Sunday, June 21, 2009

Street Gang

The Complete History of Sesame Street
Michael Davis

Where did Kermit the Frog come from and why did Jim Henson carry a purse? At least one of these questions is answered in Michael Davis' new book Street Gang, as he gives a blow by blow account of the growth and development of this children's television icon. I took this book out hoping that I would find a reference in it to a drama teacher that I had in college who was also a puppeteer and had reputedly worked with Henson. No, he wasn't mentioned. The guy only lasted a year, so maybe his story wasn't completely legit, I dunno.

Davis concentrates on the Sesame Street cast and crew, of course, but does mention some of the other projects of Children's Television Workshop and Jim Henson Productions The Electric Company, Fraggle Rock, and my favorite, The Muppet Show. A couple programs Square One TV and 3-2-1 Contact, I had never heard of. It was interesting to hear the back story on many of the actors and puppeteers that made Sesame Street and of it's real creator, CTW's first CEO and Sesame Street producer, Joan Ganz Cooney.

There is also discussion Sesame Street's nemesis, the dreaded Barney, evil champion of saccharine programming for preschoolers and the inspiration, through eroding ratings, for such successful characters as Prairie Dawn, Zoe and, gasp, Elmo. I can take everything but Elmo, which, naturally, has become the shining star of Sesame Street. Two and three year-olds actually do like saccharine, as I observed with my own purple dinosaur watching children back in the early nineties.

This review was brought to you by the letter Q and the numbers 5 and 9.


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