My Week with Sesame Home Video

by Kynan Barker

May 20-24, 2002

 

My Week Contents

 

 

Monday           Tuesday           Wednesday           Thursday           Friday

 

 

This week, Deputy My-Weeker Kynan Barker puts down the headphones and picks up the video remote to tackle five straight days of Sesame On Demand... 

 

     

Kynan's World

Monday, May 20

 

   Here's the thing: when you're a Muppet Fan Geek who openly contributes essays about Sesame Street to a Muppet Fan Geek website under your own actual name, it's hard to find legitimate skeletons in your closet. Basically, I have no shame. There's nothing I can confess to you people that will actually shock you.

 

   (I'm assuming here that Tough Pigs readers can be roughly divided into two groups: Muppet Fan Geeks like me, who have filled their houses with Bear in the Big Blue House bath toys, and consequently can't be shocked; and increasingly alarmed passersby who know nothing about Muppets, and stumbled across this site inadvertently while looking for information about porcine farm-dwellers of greater-than-average stamina, and consequently are shocked by everything.)

 

   But here's something that'll shock all of you right down to your stripy, green and white socks: I grew up in a Betamax family. (I know. Please hold your pity till the end.) Browsing for rentals, our search was limited to one tiny, badly-lit ghetto corner of the video store, and the clerks' ill-disguised loathing for us did nothing to alleviate our pain. We lived in this world of technological shame for years, because we didn't know any better. It was like we'd invested thousands in Ugly Duckling stocks the day after everyone cashed in on the Beautiful Swan boom.

 

   And -- pssst -- wanna know something even worse? Until 1991, for reasons that have never been made clear, the only video in our household collection was She-Ra, Princess of Power. And I'm one of four boys. (Contributions to my weekly psych bill gratefully accepted.)

 

   So, like any well-to-do young comedy writer out on his own making his fortune in the world, I've been spending the last ten or so years of my life doing my damnedest to make up for my impoverished, Dickensian childhood, in the form of establishing a huge, unwieldy video collection (VHS only, thank you so very much), consisting almost entirely of dumb Muppet stuff. Including, naturally enough, 14 Sesame Street videos.

 

   Sesame Street has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years in the home video market, and leading the pack by an orange nose has been the ubiquitous Elmo. Of my fourteen tapes, six are Elmo-oriented, either in packaging or content. Three are Elmo's World tapes, and the topic of today's piece will be two of those three: Elmo's World: Dancing, Books and Music and Elmo's World: Springtime Fun.

 

   Obviously, as a single grown-up comedy guy with no kids, I'm not the demographic first and foremost in the minds of kids' video producers. Kids are. (Unless everything I learned in business school was wrong, and I doubt that very much, since that's where I learned the ever-reliable Ugly Duckling investment analogy.)

 

   So I'm not claiming to be an Elmo's World expert here -- certainly not qualified enough to question why Elmo's World even needs to be available on home video when Elmo's World seems to be the single most-screened show on TV at the moment. (Media-savvy readers will recall the recent fuss over ABC's much-publicized attempt to replace Ted Koppel's Nightline with Elmo's World News Tonight.)

 

   But I'll tell you who is an Elmo's World expert -- Three-year-old Kynan, the eternally young Child Within who dwells inside my Muppet Fan Heart, and who, let's be honest, was largely responsible for my impulse-purchasing of fourteen damn Sesame Street videos. Conveniently enough, Three-year-old Kynan writes in a different colored font, so nobody will get confused. [ Note: Three-year-old Kynan does not, in actuality, talk in Upspeak, but I've transcribed it that way because it's funnier. ] Take it away, Three-year-old Kynan:

 

   Um, I really like Elmo's World? 'Cos Elmo's like, funny? And Mr. Noodle? He makes funny faces? And also, cause Elmo has a goldfish? Called Dorothy? But I think really there's like, two of her? 'Cos all my goldfish died? In like, two days? So I think Elmo's Mom puts a different Dorothy in every day? But she doesn't tell Elmo? I think Elmo's World is really great, 'cos it's fun, and silly, and you learn stuff? I guess? And Super Grover falls out of the sky on his tricycle! Can I go now? 'Cos I wanna draw on the walls with my crayons.

 

   I think you'll agree, Three-year-old Kynan has a lot of insight into Elmo's World that most of us couldn't achieve through critical theory alone. Nevertheless, despite his perceptive comments, he doesn't mention some of the aspects of Elmo's World that we older viewers might consider pertinent. First of all, Kevin Clash and the rest of the puppeteers are really, really good. Elmo does stuff every single day that boggles the puppet enthusiast's mind. The combination of traditional Henson puppetry, digital puppetry, animation and chromakey is just stunning, without ever being distracting.

 

   Also -- since I haven't raved about Eric Jacobson yet, consider him officially raved about. Eric pops up in these tapes performing Bert and Grover a couple of times, and honestly, who can tell the difference between him and Frank Oz? (Side note: I honestly can't understand how Sesame Street traditionalists can complain about Elmo's World. In these two tapes alone, I saw Grover, Bert, Ernie, Herry, Prairie Dawn and even Twiddlebugs! Bless Sesame Workshop, they just keep right on giving.)

 

   But really, three year olds and adult criticism aside, the ultimate test is this: Today I watched six episodes of Elmo's World in a row. That's a hundred straight minutes of Elmo, and I didn't want to hit the eject button once. That's the best praise a single grown-up comedy guy with no kids can give.

 

   And remember: Three-year-old Kynan loves you.

 

   Tomorrow: Saddle up and ride like the wind for Elmo's World: Wild Wild West.

 

 

Monday           Tuesday           Wednesday           Thursday           Friday

 

     

The Wildness of the West

Tuesday, May 21

 

   Yesterday, I watched a whole bunch of Elmo's World on home video. Initially, I questioned why anyone would need Elmo's World on home video when you can't turn on your TV, no matter what time or day, without seeing Elmo's World anyway. But it turned out to be good fun.

 

   Today, though, I'm a little worried -- Elmo's World: Wild Wild West is all-new, never-before-screened material, so I've got no built-in preconceived criticism to fall back on. Today, unarmed with any long-established self-righteous crankiness, I face the critic's worst nightmare -- having to watch something with an open mind.

 

   Well, an almost open mind. I guess I've never been a big fan of country music. And I gave up childhood horse-riding lessons after two weeks, because of that, you know, horsey smell. And, come to think of it, I've never liked John Wayne movies. Or Bonanza. And I think Back to the Future: Part Three is the best of the trilogy despite the western theme.

 

   Cool, I guess I do have built-in preconceived crankiness to fall back on. The Wild Wild West sucks, dude. (And while I'm at it, what's with the tautology? Surely the Wildness of the West can be summed up in just one "Wild"?)

 

   Right, let's get started.

 

   Elmo's World: Wild Wild -- no, wait. I think I'm going to call this tape Wild West for the duration of this column, because Elmo's World: Wild Wild West is just too darn long, and the acronym would be EW:WWW, which sounds like Elmo stepped in some horse droppings.

 

   So, Wild West starts with a good old-fashioned Muppet stampede, which makes me happy. Then there's a montage of Wild West stuff, including Big Bird riding a horse. After that, we see -- not one, not two, but three Noodles. There's Mr. Noodle, Mr. Noodle's brother Mr. Noodle, and their sister Ms. Noodle. (For reasons I can't quite put my finger on, my favorite is Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle. I tell you this only in the spirit of full disclosure.) Actually, to tell you the truth, more than one Noodle at a time somehow seems to dilute the Noodly goodness, but them Noodles is so much fun, I jes' cain't complain.

 

   We have an early contender for cutest Wild West moment when Dorothy's goldfish bowl goes on location outside a store, where a floppy-haired Sesame kid shows her how he rides the coin-operated horse. "Wook, Dowothy, I'm widing! Giddyap, yeehah, whoaaow! Giddyap, yeehah, whooaaow!" In a parallel Sesame Street universe, this kid grows up to be George W. Bush.

 

   Regular episodes of Elmo's World run around 12 minutes a pop, but according to the back cover, Wild West runs a whopping 50 minutes, so basically there's a fair amount of padding. Everything kinda happens a few more times than it usually would, and for a little bit longer than it usually would. There are more interruptions -- a running gag where an assortment of Western Anything Muppets and animals keep singing a Western song; the "you've got mail" moment drags for a couple extra moments; the computer mouse is harder than usual to catch; and then the e-mail runs for a good couple of minutes, instead of the usual few seconds.

 

   But hey, nobody's complaining, because the e-mail is a brand-new Marshal Grover sketch, featuring Fred the Wonder Horse and the impeccable talents of Eric Jacobson as Grover. Have I raved about Eric Jacobson yet? I have? Well, consider him re-raved about. The sketch itself is a fairly derivative square dance number where Grover gets trampled by square dancers, but my gosh, it's just such a pleasure to see him there, and in such capable hands.

 

   But here's the main way they manage to stretch a 12-minute segment into a 50-minute special -- Elmo actually leaves Elmo's World, on a magic stagecoach, no less, and pays a visit to the real live Wild Wild West. Elmo pumps water, Elmo washes horses, Elmo even kisses a pony. (Yeah, I spoke too soon -- in the cuteness stakes, that little George Dubya kid has nothing on Elmo kissing a pony.)

 

   Back in the world of crayons and cardboard, Elmo talks to a real live cowboy -- Travis Tritt, who appears and sings a song. And here I must pause in my admiration for Wild West and fulfill my proper journalistic duty, which is to report The Truth, without bias, without fear, and, if possible, without laughing so hard milk comes out of my nose.

 

   The Truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that Travis Tritt looks like a woman.

 

   I repeat: Travis Tritt looks like a woman.

 

   He has soft womanly eyelashes, long fluffy hair, and even a well-groomed, feminine beard. 

 

   Remember, folks -- you read it right here at Tough Pigs.

 

   Finally, the other fiendish way of stretching this special out to 50 minutes is to finish the Elmo's World part at the 30-minute mark, run some unnecessarily slow credits, and then run out the clock with episodes of Monster Clubhouse and Hero Guy. The scoundrels!

 

   ... Not Travis, obviously. He remains a fine gentlewoman, who is, I'm sure, above reproach.

 

   [ Note: I know that Danny has previously covered Elmo's World: Wild Wild West in My Week with Elmo, but I figured there was more to say, and besides, Danny and I are different people. Honestly. ]

 

   Tomorrow: Best foot forward -- The Best of Everyone on Sesame Street.

 

 

Monday           Tuesday           Wednesday           Thursday           Friday

 

     

The Best of Everyone

Wednesday, May 22

 

   This is the reason for Sesame Street home video -- The Best of Ernie and Bert and The Best of Kermit on Sesame Street. You could watch the show every day for a year without seeing this much of your favorite Muppets. (Actually, you could have, until Sesame 2.0 and Play With Me Sesame came along and instantly quadrupled our Recommended Muppet Allowance. But it's still nice to have the tapes.)

 

   And, of course, having someone else choose "The Best" of our favorite Muppets is the reason we have Muppet Fan Geek websites like this which are devoted to being cranky about their choices.

 

   So let's get cranky!

 

   The Best of Ernie and Bert has some good stuff mixed up with some medium good stuff, inexplicably interrupted by Gina, Big Bird, and Ernie's niece Ernestine, who are all looking at a photo album. Evidently, perfectly simple sketches which require no explanation on TV call for elaborate setups when part of a compilation video -- and, for some reason, those setups have to be as irrelevant, labored and dull as possible.  

 

   Don't get me wrong -- I like Gina just fine, I couldn't speak more highly of Big Bird, and Ernestine has never failed to please. I just don't think they're strictly necessary here. Every time we cut back to the street, where -- and pay attention to the context here, folks, it might be important -- where Gina is babysitting Ernestine and reminiscing over Bert and Ernie's photo album, I start glancing at my watch. This is taking up valuable B&E time, I'm thinking.

 

   And honestly, the explanation they provide isn't particularly essential. Before we cut to the first sketch, Gina tells us, "This is a photo of the time Ernie and Bert went to the movies," as if that wasn't apparent from the movie theater seats, the projector in the background, the movie-atmosphere soundtrack and the heavy reliance on movie-theater-oriented dialogue, such as, "I'm trying to watch the movie, Ernie."

 

   By the way, sorry for making you pay attention back there -- turns out, the babysitting context wasn't important after all.

 

   So, for those of you who were wondering, here's the official, Sesame Workshop authorized, all-time Best of Ernie and Bert: Bert and Ernie go to the movies and sit behind a lady with a big hat. Bert and Ernie go camping and identify animals. A doctor visits and examines Ernie before Ernie can explain that he called the doctor for Bert. I Don't Want To Live on the Moon. Bert and Ernie explore a pyramid and find Bert and Ernie shaped mummies. The National Association of W Lovers. Bert teaches Bernice to play checkers. That's What Friends Are For. And there you have it. 

 

   Rubber Duckie gets a brief a-capella rendition in the Pyramid sketch, and That's What Friends Are For is so cute that nearly all my crankiness had melted away by the time I started writing up my notes, but thankfully, I still have enough left to say the following: This is tape is so obviously NOT the best of Ernie and Bert that it almost hurts. Picture, if you will, the crème de la crème of Ernie and Bert. You've got the image? Okay. This tape is the curds and whey of Ernie and Bert.

 

   Maybe I'm being too harsh. (Maybe that was self-evident.) I mean, it'd be hard to find the worst of Ernie and Bert. Jim and Frank really gave us all uniformly good stuff, and that's what we've been served up in this tape. But A Small Sample of Some Uniformly Good Bert and Ernie Sketches, Interrupted by Unnecessary and Annoying Exposition isn't quite as catchy a title, is it?

 

   While we're here, let's just assume right at the outset that The Best of Kermit on Sesame Street, by definition, suffers from the same selection problems. And let's assume I've already griped about them, in a scathing, witty, yet loving fashion. That'll save us a bit of time.

 

   The linking material here at least makes a stab at relevance -- Grover is presenting Kermit with a Frog of the Year Award. You'd think this would be the perfect scenario for sharp, funny, new Kermit-and-Grover scenes, as well as providing a scenario that's as close as possible to ideal for exposition (assuming, for the moment, that exposition is actually necessary). 

 

   You'd think. Except that Kermit spends the whole time sitting away from the action, and Grover does all his interaction with three little pigs, whose excuse for being there is that Kermit interviewed them a couple of times for Sesame Street News. They're sort of the comic relief, I guess, except that they're comic relief for Grover, so whatever.

 

   Grover shows a whole bunch of clips -- mostly good clips, some real classics, many involving classic Kermit-Grover interplay, so no real complaints beyond what we've already assumed. But Grover also shows a bunch of new clips of himself talking to little girls about Kermit. They're great, the girls are really cute, and one of them furnishes us with my current all-time favorite Muppet quote: "Kermit's, like, the only frog that can act and mostly the only frog who wears clothes." But why does Grover get to talk to the cute little girls on The Best of Kermit video? Why not, say, for example -- and I know I'm going out on a limb here -- why not Kermit?

 

   In amongst the clips, we're treated to a sequence of 16 moments from Sesame Street News -- but it's a tease, we don't get any complete sketches. It's a masterpiece of editing, and, like this whole compilation, it's obviously a labor of love, but it almost seems like they're putting so much effort into doing a proper tribute to Kermit that they've forgotten to put enough Kermit in it. And then, just to rub things in, after burying him in a crowd scene for the length of the tape, when Kermit finally gets a brief scene at the end, he actually steals the show.

 

   But, once again, Sesame Workshop, evil fiends that they are, save the sweetest, gentlest, most tear-jerkingest moment for the very end, and leave me without a critical flipper to stand on. Grover, speaking on behalf of Kermit, who is burdened by his enormous prize, says: "Froggy wanted to thank... the little people behind the scenes, the big people behind the scenes, and someone called Jim." 

 

   So, you know, no hard feelings. 

 

   Tomorrow: Let the chips fall where they may -- it's Random Sesame.

 

 

Monday           Tuesday           Wednesday           Thursday           Friday

 

     

Cut & Paste Sesame

Thursday, May 23

 

   Today, instead of having a theme for the day, I humbly present a completely random selection of Sesame Street home videos, chosen completely at random because I'm pretty sure that's how most of these videos were put together.

 

   So, let's see, today's videos will be, um... Get Up And Dance, Sing Yourself Silly, Kids' Favorite Songs and 1 2 3 Count With Me. Because, essentially, whatever.

 

   Get Up And Dance is a dance party featuring Big Bird, Celina, and a whole bunch of cloned Sesame Kids. It's Radar's birthday, apparently, and that means everybody has to stand around the dance studio shouting and getting dance steps wrong. This is Big Bird as Barney -- in 33 years of Sesame Street, I've never heard so many kids all yelling Yaaaaaaay! at once. What entertainment there is here is mainly provided by the kids who don't know the moves staring blankly at people off-camera.

 

   From the second song onwards, footage of the gang in the dance studio intercut with Sesame file footage of people doing vaguely relevant things, including infuriatingly teasing shots from classic sketches that we'd rather be watching, like Cookie flying to the moon. Then, because this is a really rockin' birthday party, they turn on the TV to the Dance Channel, and we start intercutting between the random bad dancing and actual sketches, like "The Birdland Jump," and Kingston Livingston III singing about birthdays. Because, clearly, the one thing that improves Sesame Street sketches is inserting footage of uncoordinated kids dancing to them. The effect is like trying to watch Sesame while somebody else keeps changing the channel.

 

   It might give some indication of how entertaining this dance party is if I tell you that Celina spends the entire time trying to convince Big Bird to stop the party.

 

   Here's my problem with these vaguely themed compilation videos. It's pretty much like watching the show every day, but there seems to be more of the bland, annoying stuff. I mean, if I buy an Elmo's World tape, I know what I'm getting. If I buy The Best of Ernie and Bert, I know, pretty much, what I'm getting. But if I buy Get Up And Dance, I get an almost totally random sampling of dancy stuff mixed up with overlong, uninspired, and often frankly substandard linking material.

 

   But, of course, the thing about random samplings is this -- just when you're ready to give up, they throw in something really cool, like "A New Way to Walk" with a whole bunch of celebrities, including John Goodman, Marisa Tomei, Rosie O'Donnell and Sally Jesse Raphael, all doing funny walks.

 

   Uh, and then Celina falls asleep.

 

   Did somebody mention random? In between Get Up And Dance and Sing Yourself Silly, Elmo does a really funny dance against black-screen. It's an amazing, virtuoso performance for no reason whatsoever, for precisely 37 seconds. And then he stops, abruptly, before the music's finished, with a bad edit.

 

   Sing Yourself Silly wisely concentrates on clips of silly songs with minimal linking material, which is just as well, because the linking material consists of the Sesame cast saying, "Now that was silly!" Because, of course, that isn't evident from the songs. Or the title.

 

   And because I'm feeling grouchy, I'm also going to gripe about the presence of random non-Muppet songs, like the animated "Ladybugs' Picnic" and "Ten Tiny Turtles," and the ancient, bizarre clip of James Taylor singing with a bunch of overly loud kids who must be in retirement homes by now.

 

   But just to show you I'm not entirely black-hearted, here's some things in this video that don't make me cranky: "The Honker Duckie Dinger Jamboree." Polly Darton. Gladys the Cow. Forgetful Jones. "Banana Can't Grow Alone." The Count saying, "Sewen bananas!" "Put Down the Duckie" (the Extended Celebrity Mix). And, of course, Don Music. But then I wonder why the other half of the tape is so crappy, and I get cranky again.

 

   You may remember that I was really rather harsh on the Kids' Favorite Songs album in My Week with Sesame Music. Well, today, I watched the video. It's better -- much, much better. It has Telly in it, and some letters of the alphabet singing doo-wop. But that's not nearly enough to make up for "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "I've Been Working on the Railroad." And if the music wasn't bad enough, why not throw in the least cohesive, shaggy dog storyline I've ever seen? And some of the dullest animations about numbers ever dully animated? And a closing credits sequence that repeats the most annoying parts of the tape?

 

   Okay, I know what you're thinking. This is all too depressing, and I'm getting way too cranky. This column needs an injection of innocence, an urgent transfusion of pure, light-hearted fun and joy. Maybe I'll ask Three-year-old Kynan for his opinion... Oh. Three-year-old Kynan's fallen asleep. Never mind.

 

   This is how bad it is right now: Changing tapes, I catch a glimpse of a Lynda Carter TV movie, and I actually consider watching that instead of 1 2 3 Count With Me. Will my faith in humanity, and, more importantly, in the Muppets, be restored within the next few paragraphs? To find out, continue reading at least as far as the next sentence.

 

   1 2 3 Count With Me is a wonderful little oddity in which Steve's Ernie finds himself temporarily in charge of the Furry Arms, assisted by Benny Bunny. Structurally, it's all over the place -- it lures you into thinking it's not a clip show by deliberately not showing any clips for, like, the first 10 minutes, and then it keeps you on edge by showing them at moments that seem psychologically timed to surprise you -- and more and more frequently towards the end. Story-wise, it doesn't make sense for a second, and the quality of the clips is, as is by now the tradition, really patchy, but none of this matters -- there's a real sense of cohesion, and even fun.

 

   Maybe it's the fact that the linking segments are actually the main focus, with the clips supplementing the story, rather than the story being a flimsy excuse to show clips. There's even two new songs. Or maybe it's just Ernie, at the center of it all, exuding pure joy, just like in the old days.

 

   So I'm happy again. How's that for a surprise ending?

 

   Tomorrow: Elmo goes straight to video in Peter and the Wolf.

 

 

Monday           Tuesday           Wednesday           Thursday           Friday

 

     

Let's Get Musical

Friday, May 24

 

   Watching nothing but Sesame Street for a week can really start to mess with you. Danny's My Week with Everything proved that he's insane, but it's okay, because He's Cool With It. Me, I like the luxury of being able to at least pretend occasionally that I have a regular life, so when I suddenly plunge headlong into five days of solid Sesame, I start to question things. Like, why am I watching Sesame Street for five days in a row when it so obviously makes me cranky? Am I cranky because I watch Sesame Street? Or am I watching Sesame Street because I'm cranky? And what kind of world do I live in that I think it's perfectly sensible to express a preference for one Mr. Noodle over the other?

 

   But every now and again, watching nothing but Sesame Street pays off, and you get a signal from the universe that Everything's All Right. Today I got that signal, in the form of Elmo's Musical Adventure: Peter and the Wolf. Yep, rest easy, fellow Tough Pigs, because Everything's officially All Right. The video told me so.

 

   (By the way, here's a little conundrum for you. The title on the video cover is Elmo's Musical Adventure: Peter and the Wolf. The actual onscreen title is Peter and the Wolf, but Elmo's voice chimes in to say, "Sesame Street: Peter and the Wolf." Which is the real title? And does anybody really care? First person to answer both questions correctly wins a prize. Danny, can you come up with a prize? I understand people like candy.)

 

   Jack Benny was once asked how he maintained consistent quality on his radio show. He replied, "We try never to do a terrible show." Which might not have sounded like much, until you consider the fact that a whole bunch of people don't seem to care whether or not they make terrible shows.

 

   My point being, Sesame Workshop worked really hard on Peter and the Wolf, and it paid off. This is definitely not a terrible show. It's a first-rate straight-to-video production, with quality just screaming out at you. People spent time and money on this thing, and it looks and sounds gorgeous. Up until today, I feel like I've been watching the Workshop coasting along -- but this one, this one feels special.

 

   The story makes sense, for a start. Elmo, Telly, Big Bird and Zoe each have a musical instrument, and they sound okay individually, but together, it's a bit of a racket. Maybe Baby Bear can pick up some tips for them when he goes with Papa Bear to see the Boston Pops Orchestra perform Peter and the Wolf. "What do they have that you don't?" Baby Bear asks. "Besides yeaws of expewience."

 

   Papa Bear introduces Baby Bear to the conductor, Keith Lockhardt, who's endearingly hammy. Keith talks Baby Bear through the characters, and the instruments which represent them. As each instrument plays, we see a glimpse of the characters, played by Elmo, Zoe, Telly, Big Bird, Oscar, and featuring the Wolf as himself, and a wonderful surprise as the Hunters -- the Two-Headed Monster, in fine form.

 

   The cast all look sensational -- Telly as a duck, Zoe as a bird, Big Bird as Peter's Grandfather (complete with Caroll S doing Big Bird doing a Grandpa voice), and Oscar, perfectly cast as a cat.

 

   The treats don't stop there, though -- this is one for the fans. As Baby Bear and Papa Bear take their seats, the auditorium suddenly becomes the Sesame Street Cameo Capital of the World. Left to right, top to bottom, you can see Pam Arciero, John Tartaglia, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Caroll Spinney, Fran Brill, John Kennedy, Sesame writer Chrissy Ferraro and Marty Robinson. I tell you this in the certain knowledge that someone out there will really, genuinely care about this as much as I do. 

 

   Then the music starts, and away we go with the story, which takes place on a series of gorgeous and expensive purpose-built sets. Each character is accompanied by his or her musician, conveniently color-coded, and again, endearingly hammy. Baby and Papa narrate only where necessary, and as you'd hope, the music is perfectly blended with the story. The dialogue is a really neat balance of comedy, character and action. Telly's reaction to the revelation that the duck gets eaten is priceless: "Nobody told me that the duck gets eaten! Well, you can forget it! I quit!"

 

   Watching Peter and the Wolf is just a pure joy. It wasn't until halfway through my second viewing today that I realized that, Oscar and Big Bird aside, this is entirely a cast of New Generation characters, and at no point did I ever think, "This would be really great if Grover were in it." This is the single best use of the current Muppet cast -- each plays off the others in great fashion, as if they've been doing ensemble shows like this for years. (The Two-Headed Monster, for example, just looks like he belongs there. Have I raved about David Rudman yet? Consider him officially raved about. His vocals are simply superb, but apart from that, he just nails the character.)

 

   The only negatives are quibbles which are as entertaining as the positives, such as the aforementioned endearingly hammy performances of the conductor and the non-speaking musicians. And my girlfriend pointed out that Papa Bear looks kinda scary, but she also noticed Baby Bear's adorable side-part, so it all balances out.

 

   (One final fan bonus, one of those things that only the Geekiest of the Muppet Fan Geeks care about -- Big Bird, taking full advantage of the purpose-built set, uses both his arms in many shots, without the use of chromakey. Which is pretty cool.)

 

   It's not just for the fans, of course -- Three-year-old Kynan loves Peter and the Wolf, too, but I'm too busy raving on about it to let him get a word in edgeways. I haven't seen CinderElmo, although I've read Danny's review of it, and Peter and the Wolf is obviously the antidote to CinderElmo -- a well-written, well-directed, perfectly performed straight-to-video Sesame proudction which is genuinely not terrible.

 

   And I know that Everything's All Right, because now they've proved that it's possible, it's only a matter of time before they do it again. For all my cranky criticism this week, I've never been able to fault these characters or their performances. There's a perfectly formed ensemble of Muppets on Sesame Street just waiting for the next perfectly conceived vehicle to knock 'em dead.

 

   And even if they do find themselves coasting again from time to time, at least you can stay tuned to Tough Pigs, because, you know, at least we care enough to write about the terrible stuff.

 

   Thank you for your attention, and enjoy Danny's candy.

 

    

Monday           Tuesday           Wednesday           Thursday           Friday

 

 

PS: A special Tough Pigs shout-out to MV, my man on the inside, for freeze-frame cameo information. Cheers!  -- KB

 

 

Danny@ToughPigs.com 

 

 

My Week Contents

My Week with Sesame Music

My Week with Play With Me Sesame