Sesame Street as we know it is gone
It's not easy being green...
My childhood is gone
Never mind the fact that I'm 43, or that my oldest daughter is going to be 12 soon and my youngest is 7 and a half. Never mind that I've long since left the days of watching shows like Mr. Dressup and Readalong in my storied past.
My childhood is gone.
For those who don't know, Sesame Street made the sad announcement earlier this week that the show was letting go of show stalwarts Bob McGrath, who played Bob, Roscoe Orman, who was Gordon, and Emilio Delgado, who played Luis. Sesame Street moved to HBO, with episodes soon to be available on the network. But to envision a Sesame Street without Bob singing about some touching message about humanity, or Gordon being Big Bird's educator about the nuances of life, or Luis and Maria offering some pearls of wisdom to the kids on the show is going to be difficult.
I remember watching the show while parked on the couch in my parents' living room with my little sister beside me. We were wide eyed and unable to move because we were under Sesame Street's spell. I loved Bob, Luis, Maria and Gordon, and while I've understood for some time that the four characters would ultimately have to move on - Maria, for instance, announced her retirement last year, much to the dismay of those who grew up with her as an enduring figure on the iconic street - I just figured the four would ultimately retire rather than be dismissed from the show. While Maria left under her own power - the decision to retire seems to have been hers - there's something ignominious about the way McGrath, Orman and Delgado are leaving.
There's a distinct sense of history when it comes to talking about shows like Sesame Street, and one of the historic touchstones about the show is the human element and the broad spectrum acceptance of all. Without going into too much of the apparent politics of getting rid of the trio, who have been with the show for over four decades, there does appear to be an element of ageism afoot; McGrath appeared to allude to that himself at a Supercon appearance.
McGrath acknowledged that he, Orman and Delgado were going to no longer be with Sesame Street, though Sesame Workshop appeared to acknowledge that the trio would be representing the program in public appearances.
That's the thing - this trio of individuals were what helped give the show its enduring heartbeat. Now that the show is down to a half-hour with barely any human cast members, it's hard to find that human element within the confines of the show.
How can kids identify with it if there are no human touches?
Bob and Gordon watch Barkley
Yes, Kids can connect...
This is not to say there is nothing relateable for kids on the show anymore - far from it - but there's something to be said for kids to be able to see familiar faces on the program and to see adults behaving in realistic ways.
A Muppet can't really teach that, no matter how skilled the operator.
The beauty of Sesame Street was its interactivity between the human and Muppet communities. That's what made it a family, and it furthered the message that no matter how different we all are, we are still all the same with thoughts, feelings and ideas that all need to be accepted. That isn't to say that there are now no useful images to be taken from Sesame Street - far from it - but there was something about the way the adults on the street took care of the younger Muppets and taught them about the larger world around them.
When Mr. Hooper died years ago, I remember how the other adults on the street embraced the younger characters, particularly Big Bird, who was struggling with what was, for him, a deeply personal loss. When Big Bird got relentlessly teased by adults about his "imaginary" friend Snuffy, he learned that adults could even apologize for mistakes that they made - a very important lesson for kids of all ages, who sometimes believe that adults are infallible (news flash - we're not). From introducing people in the neighborhood to understanding what marriage was all about when Luis and Maria finally got married, Sesame Street has been the go-to of many families to teach those important lessons that sometimes a parental voice alone can't teach.
Now that the original cast is virtually gone, there's a void. Of course, the show will continue and adapt to the changing times, as it had to do, but Gordon, Luis and Bob have been staples of Sesame Street for so long it makes no sense to so many of us to see these beloved characters move from the street for no apparent reason than "re-tooling."
It seems grossly unfair, somehow.
Sesame Street Won't Be the Same
Why rework a classic?
Sesame Street is a classic because of the human factor. Sure, the Muppets deal with some very human issues on Sesame Street, but in getting rid of three of the stalwarts of the show, Sesame Street loses some of its magic.
Things must ultimately change, but this was an ill-conceived change that the show may not fully recover from.