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Sesame Street Old School Volume 1

Order Sesame Street Old School Volume 1 for 25% off the regular price.

Greg Brobeck (October 17, 2006) -
Sesame Street Old School Volume 1 is impressive. Sesame Street debuted on November 10, 1969 on NET (now PBS) and a new era in children’s television began.

“Everything happens here!” proclaimed Gordon in the very first scene, and boy does it ever. This set promised to be Elmo-free, and Sesame Workshop came through on this promise. This is truly the Sesame Street with which today’s 30 and 40 year-old’s grew up. This is the first time complete episodes of Sesame Street have been released in any format and it’s about time.

The set contains the first five season premieres as well as 54 bonus skits and songs (yes it seems Sesame Workshop miscounted in their original press release). This three disc, DVD box set is over 7 hours long.

OVERALL PRESENTATION

The menus are very simple, but attractive at the same time. The main menu for each disc lets you select an episode or bonus feature. Beside the selections is a TV screen playing a classic clip from the disc. The episode menu features a still from the episode, lists the episode and its original airdate, and lets you play the episode or go to highlights. Highlights lists the chapter stops within the episode and with which sketch they are associated.

 
The main menu for disc 1.
The highlights menu for the first episode.
 

The box art is attractive with classic pictures and interesting drawings of characters. The set comes with a 16 page informative booklet containing an 8 page pullout for kids to color. The booklet is very informative on the history of the show and lists the episodes and sketches on the set.

Bob, a familiar animated character, introduces each episode. He mentions in his introduction to the first episode that this set is meant for adults and may not suit the needs of today’s preschooler. This is probably true, but I still expect to see it on the children’s shelf.

The five episodes seem to be mostly unedited. The animated opening episode number sequences have been left in, as have the closing credits. A copyright screen, however, has been added to the end credits with a new 2006 copyright mentioning that Kermit belongs to the Muppets Holding Company. Rest assured, all Kermit scenes appear to be included as they originally aired. On episodes 1 and 131, the older NET and PBS logos have been replaced with the more familiar one that PBS used from the mid-1970's until 1985.

I have found the following edits to the episodes themselves, no doubt due to music rights and performer’s clearance issues. When an edit had to be made, Sesame Workshop usually added additional material to round out the episode.

Edited Scenes from Original Broadcast

Episode 1

- A film about washing that featured Bach’s “Gavotte” has been removed. Joe Raposo's original version of "A Little Bit at the Beginning" has been added.

- The scene with the Anything Muppets has been shortened to remove the “Consider Yourself at Home” song.

Episode 536

- Big Bird and Krystal playing store has been replaced with Big Bird and Grover doing chin-ups and a film with a tiger.

- Stevie Wonder's song “123 Sesame Street” has been removed. It has been replaced by a closing from another episode – evidenced by the fact that the letters of the day in the added scene don’t match those from the episode. "123 Sesame Street" was including on the 2003 CD box set Songs from the Street.

The remaining three season premieres appear as they originally aired as far as I can tell after comparing them with the versions that aired on the Noggin network from 1999-2003.

VIDEO AND AUDIO

I could not be more amazed by the quality of this set. The episodes have been well taken care of for all these years. The picture quality is quite excellent – colors are sharp and vivid. The audio holds up as well. Of course being only mono audio, it is crisp and clear. I don’t think these episodes sounded this good even when Noggin was running them.

BONUS MATERIALS

ORIGINAL PITCH FILM - This is the complete pitch film as was shopped around to stations in 1969. Joan Ganz Cooney introduces and concludes the film by urging stations to run the series and to show it at 10:00 am if possible. The film, hosted by Rowlf and Kermit, goes on to explain what the show is about and what kind of things will be included on it. Jerry Lesser, then chairman of CTW’s board of advisors also comes on to explain the process a sketch has to go through before it is approved for the series.

The funniest part of this is the Muppet board which has been given the task of deciding what to name the series. Some of the suggestions (“The Farm and the City”, “Witty-Ditty, Dog” and “The Kitty, Nitty Gritty, Itty-Bitty, Little Kiddy Show”) just won’t do, so it’s up to Rowlf and Kermit to decide. They come up with “Sesame Street” because it will open new worlds for kids and it’s a street where neat stuff happens. When you see the Muppet board, be on the lookout for a green Grover.

This is a very enjoyable film and I’m glad it has been included in its entirety. The film quality is a little rough at times, but considering its age and rarity, this can easily be overlooked.

BONUS SKETCHES - The set includes 54 bonus sketches grouped by the season in which they first aired. Most are ones we’ve seen a hundred times and love, but a few are rare. (It somehow seems odd to see orange Oscar sing “I Love Trash.”) A fascinating aspect is that each season’s bonus clip section includes a Friday credit crawl from that particular season, so the mystery of the closing credit sequences from those early years has now been solved.

Bonus Classic Clips

DISC 1:
- Original Sales Pitch Reel

- Season 1 Classic Cuts
   Bein' Green
   Rubber Duckie
   Counting with James Earl Jones
   ABC-DEF-GHI
   
I Love Trash
   
Alphabet with Jackie Robinson
   Batman Crosses the Street
   
Swinging Gibbon
   Big Bird Meets Little Bird
   Alphabet with Lou Rawls
   I’ve Got Two
   Alphabet Soup
   Season 1 Credit Crawl

DISC 2:

- Season 2 Classic Cuts
   King of Eight
   
Over, Under, Around, and Through
   
S – Superman
   Astronaut Drawing
   Listen, My Brother: Counting
   I Love Being a Pig
   Season 2 Credit Crawl

- Season 3 Classic Cuts
   
C is for Cookie
   Ladybug Picnic
   
Martians Telephone
   
Mumford’s Magic Trick
   Alligator King
   
J Friends
   
A Special Day with Bert and Ernie
   “I am Somebody” with Jesse Jackson
   Would You Like to Buy an O
   
Harvey Kneeslapper with Mirror
   
Breathing Song with Animals
   
I in the Sky
   
My Favorite Letter: P
   My Martian Beauty
   Mad Painter
   Season 3 Credit Crawl

DISC 3:

- Season 4 Classic Cuts
   Kermit News with Rapunzel
   
Bread, Milk and Butter
  
 Lost Paper Clips with Bert and John-John
   Witches Cooperate
   Song of the Count
   Bert’s Bust
   First and Last with Beetle Bailey
   Season 4 Credit Crawl

- Season 5 Classic Cuts
   
At the Movies with Ernie and Bert
   
Nasty Dan and Johnny Cash
   
Prairie Dawn’s Pageant
   
Going to the Zoo
   Jazz Alphabet
   Hamburger Bun Factory
   Madrigal Alphabet
   Three Wishes
   Super Grover: Telephone Booth
   Season 5 Credit Crawl

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Overall, this set was well put together and will hold a revered spot in my DVD collection, even with the edits. I really wish those edits didn’t have to be done, but this isn’t the first classic Muppet set that has suffered from music rights issues or clearance problems.

I would love more releases like this one, but I would also hope for themed sets featuring some of the series’ memorable trips outside the studio (Hawaii, Puerto Rico, etc). I cannot urge you enough to buy this set for yourself. As always, sales are the best way to encourage more DVD sets.

Sesame Workshop will be releasing the second volume of The Best of The Electric Company on November 14. You'll also want to check out the new international documentary Sesame Street Around the World. You can listen to the music of Sesame Street Old School twenty-four hours a day on Muppet Central Radio.

The Noggin Cuts

For fans who are familiar with the Noggin versions, the following sketches were removed from these episodes when they were broadcast on Noggin. (The network cut about four-five minutes from each episode.) Thankfully, they are included on the DVD's in their respective episodes.

Episode 1

- Animation: Claymation opening
- "Kids Play Follow the Leader" film, specifically where Jimmy goes around a tunnel instead of through and falls into a pile of trash and where Jimmy goes under the sawhorses instead of over them and gets a bucket of water poured onto his head.
- Animation: W is for worm (after Carol Burnett)

Episode 131

- #2 Dollhouse film
- An insert in which Big Bird crosses in the middle of the street and nearly gets run over
- A film on traffic lights

Episode 276

- Animation: Never Invite an M to Dinner
- Two lines intersect at the middle of the screen and have an argument
- Animation: What Does a Cow Give that Starts with M?
- An insert introduction to the tooth brushing song with Tom and some kids

Episode 406

- A film where kids count buses
- An insert with Oscar and Gordon – Oscar shows Gordon his new hat
- A film with a girl in, on, and under a blanket
- A repeat of the D building animation

Episode 536

- Animation: One man has one leg in the air and the other asks why
- Animation: Numbers 1-20 but 17 is missing
- Luis can’t find the exit in a brick room
- Animation: Train #2

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