Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday is all about MONSTERS

So, it's Poetry Friday, and I thought I would share a song.

Because, man, that's a classic, and a favorite of mine.

And now, here's a non-poetry review:

Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street Michael Davis

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about the seminal show of Sesame Street as well as a history of educational programing.

The beginning can get a bit confusing, as we have the back stories of all the people that would come together and form the show, as well as the tracing of educational programing from Captain Kangaroo (of which many members of the production team would leave to join Sesame Street) and Ding Dong School to Sesame Street and even through Barney.

Readable and fascinating, I now understand why the show has changed so much from my childhood. And, sadly, I learned who is responsible for the wiggly-jigglyness of Elmo's World that gives me such a headache (J'Accuse Mo Willems!)

Getting the show off the ground, securing the funding, convincing stations to carry it, convincing people to watch, convincing people that, wait, TV can be educational AND fun was an epic struggle. The networks all passed on it.

After a few seasons, Hispanic groups staged a sit-in to remind the producers that the inner city (which was the show's target audience, although it gladly welcomed viewers from the suburbs and rural areas) had more shades of brown than were being shown on-air. (And I will tell you now that all the Spanish I know is what I learned off Sesame Street.)

I did some work in a closed records collection this fall as part of a homework assignment (it wasn't closed for security or anything--the papers just hadn't been appraised or processed yet, which is what I was doing.) The papers dealt with educational television and there were several letters from the time period before Sesame Street aired, discussing the show at length. There were many skeptics in the educational programming community that it would work, and Davis outlines the controversy well, especially after the show aired and more experts could get an eye on it. Kids couldn't and shouldn't be taught this way. (And the papers I was examining were also skeptical of nationally produced educational TV--many people thought that it should all be done on the local level.)

But, here I am, a working professional in the big city with a childhood based in a small city and when I count to 12, most of the time, I sing it. (They've disable embedding, so you'll have to click over to watch it.) And, now that I'm an adult, I can fully appreciate the lyrics to this:

I love the lines They talked about the high price of furniture and rugs/
And fire insurance for ladybugs
. Fire insurance for lady bugs. I will not reveal my age when I finally understood the macabre hilarity of that line (Lady bug lady bug/Fly away home/Your house is on fire/Your children are alone).

And I don't like all the changes as they aim the show for a younger audience, but I'm glad that the book explains why they happened. I liked that the book focused on the good of the players involved, while still fully detailing their negative points.

Also, I'm glad it gave a little love to Avenue Q, the musical written by and performed by a great number of Sesame Street alums, all about what happens when the kids and monsters on the street grow up.


Round up is over at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.


Anonymous said...

And fire insurance for ladybugs - one of the many reasons I loved Seasame Street. (That and the 'A' train and buying Os and...)
I don't have my card on me ( :0 ) so I can't put it on hold at APL but there are six people ahead of me, so it can wait until tonight.
And thanks... I now have Ladybug Picnic stuck in my head.

tanita s. davis said...

Oh, I LOVE that Ladybugs Picnic song. I'm such a Sesame Street freak -- I still use the Grace Slick way of counting to six with those Jazzy Spies, too.

Kelly said...

I still remember Sesame Street songs from my childhood. So glad that this show is still around for my children!