Sorry about the lack of posts. I'm still unpacking boxes and working a lot of OT. Hopefully after we get settled into the new house, I'll be posting more on a regular basis.
Happy New Year!
Tomorrow will mark 40 years of "sunny days" and "everything's A-OKs" on PBS's venerable "Sesame Street," the children's show that introduced the world to Big Bird and unleashed the fuzzy red Elmo.
There's no mention of the occasion in tomorrow's season premiere, but it is recognized in a new coffee-table book, "Sesame Street: A Celebration -- 40 Years of Life on the Street" ($40, Black Dog & Leventhal), written by Louise Gikow.
"They completely raised the bar for children's television. They brought education into TV in a way that was not only palatable but extremely attractive for kids," said Gikow, who has done freelance projects for Sesame Workshop, the production company that makes the series. "I don't think 'Blues Clues' or 'Dora the Explorer' or a ton of PBS shows would have happened if it weren't for 'Sesame Street.' "
Creator Joan Ganz Cooney brought her experience producing documentaries about urban literacy initiatives to the project that would become "Sesame Street." She melded a comedic sensibility inspired by "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" with an educational curriculum. To make it palatable to parents, "Sesame Street" includes parodies of current pop culture, including a "Mad Men" spoof (about emotions) for the show's new season.
" 'Sesame Street' has always been written on two levels," said Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, executive vice president of education and research for Sesame Workshop. "The children don't understand these parodies, but the adult does."
The series also made a point of showing the diversity of the human characters in its inner-city setting.
"A lot of people didn't take that seriously as an appealing factor back in '69," said Sharon Ross, assistant chair of the TV department at Columbia College in Chicago. " 'Sesame Street' showed that diversity could be done on TV without alienating viewers and suggested to other children's programs that they really needed to go there."
The show has inspired a new DVD retrospective, "Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days" ($29.93), on sale tomorrow. It features many of the show's celebrity guests (Tony Bennett, Robert De Niro, Alicia Keys, Lena Horne, Mister Rogers) in more than six hours of iconic scenes from the show, including Ernie singing "Rubber Duckie," Elmo's first episode and the death of Mr. Hooper.
"That was the moment when 'Sesame Street' became an iconic show," Ross said. "That choice to fully address [Mr. Hooper's death] and not pretend he moved or infantalize it in any way, it was a bold choice."
Gikow agreed and said she discovered in her research how important the Sesame Workshop education department was in the way the show addressed death.
"Some of the things you would think to say turn out to be terrible to say. It might occur to me to say to a child, 'Sweetie, he was sick and doing very badly, and he passed away.' But if you say that, the next time the child gets a cold you might have a paranoid child on your hands who [thinks his sickness might lead to death]. It isn't something that would occur to you off the bat, and without that information you could traumatize a whole generation of children."
Not that the show is perfect. It's willing to admit its mistakes and make changes. A 2006 DVD release, "Sesame Street: Old School," was designed for adults and came with a disclaimer that it "may not meet the needs of today's pre-school child," perhaps due to scenes from early in the show of children playing in a junkyard. Truglio acknowledged safety is an issue.
During Hasbro's 2009 Fall Investor Day Event held today at their headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, they announced the re-introduction of the classic toy line Micronauts originally created by Japan company Takara in 1974 under the name Microman and later launched in the United States in 1976 and backed by a Marvel Comics comic book series in 1979. As many know, Takara is the same company that originally invented the Transformers line and continues to work with Hasbro today. No specifics were given by Hasbro's Brian Chapman (VP if Hasbro's Global Designs) about what we can expect from the Micronauts brand other than that we can expect Hasbro to revise, reinvent and re-ignite the brand so it is exciting for fans old and new alike. There also was some indication that a television series and/or major motion picture could be in the works for this brand.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, "Lost," "Alias") is in talks to produce a movie about the Japanese interchangeable toys Micronauts, which Hasbro just acquired.
First released in Japan in 1974 (under the name Microman), the toys were imported to the U.S. by the Mego Corporation in 1976. The line consisted of 3.75-inch tall toys which used a universal, five millimeter inter-connective design. Mego cancelled the Micronauts line in 1980. In 2002, Palisades Toys bought the rights to reproduce Micronauts.
The Micronauts comic books were published by Marvel Comics, Image Comics, and Devil's Due Publishing. Their first comic appearance was in "Micronauts #1" (Marvel, Jan. 1979) with characterizations created by Bill Mantlo and Michael Golden.
Abrams tells the newspaper that those who doubt whether a board game or science-fiction toy should be accorded star status will be proved wrong.
"Sometimes, when someone is not a celebrity and you are casting them in a role, everyone who is in a seat of authority voices questions about that actor's talent, sex appeal, looks, ability -- their everything," he says. "But then they get the role, and suddenly they are on the cover of every magazine, and nobody questions those things again. In retrospect, everyone says, 'Of course that person is a star.'"