Street Gang Review: How We Got To Sesame Street [Prime Video]
Director: marilyn agrelo | Time to play: 107 minutes | Year: 2021
In the late 1960s, there were people in the US who came up with the warm and humane idea of using television to teach children. For example, came Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, who taught important life lessons and made the children feel good about themselves. But that series depended on its charismatic leading man, Fred Rogers, so that concept couldn’t easily cross the border. Sesame Street luckily we did, including in the Netherlands where we got our own characters like Tommie and Ieniemienie. The documentary Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street shows how it all started.
Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street shows the origin, development and result of the original Sesame Street in the USA in 1969. There were three people in the cradle, all of whom were intent on using the power of the picture tube in a positive way. In fact, a lot of psychological research preceded the broadcast of the first episode on the American public network. The program hit like a bomb. The documentary is also packed with behind-the-scenes footage, where the atmosphere was very friendly.
why did it come up Sesame Street? Because the American school system was then many times worse than it is now: kids from a poor black neighborhood could shake it off, because not much government money was spent on it. So, let’s start with home education for children from the age of three, who can learn the alphabet and counting through TV.
Therefore, the original American Sesame Street it looked like a street in the Bronx, black kids had to feel at home on it. People who just talk could not catch children’s attention, so some puppets were added. Jim Henson just showed up, dealing with little creatures he called ‘muppets’, which worked just as well. Thanks to the reactions of the test audience, the puppets interact with humans; originally those would be separate segments.
Of course it was a hit, because the show hasn’t disappeared from the tube ever since. At first, the state of Mississippi refused to broadcast it. That really wouldn’t have anything to do with black people being seen. Not precisely. But Sesame Street he couldn’t stop there either. The documentary does not say a word about how the format was adopted in more than 30 countries, it is purely about the American version. Not very educational from the creators.
On the other hand, they also do not show any of the famous stars that they have visited. It’s about how the show came about (pretty easy because one of the creators was already a producer and because they got money from the government) and how it evolved. The latter gets the lion’s share, and is also very interesting.
At one point there was a doll that was clearly based on a black person, and American viewers didn’t like that. According to some too radical and political, according to others a racist stereotype. So he left and the creator of that doll, a ‘neighbor’ from Sesame Street, left. Looking at today’s footage, it’s hard to understand what viewers felt.
One change that was successful was to make the show more appealing to adults. because everyone who Sesame Street you’ve seen, know that there’s humor in it that’s not really aimed at three-year-olds. This arose after research showed that children looked even more closely and retained information when a parent was watching.
But what really permeates the documentary from start to finish is the joy everyone has had working on the show and how enjoyable filming has always been. Although working with puppets (sometimes in impromptu interaction with children) had its challenges. The way of Sesame Street ends for this film with the death of Jim Henson.
It’s almost two short hours watching warm people with good intentions, and seeing how their realized ideas bear fruit. The Dutch public broadcaster can learn something from that, which is so disrespectful to Sesame Street they have passed that he has died a quiet death. No new episodes have been made since 2018, and long before that it was relegated to its digital arm where reruns draw less than 2% of viewers like they used to. Reading comprehension is reportedly deteriorating rapidly in the Netherlands. What could it be?
Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street can be seen in first video.