One week ago today, the beloved children’s television series Sesame Street marked a very important moment in its history. The educational series celebrated 50 years on television. That is a long time for any series to be on television. Few series have lasted such a long time. The only series that has lasted longer is Jeopardy. For those wondering, The Price is Right did not premiere until Sept. 4, 1972. In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the show’s heads created a special episode to mark the occasion. It has already run on HBO, and will air tonight on PBS Kids stations nationwide. Following its airings, it will be available on DVD on Dec. 3 through an ongoing partnership between Shout! Factory and Sesame Workshop. The celebration is enjoyable in its own right and worth an occasional watch. That is due to the collective whole of its overall content. While the program’s overall content ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment, the way in which said content was presented sadly detracts from that enjoyment and engagement. Luckily, the negative impact of the program’s editing and ordering is not enough to make it unwatchable. The program’s bonus content couples with its primary content to add to its appeal. When that collective content is considered alongside the issues raised by the program’s editing and ordering, the presentation in whole proves to be maybe not a perfect celebration of Sesame Street, but one that is worth at least an occasional watch.
Shout! Factory and Sesame Workshop’s new 50th Anniversary celebration of Sesame Street is an interesting program that is worth at least an occasional watch. That is due in part to its overall content. The main presentation finds Elmo and his friends looking for Sesame Street’s street sign because it has gone missing on the very day that the neighborhood’s gang is to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. As the group searches for the sign, they also have to keep host Joseph Gordon-Levitt from knowing the sign has gone missing. Along the way, some random segments featuring some of the shows’ most well-known and beloved musical numbers are performed by the likes of Meghan Trainor, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello and Nile Rogers. Of course it is obvious that some of the performances in question are lip synched; specifically speaking those of Trainor and Rogers. They come across more like music videos than actual performances, which sadly do detract somewhat from the program’s enjoyment, but not so much so that the program is unwatchable. Elmo and company’s search eventually reaches a happy ending with a surprise. The whole thing lasts roughly one hour.
Following the finale of the program’s main presentation, audiences are treated to a series of guest appearances from other celebrities as they introduce their favorite moments from Sesame Street’s history. In all, there are four segments. Each segment is accompanied by the full-length segments which each guest star discusses with members of the Sesame Street gang. These segments, honestly, offer more in the way of engagement and entertainment than the main program in this presentation. This is where the program takes a bit of a turn.
The overall primary content featured in the Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration offers a certain amount of entertainment for audiences. However, the editing and arrangement of said content detracts considerably from the presentation. It would have made more sense (at least in this critic’s own view) for the extra guest appearances and segments to have been made part of the overall celebration than their own standalone presentation. Instead of just having random musical numbers as part of the main presentation to break up the search for the sign segments, it would have made more sense to have Elmo and company go around Sesame Street, meeting those guests, who were hanging out with the other members of the Sesame Street “gang,” during the search for the sign, have the noted guests talk about their favorite memories and transition to those segments and then go back to the search for the sign than to have the whole assembled how it was put together. By just incorporating the random celebrities the way in which they were used in the main presentation, the main program just feels disjointed, and the celebs just seem like little more than window dressing. All in all, the editing drastically detracts from the general effect of the program’s presentation. While it does not make the program unwatchable, it does detract from the presentation enough, that it makes one wonder how much thought and time was put into planning and scripting this celebration. The effect is that while it does pay tribute to Sesame Street, its history and impact, the main presentation here is worth maybe an occasional watch, but is not the truly memorable tribute that it could have been.
While the editing and scripting of Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration clearly hurts the celebration’s presentation, it does not make it completely unwatchable. The program’s bonus content, which is brief in itself, does a little more to add to the program’s appeal. There is a brief “Elmo’s World” segment in which Elmo talks about the different kinds of celebrations with his smart phone friend “Smartie” and an even more brief look back at Sesame Street’s half-century history. It is essentially just a video compilation of the series’ opening segments that eventually end up making a video mosaic of the show. Again, this is where the scripting and editing come back into play. That video mosaic of sorts could and should have been used to open the program instead of having Cookie Monster taking a cab ride to Sesame Street as he tries to find out where Sesame Street is. How would Cookie Monster not know how to get to Sesame Street? That is just not believable. Getting back on topic, the bonus content overall adds a little bit of entertainment for audiences. When it is considered along with the program’s primary content, the end result is an overall presentation that is worth an occasional watch, but certainly is sadly not the celebration that it surely could and should have been for such an iconic series.
Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration is an intriguing offering for audiences. Considering the rich history of Sesame Street and the impact that it has had for half a century, the “celebration” is worth an occasional watch, but sadly falls short of being the tribute that it could and should have been. The content that makes up the body of the program’s main presentation will entertain and engage audiences, but the editing and scripting of that main presentation greatly detracts from the program’s impact. The bonus content that comes with the program’s DVD presentation works with the program’s content in its main presentation to make the whole enjoyable, but sadly not memorable. Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration will be available on DVD Dec. 3. More information on this and other titles from Sesame Workshop is available online now at:
More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
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