Tough Pigs News Extra

January 1, 2002

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Sesame Street re-paved

From a New York Times article

December 4, 2001


Sesame Street is about to be re-paved.


   For the first time in more than 30 years, the pioneering show for toddlers will be reformatted -- to appeal to today's media-savvy babies -- when it begins its new season in February.


   Instead of the trademark Sesame Street intertwining storyline, interrupted by lots of short segments and cartoons, the show will be refitted into a simpler, more predictable modular format, according to a PBS station magazine.


   Other alterations include Muppet characters such as Ernie and Big Bird starring in their own segments -- like the very successful "Elmo's World" show-within-a-show introduced several years ago.


   Next year, Cookie Monster will introduce the Letter of the Day while the Count will host the Number of the Day.


   The show will not drop any of its Muppet characters, sources said, but will refocus instead on the Sesame Street core characters. So many new Muppets have been added over the last 30 years that it became unwieldy and hard for youngsters to follow, the show believes.


   Also, the live-action scenes that took place on the Sesame Street set will be consolidated into one piece about 8 to 10 minutes long.


   The changes were brought on partially because of tough competition from other educational kiddie shows like Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues


   But other, more important, factors included shifts in technology and kids' viewing habits. Preschoolers, who were thought to have only short attention spans, turn out to enjoy watching story-driven movies, according to new research.


   Sesame Street has seen its ratings slip in the past five years as Nickelodeon's ratings have grown exponentially. In the mid-90's, the show drew a 2.0 rating, but by the 2000-2001 season it had dropped by nearly one third, according to PBS research.



And here's some more information on the new format for Season 33, posted by a Sesame insider on the Muppet Central message board:


   What you'll get on Sesame Street -- Subject to tweaks before the season debuts in February 2002, the redesigned Sesame Street will go like this:


   Big Bird opens the show: He's still a bumbling 5-year-old, who greets children with a singalong, his best friend Snuffy and grumpy Oscar.


   Monster Clubhouse: Four puppets in a day-care-like setting explore the "furry feeling of the day."


   Baby Bear and Hero Guy: The imagined superhero comes to animated life, interacting with live-action Baby Bear. This segment alternates with Monster Clubhouse.


   Number of the Day: The Count plays his organ, and Muppetized pipes sing out the numbers. Kids learn what a number looks like and what it means.


   The story from the Street: Stories will have social/emotional curricular themes, such as overcoming obstacles or respecting cultural diversity. Then real kids talk about the theme.


   Journey to Ernie: A hide-and-seek reasoning puzzle simulates a CD-Rom game. Live-action Big Bird asks kids to help him keep trying to find Ernie.


   Letter of the Day: Cookie Monster discovers the letter written in icing on a cookie and sounds it out. Film and animation explain what the letter means. Cookie devises ways to keep from eating the letter of the day, though he reliably gives in.


   Spanish Word of the Day: Rosita regularly presents this segment, but sometimes Professor Grover learns Spanish words from children.


   Elmo's World: This segment won't change next season.


   Afterwards, Big Bird says goodbye.



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