? What magic keeps Cookie Monster young for life while Maria and Luis slowly turn to dust? Shouldn’t the humans be dissecting these creatures in order to capture eternal youth? If this show was happening in real life, someone would be hunting these things and trying to tap into their life blood. We could have saved Mr. Hooper!
So, in the absence of Grouch Poachers, this must be a completely different universe, right? I obsess about this with Game of Thrones too. What planet are the residents of Westeros on that they have dragons, different continents, and yet speak English? By the same token, what alternate universe is Sesame Street on that monsters never age or retain knowledge, yet humans do both? I can’t wrap my head around it.
The bizarre dimensions that kids television takes place last well into their adolescence. The worlds in which they exist can make your head spin and, just because your child outgrows one, it doesn’t mean the next one will make any more sense. There are time machines and superhero families and high school kids hired as high school teachers. One insane show called “Dog With A Blog” featured a family pet that talked the family children. I found it funny to tell my daughter that the finale should be where you learn that the dog doesn’t really talk and the kids are just serial killers. She didn’t understand why I thought that was funny. The next day, my wife wanted to know why Olivia knew who the Son of Sam was. Fun times.
An overactive imagination and kids TV don’t mix. Best to back away from the screen. Tell too many neighbors your theory about Muppet Blood bringing eternal youth and you’re sure to get dis-invited from the block party.