Feb 11, 2003
Elmo Goes Solo
by Kynan Barker
In Australia and New Zealand, at least, Elmo's World has finally spun off. When Sesame Street's 33rd season screens in Australia/NZ this year, it will be in a new, shortened form. Half-hour episodes of the new-format Sesame Street began screening down under this week (starting Feb 10th at 8:30am), while Elmo's World -- a 15-minute, 30-episode standalone series -- will make its worldwide debut on March 24th at 4pm on Australia's ABC.
Australia and New Zealand are among a number of Western countries which do not produce their own local co-productions of Sesame -- and, until now, episodes have been screened in their original US format. It was programmers in New Zealand who first requested the change, and Australia's ABC Kids was quick to follow suit.
The major casualty of the Australian revamp will be Rosita's Spanish Word of the Day, which is considered less culturally and geographically relevant to Aussie kids than their American counterparts. Other cuts will be made, however -- including the Street story, in some episodes.
Australian Muppet fans may be pleased that the half-hour version will allow ABC to run Sesame with rotating seasons of companion shows such as Bear in the Big Blue House, The Hoobs and Construction Site.
Other international broadcasters which carry Sesame Street will be following the fortunes of the new format closely -- as will Sesame Workshop, who have been notoriously reluctant to even comment on the possibility of Elmo branching out. It goes without saying that Workshop heads will be eyeing the viewing figures for both Elmo's World and the shortened Sesame Street very carefully indeed, as a virtual free shot at the experiment they've long been considering.
Currently, season 34 is in post-production in New York for an April premiere, with only minor streamlining taking place to the new hour-long format introduced in 2002.