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  2. Sesame Street Season 49
    Sesame Street's 49th season officially began Saturday November 17 on HBO. After you see the new episodes, post here and let us know your thoughts.

A Breakdown of the Series' Timeline

Discussion in 'Sesame Street' started by D'Snowth, Oct 12, 2013.

  1. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I've noticed that whenever a series has run for quite a long time, and has gone through different eras and phases, fans generally like to break down said eras to distinguish them from one another, they're usually refered to by precious metals, such as the first era is refered to as "The Gold", the second "The Silver", the third "The Bronze", the fourth "The Copper", and whatever comes after that.

    SST, being on the air for 44 years has obviously gone through a number of different phases and eras during its run, but I'm curious, because everybody here seems to have a difference of opinion on how to break it all down (especially when it comes to just when, exactly, the Old School era ended), how would you classify and identify each of the different eras?

    My breakdown is as follows:

    The Gold: 1969-1989. Some say 1989 was the end of the Old School, though I disagree... but, it's clear that 69-89 is most definitely Old School, no matter how you look at it. This era, although it changed and evolved over the years, such as shifting from vignetted street scenes to actual storylines, as well as the death of Mr. Hooper, this era has a lot of the same kind of charm during this twenty year period, which is all definitely in part of the creative genius of Jon Stone, Jim Henson, Joe Raposo, and others.

    The Silver: 1989-1992. I personally consider this the tail-end of the Old School era, it still mostly has the same feel as the previous season, though in a sense, there are changes in the air you can sense. We lost Jim and Joe, though Jon was still at the helm, so it still had its grit and urban vibe. Mr. Handford is now in charge of Hooper's, and newer characters such as Gina and Savion were growing more prominent in their presence on the street. This particular phase also holds special places in my heart and mind since it was what I was first exposed to.

    The Broze: 1993-1998. Around the Corner. No secret this is an era all its own. The street was brightened up, the street itself was expanded, several new characters (both live and Muppet) were brought in, we ended up losing the heartbeat of the show when Jon Stone was fired, all of the sudden competition from other shows (mainly Barney), it was certainly a strange and confusing time for a lot of people. Depending on when you were born and grew up, ATC is seems to be a Love It Or Hate It kind of thing... personally, I hated it.

    The Copper: 1998-2001. In my opinion, this is when the show was "born again"; ATC was ultimately dismantled and done away with, and the show itself seemed a lot more reminsicent of its earlier incarnation. Elmo's World came along, which seemed like a great idea at the time, and Elmo's popularity continued to grow, though he wasn't quite the overkill then as he later became, there was still a lot more exposure of long-standing characters like Big Bird, Ernie and Bert, and others. I loved Season 30, but I recall starting to lose interest, and dare I say "outgrow" SST during Season 31, so I don't have a lot of memory of it... but that changed by Season 32 when after seeing the A&E special and seeing all the behind the scenes footage that inspired me to be a puppeteer, I fully returned to SST in full force.

    Whatever Comes After Copper #1: 2002-2008. Most people don't like this era too much, though I personally don't mind it at all... in fact, Seasons 34, 36, and 38 are among some of my favorites. I can see, though, why most don't like it, because this is when it all changed even more drastically than ATC: the entire format of the show was changed from it's original magazine format to a new block format which tested well with target preschool audiences, but alienated more grown-up fans (though I didn't mind the block format too much). At the same time, however, it seemed as if, like Drtooth once pointed out, that during this time, the writers and producers weren't exactly sure if they knew what they wanted to do, and there was a lot of back-and-forth disturbances, mostly with the set (the doors and windows of 123 turning red then back to green, the carriage house receiving an overhaul only to return to its former appearance, the Mail-It-Shop replacing the Fix-It-Shop only for the Fix-It-Shop to return a few years later) - that's where it's comparable to ATC, because it too was of some confusion for some people.

    Whatever Comes After Copper #2: 2008-present. I honestly can't give too much of an opinion about the current era of the show since I don't get to see too much of it, but it seems to me (from what I HAVE seen, and from what I've read and heard about) that it's continuing to struggle... I've said before, it seems like they're relying way too heavily on celebrity guests and using that as a gimmick to keep viewership up, not to mention the concerns from some that the educational goals are becoming too advanced and complicated given how young the target audience has become (engineering). Oh yeah, and the street itself has gone through some more gentrification - replacing the Fix-It-Shop once again with a laundromat, turning Hooper's Store into a convenience store, replacing Gina's vet clinic with an auto garage, and such.
    Phillip likes this.
  2. MikaelaMuppet

    MikaelaMuppet Well-Known Member

    Best Sesame Years:


    It went downhill because they got rid of Journey To Ernie.
  3. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Any response I could dignify that with would be insulting. Yet, I am obliged to say that is pretty much a weak and biased assessment of the show. You realize JTE was hugely unpopular with the fans...nay... even the writers, even when they managed to make it good. Your argument rests on "they did something I don't like, therefore the show went downhill." I've been hearing stronger cases for that argument, and even then I found those to be ridiculous beyond all explanation and nothing but matter of taste.

    Is there a long list of grievances I have? Yes.
    • The ever dwindling budget
    • The need to promote and push the celebrity and parody segments
    • The insistence on obsessive focus on initiatives
    • and the incessant rerun footage in "new" episodes
    Even then, the show's been on almost 45 years. You try to get a show together and have the quality consistent for 5. People leave, writers leave, and the ones that don't get experimental. It happens. That said, a segment that many of us didn't like leaving the show was pretty much a boon.
  4. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I think I'll do this later, but I feel there should be some kind of special term for the first season or two, like "Pilot Season" (or "Pilot Gold Era"), where the show is a bit different but still part of the "Gold Era". Though if I want to divide the "gold era" due to differences early on compared to how it would later be known in the gold era, I very well could call the whole first five seasons (before Roscoe Orman joined as Gordon) as that. Or the first four season, when the picture quality looked sort-of darker or more like film than video (it seems like they changed the type of video used for season 5).

    It can be hard to really determine when certain eras end, when the "Old School" era really ends (I feel like I agree with D.Snowth on 1969-1989, but then I also kind of feel like it should be 1969-1990, to cover all of the Jim Henson years... But then should it end just because Jim Henson died, as opposed to, say, when Mr. Hooper died or Snuffy "became real"?). In fact at one point in Street Gang, it's said that the history is like a book, with three acts, but that it's hard to determine when the acts change.

    The first season feels more like a pilot/experimental era, and then the next few seasons sees the show changing quite a bit each year. But then there don't seem to be many notable changes seasons 6-10. I kind of feel this era should extend to season 15 (which ends the seasons that have been included in Old School volumes, and season 16 starts off when I was born), but then more notable changes begin season 11 or 12. It is at this point that the show starts to get more performers and characters, to make up for most of the earlier performers spending more time on The Muppet Show in England. That started a little before season 10. Peter Friedman performed for a season or two, Caroly Wilcox was actually credited as a performer for one year (I'm guessing her performing was increased compared to other seasons she performed in), and both Brian Meehl and Michael Earl Davis joined in season 10, not to mention Jim had intended on having Steve Whitmire perform on Sesame Street, and I think Kathy Mullen performed in season 10 (I'm pretty sure that's her as the female monster asking Grover to dance at the beginning of season 10's "ABC Disco"). But even with these new additions to the shows Muppet performers, there aren't many new characters from seasons 6-10. We get Fred the Wonder Horse, Don Music, Telly Monster, the Two-Headed Monster, Barkly, and maybe Bruno, Shivers the Penguin, Mr. Chatterly, and Leslie Mostly, while Gladys the Cow gets developed as a character as Richard Hunt begins to perform more notable roles.

    I'll think more about it and try to write more tonight or tomorrow, though I won't be surprised if I basically repeat a lot of what I wrote in this post.
  5. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Okay, let's see if I can do this...

    The Gold I'll break this down into a few parts....
    Part 1: Season 1. This season is like an experimental pilot season and very different from other seasons. There's very few cast members and very few Muppets, and very few Muppet performers (only three credited, though after this season the number of performers would only grow a little for most of the decade). Compared to later seasons, this one features a lot more multi-part segments and more segments that connect to the next one in some way (whether it's a character introducing the next film or cartoon at the end or if a sketch begins with a character commenting on the last sketch, or even a sketch beginning with characters watching the very end of the last scene). Additionally, segments are sponsored by up to three letters and up to two numbers, the only season to have two numbers for sponsors. And for most of the season the same letters and numbers would sponsor throughout the week (the last few weeks would have more variety, with different number sponsors each day). Also, many characters would get rebuilt next season, with Big Bird, Oscar, and Grover having the most notable changes, while Ernie's shirt would change colors (aside from that I think Ernie and Bert had only a few minor changes to their hair and faces in season two) and Kermit looks a bit cruder this season compared to later. And most Muppet segments that don't use a regular set only use a white-ish background (a black background is sometimes used, but usually only if a performer needs to turn invisible to the camera).
    Part 2: Seasons 2-4/2-5: Muppet performers Jerry Nelson, Fran Brill, and Richard Hunt join the show, and many more Muppet characters are introduced, including Sherlock Hemlok, Herbert Birdsfoot, Simon Soundman, Biff, Sully, The Count, The Amazing Mumford, Herry Monster, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Mr. Johnson, Sam the Robot, and others, while some characters from the first season (Cookie Monster, Grover, Guy Smiley, and Roosevelt Franklin) become more major. Some elements that continue from the first season throughout this era includes number sponsors from 2-10 sponsoring in numberical order (while counting to 20 becomes a new curriculum goal, though it had been taught a few times in the first season. While 20 gets taught a lot, it doesn't sponsor the show for years, though the numbers 11 and 12 do start sponsoring this season) and the use of human comedy duos. Additionally, it seems like most celebrity guest appearances from seasons 2-5 feature them without the Muppets or human cast, but guest stars tend to make several appearances at a time. Gordon changes actors from Matt Robinson to Hal Miller, and more humans join, some who stick around for years (Luis, Maria, David, Linda) and some who only last a season or two (Tom, Molly, Rafael). In season 5 it appears that they change the type of video used to record the show (judging by picture quality). While Caroll Spinney had performed a number of one-time Anything Muppets for the first two seasons, he eventually becomes limited to just Big Bird and Oscar (with a few exceptions later on). And segments with plain-colored backgrounds start to use more colors, incluidng blue, green, and yellowish-orange.
    Part 3: Seasons 6-10: The role of Gordon changes again, to Roscoe Orman, who continues to play Gordon and is the one that most fans grew up with. We also get a few new humans, including Olivia and Buffy, but we don't really get many new Muppets (see my previous post here). While the previous five seasons seem more experimental and had many differences and new characters, it seems the show hit its comfort level by now, with not many differences I can think of, though it seems this era had a lot more "'70s-style" segments (while the first five years seemed to have more "timeless-quality" segments). As I said previously, Richard Hunt starts to become a more prominent performer, developing the cow that eventually becomes Gladys and getting such characters as Don Music and half of the Two-Headed Monster. It starts to become more common for celebrity guests to appear with Muppets, though there's still many guests who don't. When The Muppet Show begins, Jim, Frank, Jerry, and Richard all spend more time in England, and the need for more characters and performers arises, with Michael Earl and Brian Meehl joining in season 10, though as I previously said it seems like there still aren't many new characters introduced these years, and most recurring characters seem to appear sparingly (I think Barkly is the most prominent new character of this era). Though the classic performers still perform in a good number of new material these years.
    Part 4: Seasons 11-15. Michael Earl and Brian Meehl start to get many characters (though Michael Earl would soon depart from the show), while additional performers join as well, including Karen Prell (for one season), Kathy Mullen (who I don't think had any recurring characters... It's a shame she didn't discuss her time on Sesame Street in her recent Tough Pigs interview), and most notably Martin Robinson (actually for this era I think Martin Robinson and Brian Meehl are the most notable new performers). I think Pam Arciero began near the end of this era, and Kevin Clash would lend a hand whenever he could. With all these new performers comes many new characters, some who continue to entertain children (Telly, Elmo, The Honkers), some who would continue for years but aren't around as often anymore (Forgetful Jones, Dr. Nobel Price), and some who would be very short-lived (Deena and Pearl, Leslie Mostly, Aristotle). It seems like Jerry Nelson performs a lot less during this time (most likely due to his involvement on Fraggle Rock) though his characters do appear frequently, and Richard Hunt heavily performs on the street again after The Muppet Show ends. Sometime this era (I think season 12 or 13) the number sponsors no longer sponsor in numerical order each day. Sadly, during production of season 14, Will Lee dies, and the decision is made for Mr. Hooper to die with him.

    The Silver: 1984-1993
    I was born in 1984, so it seems to be when I started watching (I don't know if my parents had me watch the show right away or not, my own personal memory of watching the show seems to begin at season 19). Brian Meehl leaves the show but most of his characters are recast, Kevin Clash joins the show full-time and takes over as Elmo, making him a hit with children (though it would still be awhile before he's a star on the same level as long-time favorites Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Grover, and Cookie Monster). Other performers who join during this era include David Rudman, Camille Bonora, Joey Mazzarino, and Carmen Oshbahr, though it takes awhile for most of them to become main performers (I think Camille gets a lot of Anything Muppets and minor characters right away, but hardly any become stars... I think Clementine is her best-known character). With these new additions we get more new characters, including such lasting characters as Placido Flamingo, Sonny Friendly, Alice Snuffleupagus, Hoots the Owl, Natasha, Baby Bear, and Rosita, as well as such short-lived and forgotten characters as Leo the Party Monster, Ruby Monster, Dexter, and Merry Monster. Additionally, we get the introduction of many new human characters, including Gina, Mr. Handford, Savion, and others. The show also starts to have more series-affecting changes (with the exception of Mr. Hooper's death, the previous era didn't have many of these kinds of changes, aside from introducing new characters, characters being dropped, and characters being rebuilt or recast). Such changes include Mr. Snuffleupagus "becoming real", Susan and Gordon adopting Miles, Maria and Luis falling in love, getting married, and having a daughter, Gabby, and eventually David leaves and is replaced by Mr. Handford. Sadly, a number of key people who had been with the show since the early years die, including Jim Henson, Joe Raposo, Northern Calloway, and Richard Hunt. The show begins to teach the concept of zero and counting to 40, while the numbers 13-20 become sponsors (not sure exactly if this change occurred before or after season 16). Although Prairie Dawn had been around since the second season, she starts to become a more major character in the early 1990s (before then it seems she was pretty much a generic girl Muppet, with her putting on pageants being her main character trait).

    The Bronze: 1993-1998
    The show's opening and closing changes significantly (actually I think they changed a year earlier), for one thing. But most importantly, the show expands around the corner, introducing many new characters and locations. Among the new Muppets include Zoe, Benny, Humphrey, Ingrid, and Wolfgang the Seal, while new human characters include Ruthie and Celina. I think Slimey becomes a lot more prominent in the 1990s, Betty Lou becomes a more major character for a few years, and Baby Bear becomes a lot more prominent, while his parents are soon introduced and Goldilocks eventually leaves. There's also a good number of short-lived Muppets including Roxy Marie and Kingston Livingston III. The show also gets dumbed down and tries to compete with Barney. Jeff Moss and Jon Stone die by the end of this era. Elmo's stardom starts to increase by the end of this era, though even before then Elmo was headlining many of his own specials and video projects (in fact I recently saw the Elmo in Grouchland press kit which mentions that a movie starring Elmo had been in development long before the success of Tickle Me Elmo which made Elmo surpass Big Bird in popularity). During this time each episode ends with a "Coming soon on Sesame Street!" bumper. Steve Whitmire finally performs on Sesame Street, taking over as Ernie and occasionally performing Kermit on the show. Wow, I thought I was going to mention a lot more of the shows changes this period but right now I'm at a blank.

    The Copper: 1998-2001 (wow, only a couple seasons?):
    "Around the Corner" is dropped (though segments that took place around the corner are still shown, and apparently Ruthie was still a cast member for another year, though I watched the show almost every day in season 30 and only recall seeing her once). While "Around the Corner" was a big contrast to the classic street set, with more bright colors in contrast to a gritty street, with that area gone the street gradually starts to change to a more colorful street as well, continuing into the next era (in season 30, Hooper's Store changes, and thanks to a hurricane, season 32 ends with Big Bird's doors changing to brighter colors). Mr. Handford mysteriously disappears from the show (anybody know the reason for his departure?) and is replaced with Alan. Many classic characters (Biff, Sully, Sherlock Hemlock, Guy Smiley, even Kermit the Frog) seem to start appearing a lot less, even in old inserts. The show now has less than 130 episodes a season (I think that might have started a few years earlier, can't remember off-hand). Elmo is now pretty much the star and gets his own 15-minute segment at the end of each episode, Elmo's World. Season 32 introduces another long recurring segment, Monster Clubhouse (which thankfully gets shorter next season and then gets dropped), which paves the way to...

    What Comes After The Copper: Part 1 2002-2008
    The show has a new format, where the street story is presented as one full, uninterrupted segment and many other recurring segments appear on a daily or semi-daily basis, some longer than others. Some of the better-remembered segments include Journey to Ernie and Global Grover. The letter and number of the day also get represented in segments called The Letter of the Day (hosted by Cookie Monster) and The Number of the Day (hosted by The Count). Classic segments from before 1990 are shown significantly less, but we still get plenty of classic Ernie segments from the Jim Henson era (mainly from the 1980s), as well as some classic animation from the early years (including King of 8 and Pinball Number Count). Even before his semi-retirement many of Jerry Nelson's characters who had been used a lot in the last few seasons start appearing less, including Herry Monster (though he still makes background appearances from time to time), The Amazing Mumford (who tends to pop up once a season), and Mr. Johnson, who is absent for a few years before returning for once-a-year appearances in season 36. Although he wasn't exactly a major character, Fred the Wonder Horse even pops up again every few years. We get a few new characters, including Baby Bears new baby sister Curly Bear, Abby Cadabby, and Murray Monster. At the end of this era, Murray starts introducing the show with "The Word on the Street", and a celebrity appears to talk about that word (these segments improve after a few seasons). A couple of episodes have the original format of multiple street scenes for the street story, and no Elmo's World, but apparently those don't test well. While the first three decades feature almost as many celebrity segments with Muppets as they do without, around this time it becomes a lot more rare for a celebrity to appear without a Muppet character.

    What Comes After The Copper: Part 2 2008-present (AKA "The HD Era")
    The show switches to HD, and by now all of the street has changed since the removal of Around the Corner. New characters Chris, Leela, and Armando (that's his name, right?) join the show. As Dr.Tooth said earlier, the celebrity appearances and spoofs get promoted a little too much. Although the show still shows pre-HD era clips, classic-era clips are now dropped entirely, even going as far as dropping segments that Jim Henson performed in (with the exception of one post-1990 segment that used an existing vocal track). However, we do get new versions of a number of classic animated segments. I think this might have started before season 39, but the Letter and Number of the Day segments no longer feature Cookie Monster and The Count,, respectively, and it seems like (at least for the first part of each season) many long-time major characters including Ernie, Bert, Cookie, The Count, and even Big Bird don't appear as often as they used to. Various classic characters start appearing in animated form for such recurring segments as Bert & Ernie's Great Adventures (which during this era is the most we've seen of Ernie and Bert in new material), Abby's Flying Fairy School, and the Letter Song Series with Cookie Monster and Elmo. Additional short-form series shown on the show include Super Grover 2.0, Cookie's Crumby Pictures, and Murray Has a Little Lamb. Speaking of Murray, he starts to host the show in season 40, appearing in bumpers throughout the show, introducing various segments. But the most notable new short form series is Elmo the Musical, which replaces Elmo's World, which is FINALLY retired from the show.

    Actually, I think the HD era could be divided into two parts by now, but I'm not sure. But during the last few years, both Cookie Monster and Grover star in a LOT of really great segments, on par with their classic routines (not that the majority of their insert appearances in seasons 33-39 weren't great). In fact the last few years have also brought in a lot of new Muppet segments that are as good as the '70s segments. After years of only performing his recurring characters, in season 40 Frank Oz begins performing Anything Muppets again in parody segments, usually once a season (he wasn't in season 41, and I'm not sure if he's in any season 44 segments). This era also brings in many numbers that take place in front of a white background, often with a celebrity and many main Muppet characters. Sadly, the last year has had a bit of sad changes, including the passing of Jerry Nelson and resignation of Kevin Clash. If the whole HD era so far shouldn't be divided yet, it might eventually end at season 44, but only time will tell.

    Wow, I think this actually took me an hour to complete. And many of my really long and thought-out posts don't normally take me this long to complete.

    You know, I now think that Sesame Workshop should celebrate the 45th anniversary with several separately-sold DVDs representing each of these eras. Don't know if Sesame Workshop would see a market for this, or if they would market these releases as "The Gold", "The Silver", "The Bronze", "The Copper", and "The Post-Copper", but it would be cool.
  6. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    ONE person got the point of this thread. :p
    minor muppetz likes this.
  7. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    I am not familiar with all 44 seasons of the show, but I can say that I think some people are being a little to hard on seasons 40 to 44. Now don't get me wrong, there are some things I do not like about those seasons, but from what I have seen the whitening especially for the street stories is there. Plus it is no longer the Elmo, and Abby show that I was afraid it was going to turn out to be. Cookie Monster Grover, Baby Bear, and Telly have really started to shine again, and that makes me happy. Now if they could only get Big Bird back into more of the spotlight then I would be even more thrilled.
  8. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I had no idea it was unpopular with the fans or writers. I think the 40th anniversary book says that the segment was popular/tested well but was dropped because it was too similar to other children's shows at the time (though if that's the reason then the whole show should have gone back to the original format!).
  9. mr3urious

    mr3urious Well-Known Member

    The early seasons were also peppered with lecture-based segments similar to other kids' shows that were on at the time such as Romper Room. Some skits were also longer (need I mention "Hey Cow" or "Fireman Ready to Go"?), and some even repeated themselves. I, for one, am glad they did away with these.
    Drtooth likes this.
  10. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    On the subject of JTE, I didn't mind it too awful much... I liked it better when it was retooled starting in Season 34, it seemed to work better sending Big Bird into worlds where he actually had to look for Ernie himself for the entire segment, as opposed to Season 33 where he went into three different worlds that seemed to be put on shuffle, where he finds a box, Ernie's not in it, finds another box, Ernie's not in it, finds the third box, there's Ernie. The retooled JTE was also a lot more interactive and engaging as well.
  11. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I've been saying that for quite some time. Old School set 2 gets far more play than set 1. I do not find the school lecture parts entertaining at all, no matter how warm the human characters are. It somehow seems less realistic when the adults spend their time with kids asking which triangle looks like the others than a weird pinball table that completely changes when it's in a bonus portal (don't know Pinball terminology, but realistically, the breakdown segment should be an LCD screen), fuzzy monsters that eat cookies, fairy tales being news. plus, repeating the same segment 3 times in an episode? I get that it's supposed to mimic commercials, but.. well.. anyone ever watch a TV show that has the same commercial every single break? Like those Windows phone commercials where they fight at a school play? No matter how cute and inventive that stuff is you get sick of it the 10th time in a single night of TV watching.

    I'm gonna do a smaller breakdown later, actually... Sesame Street really came into its own late 70's through the 80's.

    I agree. JTE was supposed to be Sesame Street's answer to Blue's Clues and Dora. But that first incarnation? On the one hand, you did get to see older clips, sure. But the repetition of the same 9 worlds, 3 of each every time just had a terrible flow. And the only really thing going for it was the Ernie segment at the end, but often it was Ernie and Elmo (or just Ernie solo) songs or Ernie's Show and Tell, and not an Ernie and Bert segment. Having Big Bird go on adventures made all the difference. But it still mirrored the problem Abby's Flying School and Super Grover 2.0 would later have. Showing the segments too often per episode count left high numbers of rerun footage.

    Honestly, the biggest problem I have with Sesame Street's current form is the reliance on character segments. Not so much for cutting off parts of the show, but for the low budget leaving these expensive to produce segments in low numbers, leaving threepeats in a single 26 episode season, only to have the same ones pad out the next season with like one or two held over segments added to the mix.
  12. MrBloogarFoobly

    MrBloogarFoobly Well-Known Member

    Eh, I'd say post Jon Stone is pretty bad.
  13. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    With me, all three Old School sets get played near-equally (I have no way of actually knowing how many times I've watched each set, disc, episode, scene, and so on... It's not like anybody keeps records of such things). However, when I watch the first two sets, I tend to watch individual scenes more than the whole episodes. I have watched the full episodes plenty of times, but I am more likely to put a disc in, go to the chapter stops, and go straight to a scene I really want to watch (and if it's not in the chapter stops, which is more likely with the volume 3 episodes, I'll hit that time bar thingy on the computer to get there, or I might be willing to go to the nearest chapter and wait, if it's close enough), but on volume 3 I've watched each of the full episodes a lot more, with the main exception of episode 1756. Don't know if it's because the episodes have more plot focus or what, though when it comes to watching full episodes all the way (as opposed to skipping straight to what I want to watch) on the first two volumes, I have watched the first episode the most (I usually try to watch the first episode every November 10th), and that one has the most plot focus (even if it's loosely a "plot") of the first ten premieres.

    In a way, it's a little cooler for episodes to not have a plot or much plot focus, but at the same time, it sort of makes me want to just watch certain segments more than the full episodes.

    I wonder when it became most common for shows to have plot focus. The Old School Volume 3 episodes all have plots, while the first two volumes don't have many plots, and when they do they're not given much focus. But I know that there are many episodes from the 1970s with plots, and there's many episodes from the 1980s and even 1990s that don't exactly have much plot focus.

    Also when comparing the three Old School volumes, the character pressence decreases. It probably shouldn't be fair to judge character usage based on how they're seen in the first 15 season premieres, but it is still interesting. The first ten season premieres have a lot of Ernie, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, and to a lesser extent The Count (he's in quite a bit of the Volume 2 episodes, but only one of the Volume 1 episodes) and Kermit (three of the five episodes on volume 1 show Kermit in at least two segments, while most of the episodes on volume 2 only feature him once). And yet while Big Bird is the star, he's really not in much of those episodes (he's in about as much as most of those characters). But on volume 3, Big Bird is more heavily featured in the season premieres (being the star of three episodes, and sort-of the star in episode 1836, though they're really about Gordon and Snuffy), while Ernie, Bert, Grover, Cookie, The Count, and Kermit are all shown a lot less (each of those episodes has at least one Ernie and Bert sketch, while the others appear more scarcely). Again, these are just season premieres, and at the time I'm sure nobody knew that the season premieres would one day be released together.

    There are a number of things I didn't mention in my breakdown of the timeline. I think I might do that tomorrow (and give others a chance to bring them up). Though I do wonder if the show is currently starting a new era, with Matt Vogel taking over The Count and Ryan Dillion taking over Elmo. It's too soon to know for sure or to determine if these recasts have affected the show yet. Both performers are great with the characters. As far as I can tell this season The Count is being used as often as he was during Jerry Nelson's last few years, but it seems to me like Elmo is decreased a little, even though much of this season was finished before Kevin Clash resigned. It'll take awhile to determine if Ryan Dillion's Elmo will be used as much as Kevin Clash's was or if his role is decreased a little.
  14. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Here's what I'd consider the timeline...

    1969-1971: The first batch of pancakes. It gets off to a pretty good start, considering it shows influence of older series at the beginning. Newer Muppet characters would start to creep out near the end of these early years, but that hole was filled at first by lame sketch comedy with human actors. Not the regulars, that is... the Larry and Phylis type bits that thankfully didn't last too long. Also, this era was filled with cover songs that have a post-Ed Sullivan, Pre-Muppet Show feel. These are pretty good, but hardly as memorable as the original songs written for the series.

    1971-1976: The show takes Shape. We now have a diverse cast of Muppet characters that brought the show's fame and merchandising. No more in-episode repeated animated sketches (which are now looking a lot more diverse and fleshed out), and the series starts to look more and more like what old schoolers remember.

    1976-1989: Perfection- a biased, yet fairly popular opinion. Let's face it... that was it's stride. The show came into its own since the mid-70's, and this was a steady stream of excellence that had the best of the 70's and the best of their then current material. The street stories became just that... stories. Some of the best remembered characters came from this era, human and Muppet. The parody segments started showing up (I'll get to this later), and the show's musical segments are as good as ever. Unfortunately, the late 80's saw Frank Oz's film career keeping him from being as involved with the show (a lot of Ernie solo segments came out of the late 80's), and a few deaths would lead us to...

    1990-1992: The Struggle. With the loss of certain creative forces behind the show, there was a huge hole that left characters that didn't stick to fill in lost character rolls and use of older segment footage. Of course, the worst thing that happened was the new shift in children's programming. Which lead to...

    1992-1997: Around the Corner. Apparently, this confused kids and was dropped later, but it was done to combat the rise of Barney type shows, all the while replacing characters lost by Frank's lessened involvement, and Jim and Richard's deaths. I'll admit, this was a blur for me. The street stories became more complex and... well... weird. This includes Slimey's trip to the moon. The celebrities sing parodies of their own songs tradition starts taking shape, even though "U really got a Hold on Me" was from the 80's.

    1997-2002: The calm before the storm. This was when Elmo's World premiered. That's all I'll say about that. As for the show itself, the ATC characters disappeared (Benny stayed for a little bit after, though), there was starting to be more structure to the letter and number segments (all letter and number segments were segmented so you'd see a row of number or letter segments grouped together during the "breaks"). Elmo has become the breakout character, filling the void left by said character departures. Then there was...

    2002: the Clusterfudge. That season... THE season everyone hates. The segmented show effectively changes the series completely. The show relied on segmented organized portions ever since. On the plus side, Eric Jacobson and David Rudman took over Frank's most popular characters a season before, and those characters slowly worked their way back in this season.

    2003-2007, 2008. Sesame 2.0. Things gradually got better. Segments were improved, and then discontinued. Far less hamfisted than season 33, but still having that feel. The Fix it Shop became the Mail it Shop than the Fix it shop again, then completely disappearing into the show soon enough. The celebrity and parody segments start to become a major focus, rather than a pleasant surprise. Abby was added to the cast awkwardly, then gradually came into her own. Curricula started bludgeoning initiatives into the audience's heads, starting with health.

    2007: The year they tried to change things but couldn't. Two episodes lacked Elmo's World and had the original segmented street story. Tested poorly. Shame.

    2008-2009: Another year they tried to change things and couldn't. The show, while it still had remnants of the 2.0 era, they tried to bring a classic sense back with the letter and number announcements by varying members of the cast. Unfortunately, this was a breather for....

    2009-present: Sesame Street presents the Sesame Street related programming block. Abby's Flying Fairy School, Super Grover 2.0, Ernie and Bert's Great Adventures and the remaining letter and number and street segments now transformed the show into little, smaller shows based on the international programing block these short segments were cobbled into. Murray hosted, then thankfully Murray and Ovejita hosted. Kermit appeared in the last Elmo's World ever for a glorious 10 seconds. Elmo's world staled for a year then was replaced by ETM, a far better, shorter segment. Repeats of every segment abound while half the Ernie and Bert segments are still not shown in the US. The widescreen era started pushing full frame segments out the series. The Curriculum started bludgeoning Engineering of all things into a preschool audience... a pre-preschool audience. the celebrity and parody segments are more important than the show itself. Cookie Monster grew back his popularity and finally got another segment.
  15. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Wow, Drtooth's post was.... A little bit better than mine. It mentioned some of the things I wanted to bring up but forgot (like the use of song covers and giving alternate performers to Frank's characters).

    But there are a few things I don't think have been brought up:
    • This might be minor, because I only know of two segments where this occurred (but it very well could have been in more segments we haven't seen), but the first season had a few segments where a human character (Gordon in all known cases) decorates the faces of Anything Muppets. I'm glad they dropped that concept (though the same thing basically happened in season two's "I Wanna Hold Your Ear", except it was a Muppet who decorated the face, and that segment was a lot better).
    • The Muppets also seem a little less important in the first season. We all know that the Muppets were originally only supposed to be in their own segments (putting them on par with the animation and film inserts), and I've heard that the CTW Archives has correspondence between CTW and Henson dated May 1969 (before the test shows started) saying that the producers were almost considering NOT having Muppets on the show due to the performers desired salaries (and this was before Caroll Spinney was hired). But even as the Muppets prove more popular with test audiences, in the first season, outside of the first episode it's rare to see any Muppets who aren't Big Bird or Oscar in the street scenes. We only have 8 out of 130 first season episodes to reference, but does anybody have access to any first season street scenes (outside of the first episode) featuring other Muppet characters?
    • Parody segments start to become a lot more prominent in the 1980s. During the first ten years, the majority of parodies are of game shows (and a few song spoofs). But in the 1980s, we start to get many more parodies, including recurring parody segments like Monsterpiece Theater, Miami Mice, Spaceship Surprise, and Mysterious Theater. Not only that, but we also start to get recurring Muppets who are parodies of real people, including Placido Flamingo, Polly Darton, and Meryll Sheep.

    A few people pointed out the early years having the occasional overly-long film inserts like "Hey Cow" (which I agree is long and boring) and "The Fireman Song" (which I actually like, the tune is quite catchy). But I wonder if those kinds of segments are as minor as the segments with Anything Muppets getting decorated.

    Another thing, about the years when The Muppet Show was on the air, the 40th anniversary book points out that production of that show limited the amount of time that Jim, Frank, Jerry, and Richard could perform on Sesame Street, and a few years ago Jerry said TMS was really the reason he stopped performing Snuffy, since that character was heavily in street scenes (though Michael Earl has said that Jerry performed the voice live on the set, and besides it's widely sourced that Richard performed the front half for a year). But it seems those performers still do plenty of new inserts during those years, the show doesn't really start to get new performers until The Muppet Show is a couple years from ending, and Earl Kress has said that during the pre-TMS years most of the main performers only spent a month on the show each season. It seems like Jim, Frank, Jerry, and Richard's characters appeared in street scenes just as often in the late-1970s as they did the early 1970s (I wasn't going to mention Jim, because it seems like it was always rare for his characters to be in street scenes, but at the same time, it's pretty much the same amount of usage).
  16. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I've only seen one Larry and Phyllis segment, and that one is boring (though I'd like to see some others to see if they get better), but all of the Buddy and Jim segments I've seen are great. There's also Wally and Ralph who were on the show from 1971-1974. I've only seen one of their bits, and I'd say it's not as good as Buddy and Jim, but better than Larry and Phyllis.

    I've said this a number of times, but it must have been difficult for CTW to schedule a time where Jim and Frank could both perform together (though they did work together on the 20th anniversary special), since not only was Frank directing but Jim was busy with scores of projects. Of course solo Ernie segments have never been uncommon (even before and after this era there had been nearly as many Ernie segments without Bert as there had been with Bert). But there are at least four Ernie segments from what appear to be the late-1980s (that Ernie puppet debuted in season 14, so I could be wrong) that are ABOUT Ernie having the apartment to himself. Not to mention the Best Friends Blues song where Bert is sick.

    But Bert hasn't had as many scenes without Ernie (though in the 1970s there were quite a few solo Bert segments on the street), and in season 20 it seems like they started putting Bert in solo segments, such as when he talked to Elmo about loud and quiet, Simon Soundman gave Bert a lesson in making tuba sounds, and Bert sang "Keep the Park Clean for the Pigeons". And then Bert was given a few more solo segments between Jim's death and Steve taking over as Ernie.

    And not only did the late-1980s give us less Ernie and Bert pairings, but Ernie also appeared less with Cookie Monster and Kermit appeared less with Cookie or Grover. It became a little more common for Kermit to appear with Elmo, and for Jim's characters to appear with newer characters. Then again, Frank or no Frank, in the late-1980s it must have felt special for Jim's characters to have scenes with new characters performed by newer Muppet performers. I'm sure Jim liked to perform with the new performers, and they probably liked performing alongside him.

    And during the 1980s, I would have thought that Jim would have been a lot busier than Frank. After all, Jim had scores of projects at once and was often flying around the world during the week and even weekends, while Frank only directed movies, and yet it seems like Jim was able to work on Sesame Street more in the late-80s than Frank was. Jim's minor characters were still making occasional appearances, and Jim was still frequently performing one-shot characters while Frank wasn't. And Jim even performed a new recurring character, the captain of the Spaceship Surprise.

    Actually, that was 1993-1998.
  17. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    This thread was so much fun, I wonder if we should start a separate one in the General Discussions regarding other long-time franchises. Or a separate thread for The Jim Henson Company.
  18. cjd874

    cjd874 Well-Known Member

    Here's my own breakdown of SS's history

    Gold: The first decade or so; 1969-1982. Arguably the best years of the show. Started out very rough around the edges at first, what with the repeated animated segments and the just plain freaky Muppets (Fred the Dragon, anyone?), but is quickly refined and polished. We got a taste of just how groundbreaking the show would be. The cast was interracial (African Americans, Latinos, and Caucasians living together harmoniously). Three Gordons in one era! Amazing! Besides the Gordons, we also become acquainted with Susan, Mr. Hooper, Bob, Luis, Maria, David, Linda, Olivia, and Mr. Macintosh. The Muppets were the breakout stars (Big Bird, Grover, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, Cookie Monster, the Count, Sherlock Hemlock, Herry Monster, the Anything Muppets, etc.). The animations and films became legendary (the King of 8, the Bud Luckey cartoons, Doll House #2, Henson's Counting Baker segments). Lots of famous celebrities too: James Earl Jones, Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett, Madeline Kahn, Lena Horne, Stevie Wonder, Jessie Jackson, Harry Belafonte, and more. Such a wide curriculum for such a young audience. Overall a great period, cut short by Mr. Hooper's sudden death, handled tremendously well by all at CTW.

    Silver: Post-Hooper to Richard's passing; 1982-1993. New Muppets & cast members introduced, due to lack of puppeteer availability, Jim & Frank especially. Brian Meehl, Martin Robinson, Kevin Clash, & others create memorable characters such as Telly Monster, Barkley, Snuffleupagus, Nobel Price, Hoots the Owl, and a certain red guy named Elmo. Uncle Wally & Gina are among the newcomers. The street stories become more intricate, some spanning whole seasons (such as Maria & Luis' relationship, marriage, & planning for parenthood). More great animated and live-action segments like "Hip to Be a Square" and "We All Sing with the Same Voice." Celebrities: Andrea Martin, John Candy, Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Danny DeVitto, Johnny Cash, the New York Mets, and more. Jim Henson, Joe Raposo, and Richard Hunt pass away too soon, leaving a huge hole in the show's foundational structure.

    Bronze: Around the Corner and final gasps of old-school nostalgia; 1993-2001. The street expands to include new locations and new friends: Celina, Ruthie, Savion, Lillian, Carlo, and Lexine. Frank and Jerry return to perform original characters, joined by new Muppeteers David Rudman, Joey Mazzarino, and Lisa Buckley. Jon Stone still directs until his fallout with CTW, thus the show loses some of its original wit and magic.

    Copper: The block format era (or as I call it the "Elmo and Abby Show"); 2002-present. Appealing to an even younger audience, very commercialized. Features like Journey to Ernie, the Spanish Word of the Day, Super Grover 2.0, Abby's Flying Fairy School, and Murray Has a Little Lamb make their debut. New characters Chris, Leela, and Mando join the cast. 40th anniversary celebrated with new merchandise and an in-depth commemorative book and DVD set, both titled 40 Years of Sunny Days.
  19. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    If the show didn't have the Muppets, it wouldn't have been as well known. In fact, I doubt it would have had much impact and would have lasted, and I'm being generous here, about 6 years tops. Any of the Muppet nay sayers at CTW would later eat crow, as those very same Muppets are essentially their source of income. So much so that Disney even allows them to call them Muppets, something JHC doesn't have the rights to.

    Of course, the show started without much regard for those characters, and like I said, they came up with those comedy duos to fill that spot (even when they had more characters) up until they realized how unfunny they were compared to the Monsters or Ernie and Bert. Once they introduced more characters, the show started coming into its own. That said, first season characters are ugly! The AM's didn't have the sophisticated placement of the eyes half the time, Orange Oscar, color aside, was an ugly looking guy, Ernie and Bert didn't look as expressive, and Bullwinkle Big Bird was just awful. Carol was right to change the character.

    The 70's was when it started (mostly with musical bits, like Count it Higher), the 80's was when it was more prominent, but certainly not as overly important or emphasized as the last few seasons. Of course, they didn't have the internet to post huge press releases back then, but the parodies weren't given exact dates and summaries... at least not to the general public. The difference is, you'd see Miami Mice or Cereal Girl or something naturally. Now, the parody and celebrity segments are promoted over everything else in a season. This is only for the benefit of the adults watching with their kids. Heck, seems like now they make them to put online directly to make sure every one knows they're still around.
  20. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I kind of like the way the puppets looked in the first season. Maybe not better than they would look next season and later, but I still enjoy watching those early, cruder versions of the puppets.

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