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Am I the only grownup outside of the CTW thinktank who doesn’t have a problem with Cookie Monster branching out into a broader and healthier range of foodstuffs with which to gorge enthusiastically?

Because honestly, I’m not getting the big hairy deal here. Cookie has eaten things other than cookies before. I seem to remember him snarfing down a slate of magnetic alphabet letters many a year ago, and if plastic letters infused with polarized metal chips didn’t do ol’ Fuzzy & Blue in, then a few handfuls of cashews and a cantaloupe are probably not going to bring the world collapsing down upon itself.

Sesame Street has always been a pretty major medium for promoting positive images and ideal behaviors to children. On Sesame Street, grownups always have time for kids’ childishness, boys and girls play nicely together, black people and Latinos and white people and Asians all hang around in the same sandwich shop, and nobody’s at all weirded out by the green loudmouth holed up in a garbage can outside the neighborhood apartment complex.

So the creative brains behind Sesame want to promote healthy living? Good on them, I say. They’ve always done a little bit of this. In between the trippy, eye-catching 1-2-3-4-5 6-7-8-9-10 11-tweeeeeelve cartoons and Letter O-hawking, there were shorts like “Will you eat this food” which was a pretend gameshow featuring a girl who was challenged to eat gouda cheese, spaghetti, casaba melon, and other foods that might not be everyday fare for most children. There was the “oooh aaah eeerrrr, exer-cise” doodle cartoon, and we cannot forget Snuffle-Ups and Snuffle Downs. Bert danced the Pigeon, and Maria and Olivia used to do trick rollerskating out on the street. If they present their new curriculum of basic health instruction with the wit they have long since presented early childhood educational ideas, then I’m sure it will have a long and positive effect on today’s little kids. Heck, some 20 years later, and I can still could sing the “Take A Breath” song. The minds behind Sesame have worked out ways of making their information stick to the kids who watch the show, and I think, given the sorry state of health education and physical education in schools, a good grounding in “best health preservation practices” for the pre-school set is a step in the right direction.

Moreover, I think change and challenge can be a good thing. Sesame has, in its way, pushed the envelope many times in its long, long run on the air, and to my knowledge, has never really alienated its core audience. I’m of the generation that remembers Mr. Hooper and how they handled his death, and the fateful day when the grownups finally got to meet Mr. Snuffulupagus properly, and I came through those big Sesame Shake-ups without a hitch. The next lot of kiddies got to witness Maria growing big with child, and I don’t remember the sky falling over that.

The whole “are Bert & Ernie gay” controversy was silly, in my opinion. So what if they were? I don’t really think they were meant to be, however, since they had the personalities of children and the chemistry of sibling rivalry. I can look back at many of the interactions between my sister and me as children, and see Bert & Ernie parallels all the way through it. I was the Bert in our relationship. Particular, sometimes grumpy, easily exasperated, obsessed with fowl, and posessing only one eyebrow. My sister was very much the Ernie. Mischievous, devious, energetic, and always looking to get one over on her cranky older sister. We often had very Bert & Ernie-esque rows over the less desireable chores, who got to sit in the front seat this time, or whether or not she could have some of my leftover Easter candy. If Bert and Ernie weren’t a pair of contentious brothers, they sure did a good job of acting like them.

While I’m on the topic of Muppet tempests in teapots, I’d like to share my views on Mr. Snuffleupagus and his visibility to Grown-Ups. I understand that many people find it lame that the Sesame team had to write Snuffleupagus’s imaginary-friend status out of the script. They think it is ridiculous that the Sesame team feared that it would encourage children to not trust grownups or feel pitted against them in matters of fancy versus credibility. Well, I feel that Snuffy was obviously always real and that the grownups were really lame for not believing Big Bird and being too impatient and buggering off right before Snuffy showed up, each and every time. I also felt, back in the day, that the conceit of Snuffy vanishing before the grownups got there was starting to get pretty tired, and that it was just getting tiresome and more and more contrived each time the plot had to “dissapear” Snuffy. When the grownups finally met Snuffalupugus properly, and the whole “is Snuffy real or imaginary” debate was laid to rest, the storylines that ran through each show became considerably less convoluted and forced, and Big Bird’s loveable best friend finally got to see the light of day.

Obviously, I haven’t been a big Sesame watcher in a lot of years. I think I kind of let go of that one when I was around 8 or 9, though I’ve watched individual episodes sporadically throughout the years, whenever I’ve been caring for somebody’s kid, or was really, really stoned in college, and I’ve got to say, Sesame has amazingly not worn out its welcome. Sure, the format is different, and some of the stuff I loved the most as a kid, like the parody music videos and the nonsensical Muppet skits have all but disappeared, and Elmo is only slightly less irritating than Barney, but I maintain that the Sesame formula of catchy shorts and fast-paced, silly, yet thoughtful presentations is a winning strategy, and that on the whole, I really can’t complain about how they’ve developed and maintained the show over all these years.

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