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Differences in Sesame Street then and now

Discussion in 'Classic Sesame Street' started by BWSmith, Apr 9, 2004.

  1. BWSmith

    BWSmith New Member

    (Greetings from a newbie; I apologize if this is the millionth thread on this topic.)

    If I had to summarize in a single sentence the difference between the Sesame Street of the Henson era and the show with the same name today, it would be the following:

    "The overall tone and casting of the show has moved away from the gentle, personal feel that it had in common with shows like Mr. Rogers, and toward a more formulaic, superficial kind of impersonal entertainment trend (like some of the shows on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network)."

    It's not a matter of Gen-Xer sentimentalism toward the disco/rock music of the era, or the clothes they wore on the set, or the hippie animation style, or that the actors were all 20 years younger, or that the original SS muppets were an unrepeatable formula.

    Rather, the older shows made a conscious attempt to look and feel real and authentic (especially the realistic street set itself, with its tiny pieces of scattered trash), and they reflected a zest for life that was the synergy of actors, muppeteers, animators, short documentary directors, and musicians who were all geniuses in what they did.

    An hour with the new SS gives one the same feeling that you get from a visit to someone's house a year or two after their father or mother passed away suddenly. Something just isn't right. Everything is too happy, too plastic, too forced, and with good reason when you consider the evolution of the show.

    Key actors have died or disappeared mysteriously, to be replaced inadequately by actors who seem out of place in their roles. Other actors are not aging well. The writers can't seem to decide what to do with the old bunch, whereas in the old days, you could count on 8 grownups being on the set, in every episode, with clear personalities and good chemistry. Today's cast is a hodgepodge. (And don't get me started with Gaby, who was cute as a little kid, but innately lacks the acting instincts of her mother, to put it nicely.)

    Key muppeteers have died or left production, and their replacements are forced to focus more on making their voice sound like Henson, Hunt, Oz, and Nelson and less on just being themselves. Other characters who were created as supporting characters have been thrust into starring roles for no other reason than that their muppeteers are still alive and on the payroll (think Elmo and Telly).

    You could feel Henson's soul in the eyes and words of Kermit and Ernie, and Oz's soul in the eyes of Cookie, Grover, and Bert. They were real personalities that came alive. In contrast, Telly is caricatured insecurity. Elmo is caricatured toddler exuberance. Baby Bear is impersonal yuk-yuk schtick. They are career supporting muppets who have no business being center stage. These are not muppets who would give you a hug. A tap-dance, maybe. Or a babbling neurotic diatribe about their own fears and insecurities, but not a hug or a quiet song.

    The new Grover and Ernie are louder, more Elmo-like shadows of their former selves. Only Spinney's BB/Oscar and Robinson's Snuffy (virtually the same as Nelson's Snuffy) remain as anchors of the past.

    The quality of the animation has declined. There are still some very good computer-generated segments, but computer-generated animation will never reflect the personality of the artist like drawn animation. New drawn animation segments have decreased in quality, for some reason (presumably because CGI is cheaper).

    The quality of the music has declined out of SS's desire to stay musically relevant to a wider culture of declining contemporary music, rather than stick with their trademark sound of small-ensemble jazz, 60's rock, and 70's disco.

    All-in-all, the older Sesame Street was the greatest children's show ever made, and deserves to be ranked with the greatest programs ever produced.

    The new Sesame Street is not out-and-out "bad", per se. But it has followed trends in the entertainment industry that have led it to become "just another kids show", comparable to any of the shows you might find on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.

  2. Censored

    Censored Well-Known Member

    I think that just about says it all.
  3. Camellia

    Camellia New Member

    hi, thanks for the thoughtful post. I watched the anniversary special this week. :( sad sad sad. The clips at the end were the only good part. but they were too short. I'm thankful I have the 1980 era shows recorded from my child's days watching the show.

    The real street and building scenes and sets were fabulous in the 80s to early 90s. Now, there are too many "blue backgrounds", too much Elmo, not enough good writing, poor graphics, and "quickie cute computer tricks". That is no substitute for good writing and quality artwork.

    The show is boring, sorry to say. I used to love it and now it is too sad of an art experience to watch it. I'd rather remember how it was, instead of watch what it has degraded to. :(

    Camellia's Muppet Store
  4. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    It's posts like this which MAKE ME MAD!!!!!

    I feel your pain and everything, but TIMES CHANGE!!! The reason why it's not like it once was ins't because the key players are gone, but because of the child psycologists, and parents who plunk their kids in front of the television to get rid of them.

    I do morn the loss of characters, but I accept that mainly because A) those performers passed and they cannot continue the roles, and B) Kids just don't like them. We grew up in different times, we have to accept that.

    And this stuff about the characters being "Soulessly recast" is just alarming. I mean, Frank is too busy to perform nowadays, and I think Eric is ddoing a great job with his characters. In fact, Eric's chemestry with Steve's Ernie is better than Steve's Ernie an Frank's Bert. Everyone complains about the overuse of Elmo, but then they complain that we have characters like Gladys and Grover and the rest back, but they are different from their performer.

    If they kept the Disco era skits, they would rapidly become out of date, kids wouldn't watch, the show would be canned, and repl,aced by some fruity colored kiddy show which will be famous for one year, and forgotten soon after.

    The magic is still there... you need to see it through a child's eyes, not a cinical adlut fan perspective.

    Saying the SS is "another kid's show" now is totally unfair. they are doing a great job with the rigorous standards that the psycologists and educators forced on them, all while trying to keep the kids intact. Sesame is basically made so kids and PARENTS can watch together. the audience got younger, times changed, things changed.

    I'm sick of everyone saying the same thing about "Elmo ruined Sesame Street"

    hey! I can easily say the same for Jimmy Fallon and Will Farrel on SNL...

    Elmo ruined your perseption of the show, Your Sesame Street. I feel it's as good as it ever was, just not as entertaining on the same level. But they're trying very hard. You see only flaws, and you don't pick up the real bits of the show. The puppeteers, even recast ones, are doing their utmost best, giving 10000% to their roles, and even adlibbing some great stuff. I mean, yes. I miss the old SS, but the show has always been for Kids first, and they have to make it so kids like it, and with all these tests, they found kids like it more on their level.

    SS is was and ever will be the greatest educational show along with Mr. Rogers. Just not on your level.
  5. Censored

    Censored Well-Known Member

    In this case, not for the better.
  6. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    You didn't read the rest of my post.

    Think about it. All the sketches you guys want back are terribly out of date.

    As a collector of classic SS, I understand what you are saying. But think about it. The real quality is the performers giving a great performance of puppets... even the worst characters are done flawlessly... they are performers trying to give the art of illusion.

    And they are still teaching things, though not like you people remember. I mean, the quality is that they do not have cheaply made puppets performed by hacks, a bunch of no talent actors pretending to interract with the characters, and they're not just spewing out the same repetitious morals any kid already should know.

    I mean, I don't think that "The show isn't good anymore" isn't the term. "The show isn't entertaining on the adult SS fan level" is more an accurate term.

    As I've said millions of times, Elmo isn't popular because they want to tear away the classic SS, but because kids like Elmo. They can sympathise with Elmo. I mean, Guy Smiley and Sherlock Hemlock played good in the 70-80's, but if any kids see these characters now, they turn the channel. They don't hold the same interrest to them as characters that are supposed to be their own age.

    I still think that with the material they have, they are making a top rate show, one of the best kid's shows on Television that's still produced.

    Watch most of the other shows on PBS... they're all imitations of much better shows that aren;t even on anymore. Sure, there's still Arthur, Mr. Rogers reruns, and such, but Jay Jay the Crap Plane, Barney the Dinosaur, and the Teletubbies are still stinking up the air, and no ones done a thing to stop it.

    Modern kids aren't like us. they don't get parodies, they don't like adult characters as much.

    Personally, I'd be more offended if SS didn't change with the times. I mean, if they cater to the SS fans, then the kids, their target audience will drop, plummet, and SS would be no more, replaced by a D grade sock puppet show with hack puppeteers trying to make SS like characters, but all and all making a terrible gushy mess, leading to another forgettable show.

    Remember. It's not the way you remember it, but face it... you were all like 3-7 at the time. If you were the same age now, you'd like it.

    Just because the show isn't just like you remember DOES NOT mean that the quality isn't there. The quality of bringing an entertaining way to teach kids symbolic recognition, social interractions, and the like, all with superb puppetry and heart.

    But if you still think quality = out of date sketches and obscure characters, go ahead and think that.

    I miss all the old things as well, but think realistically. You can't have a show stay the same when times change.
  7. BWSmith

    BWSmith New Member

    Arguments about "different times" applies to how adults view things, but not kids. Kids respond to what they are presented.

    My 4 and 2-year-old seem to really enjoy the handful of Unpaved episodes I play for them. Then again, they don't watch hours of short-attention-span TV every day. If they did, they would probably be bored with SSU.

    This opens up a whole can of worms about whether you can ever replace old characters with new voices and go on like nothing has changed...

    The Walt Disney Company has entire divisions dedicated to producing "sequels" to cartoon feature films that were not designed to have sequels. Plus, their classic characters fizzled after the original voices left (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, etc).

    Steve's Ernie bothers me very much. Besides looking like he stuck his finger in an electrical outlet, his new personality is much more one-dimensional than Jim's Ernie. Like Elmo, the new Ernie has his transmission permanently stuck in "enthusiastic".

    Elmo is not good as an anchoring personality in the same way that Big Bird was on the street and Kermit was off the street. Elmo, Telly, and Baby Bear are punch line characters in search of a straight man.

    The new Bert sounds nothing like Oz. You don't have to be a lifelong SS fan to wince at the attempts to duplicate Oz's voice.

    The new Grover is about as good as you can hope for, voice-wise. Personality-wise though, the new Grover follows the same trend as the new Ernie. Gone is the inherently shy Grover whose goal is to make everybody happy, and who occasionally explodes with pent-up frustration. In his place is an unnuanced extrovert who would never dare utter the old Grover's trademark "Oh I am so embarrassed".

    I don't think anyone wants simple reruns of those sketches.

    It would be nice if the same spirit of societal parody were present in today's sketches.

    A lot of the blame goes with society itself. The last 15 years have not seen the "excess" of the 70's and 80's, so it's not as easy to find targets that are appropriate for a kids' show anymore.

    Elmo is fine as the lead of a TV show not named "Sesame Street". Elmo simply can't fill the shoes of his predecessors. In the Sesame Street context, he's a supporting cast-member thrust into center-stage.

    I enjoy the Elmo's World segments very much, but only when I divorce it from any connection with the TV show of the same name from 35 years ago.

    The modern Sesame Street is a fine show, just like all the other kids' shows out there. It would be an even better show if they spun off from the old show and gave it a new name.

    A lot of problems seem to stem from not knowing when to cut the cord on the past.

    (Maria in particular looked very old in "Elmo Visits the Firehouse".)
  8. Censored

    Censored Well-Known Member

    That's your opinion, Drtooth. I honestly don't see where most of the old vintage Ernie and Bert sketches, song sequences, or other skits were really that dated. Besides, it's usually adults who worry about things being "too dated". Children just enjoy something.

    Again, your opinion. I truly believe that "the show isn't good anymore." As the original poster said, it goes beyond 70 styles and music, it's an entire format that has changed. Throughout the 70's and 80's, Sesame Street "changed with the times", but never abandoned its successful production style. This current version off Sesame Street has lost all of its uniqueness and has adopted the uniformity of other children's shows. I don't think it's any secret that there was competition with other programs taking place when all of the radical changes occurred.

    How do you know this? They haven't put the older characters on that much for a long time, mostly just Elmo. The only thing it proves is that children identify better with characters who are there than with characters who are not there. Not a big surprise.

    I can appreciate your loyalty and blind faith in whatever Sesame Street does. But, we need to remember that anything is only as good as people are willing to make it.

    How can you defend the new Sesame Street, but criticize the other shows? They're all programs that are currently popular with children. It sounds like you're picking and choosing which modern shows you're willing to accept.

    Again, I would like some evidence to back this up. The term "modern kids" is way overplayed. Everyone does not agree that children have changed so dramatically. According to Mr. Rogers, children never really changed.

    More speculation as to how it would be if they honored the old days. Personally, I believe that the needs of children and the demands of nostalgic adults are one in the same. It worked for us then and it left us with good memories. It could work again in syndication if they'd give it a chance.

    Not necessarily. There were many fly-by-night children's shows in my day that I was not impressed with. The vintage days of Sesame Street left a good impression in all of us because it offered something that the other shows didn't, not just because it was at the right place at the right time.

    It basically comes down to a difference of opinion and how much you're willing to accept or challenge the status quo. Personally, if they really wanted to, I believe that they could properly coordinate old and new in a way that would work 100% better than they do now.
  9. BWSmith

    BWSmith New Member

    Again, I don't think that this is a matter of simple sentimental nostalgia vs. "anything new", as you have caricatured it.

    The real question is, does the new Sesame Street have the same energy, personality, and gentleness that it had back then? The answer is almost certainly "no" for anyone who grew up with the older edition.

    Is this the fault of psychologists meddling in artistic creativity, societal times that are changing for the worse, producers juggling casting continuity issues, and competition from faster, louder programming on cable? Probably. I don't think anyone who actually does the show is to blame as much as the suits in charge.

    I might dispute your point about "if we were 3-7 we would like it". Yes, that is probably true, given that the old SS and new SS are not on competing channels. Kids like it because, for all its faults, it's better than 90% of the other shows.

    Do kids like "faster and louder" or "quieter and smarter"? One kid's "exciting" is another kid's "obnoxious". One kid's "gentle" is another kid's "boring".

    If I were a martian, landing on Earth in a flying saucer, and watching both the old and the new episodes for the first time, somehow I think I would still enjoy the quieter, smarter episodes of the past over the faster, louder episodes of today, even if I hadn't grown up with them.

    The Andy Griffith Show, for example, came and went long before my time. Yet, I can still make the statement that the black-and-white episodes are far superior to the color ones without feeling as if I'm just "biased against the new stuff".
  10. Oliver

    Oliver New Member

    I think the greatest difference in the Sesame Street of today and past generations is the altered approach and direction overall that the series has assumed of recent years. "Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself" - I think this proverb, however cliche, truly characterizes my perspectives perfectly. Sesame Street never once talked down to children in an imposing manner, rather showed an intrinsic respect and appreciation in it's position through encouragment, guidance and optimism, awakening a generation of children to their own expectations rather than those of a higher influence. The beauty of Sesame Street was that it inspired creativity and understanding through music, art, animation, imagination, etc.

    Granted I haven't had much interest in revisiting any recent seasons of Sesame Street because my admiration and enjoyment is based on the nostalgia of my youth, but I have seen a few segments and in my opion have to say that it is a totally different program. Gone is the gentle ethereal nature of fun and innocence, the subtle references to a more mature social satire reflective of the times which unlike any other children's show of it's day since, acknowledged the pressence of the parents and adults by introducing a level of sophistication and high-brow amusement. Since replaced by depthless superficial generic characters, most of whom appear in extreme polar conditions of either loud obnoxious and insipid lifeless personalities or puerile overly-cheerful and shallow complexions; usually in the context of small cutesy furry animals. The clever yet distinctly vibrant wit and humor animated through the magic and passion of Jim Henson and company is totally lost with today's characters and skecthes.

    To me as a child Sesame Street was the perect blend of dreamlike dissonance and fantasy, embodied with a uniquely honest fascination towards the beauty and fairness of life seen through a child's eyes. It was a surreal vision of youth that was relevant to every child in every social context, from inner-city to rural backgrounds, transcending all boundaries and teaching kids that the world was theirs to achieve.

    It now seems more like an overly pretentious babysitter.
  11. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Feels like I'm talking to a brick wall.

    YES! It has been proven that kids like Elmo more. Why do you think he's on so much if kids like the other characters? it only makes sense.

    Saying "the show isn't good enough" is pretty much the most CLOSED MINDED THING I HAVE EVER HEARD! What is good enough? All the old characters? Do you really think they want to cater to bitter old 20+ year old fans, or the real target audience of preschoolers?

    I'm taking the REALITY route here. I'm sure that kids probably like seening kids in outdated clothes and typewriters....

    I've had it with these one sided complaints. Boo hoo... SS changed. Get over it! Stop complaining, if you want to live in the past watch old episodes. I'm not saying the changes are good, I'm saying they were necissarry!

    I;'m sure if parents like you raised the majority of kids who watch the show, it would be like the old days. But read my "Stupid parental review" thread and read the reviews I posted. THOSE are the parents that raise kids on SS, albiet too young.

    TV has become a baby sitter. how else would D grade shows like Blues clues and maisy got so popular.

    The reason why Unpaved and the rest were kicked off Noggin was because they tested bad with kids, and without SW's hand in the network, they were pulled because, and ssetta has said this time and again, kids like this crap better. I'm surprised SS is as good as it is now with all the competition.

    I do not run SW, and If I did, I'd keep it as much as the original as I could. Remember, society and psycologists are to blaime for the changes, not Elmo, Zoe, or Baby bear. For crying out loud, they're someone's hand up a bunch of felt and fur. The puppeteers are doing their all with what they have, and they're doing a great job with it.

    The reason why SS is structtured now is beacuse a bunch of educators and psycologists think that random skits here and there lead to ADD or disorganized minds. It does sound stupid. It probably isn't true. but that's what they want.

    Plus the fact they don't have the high budget they used to because of PBS's lack of funding.

    I'm not defending the new SS, I'm pointing out SIMPLE FACTS for why it's not entertainin g on a bitter 20+ year old fan level. It is and ever will be A KID'S SHOW! KIDS ARE SUPPOSED TO WATCH IT, NOT 20+ YEAR OLD NONPARENTS!!!! They can if they want to, but if you're putt off by the new SS, do tape trades for old episodes.

    I'm trying to explain the obvious to people too pig headed to open up and look at the world around them.

    yes. i am not happy with the changes. I want them to change it back, but nI FEEL the show should continue, for the kid's sake.

    but I guess they could give in to the fans sake, load the show up with nothing but classic skits, bore and confuse the audince which consists mainly of kids too young to watch TV (no thanks to TV being a parent) leading to the show's ultimate demise, and replacing it with a half made crappy knockoff that no one will remember in 2 years. Sound good?

    I'm not defending the changes, just stating actual facts that were proven by the educatiors and psycologists who ruined the show (because of all the data that TV "Screws up" kids). And I accept them as long as the show goes on entertaining and teaching more Preschoolers.

    Now I've said my last word on the matter, so you can go back to your nostalgic whining without any real world interruptions!
  12. Censored

    Censored Well-Known Member

    It seems like the one who is "whining" the most around here is you, Drtooth. The rest of us are just stating our opinions.

    First of all, let's give the other characters FAIR competition with Elmo and then we can really see. Right now Elmo gets so much air time, it's like a one Muppet race.

    Furthermore, I don't consider Noggin's airings of Unpaved to be an adequate test for one simple reason. They ran the same episodes so many times that even the most avid Sesame Street fan would get tired of seeing them. Of course the ratings dropped, many just recorded them to share with their children and there was no longer any reason to tune in. A true test would be to show every episode of Sesame Street from 1969 to 1989.

    Since you are so eager to accept the changes on Sesame Street, you should be just as eager to accept new shows that have been "kid tested" like the Teletubbies. That show was made for kids too, you know, not you.

    Drtooth, I'd be glad to debate the old vs. new Sesame Street, but if you're going to get that upset and emotional over the opinions of nostalgic Sesame Street fans, I'm really not sure what you're doing here. I think there are many people here who do not believe the current format is any good. It's not being closed minded, it's a difference of opinion, something you seem to have difficulty accepting. You've made it clear that you don't like hearing our complaints, but what you haven't made clear is why you choose to log on here if it upsets you so much.
  13. Censored

    Censored Well-Known Member

    Speaking of brick walls, remember the good old days when muppets skits were done behind a high brick wall? I wish they'd show more of those oldies but goodies.
  14. jrod

    jrod New Member

    I personally feel that the problem can be solved if there could be either a channel that would show vintage ss, fraggle, muppet babies, etc.,or have vintage ss on dvd, vhs, etc. A lot of longtime SS fans (myself included) would be thrilled to have vintage SS on dvd. The Sesame dvds that are being produced do have a lot of new SS and little vintage SS(I am still trying to find a SS dvd that has a LOT of vintage SS. There's like 48 SS dvd's in all). I do have "What's the Name of That Song?" and I really enjoyed it aside from the cheesy floating number/letter segment. I do feel nostalgic watching it however even though it was not like the format I remember as a child. Even when I was little, Elmo was my favorite muppet and still is today. It's good to see him more on new SS, however, I do miss the old characters (Mumford, Guy Smiley, Barkley, Snuffy, etc.). I think one good idea that can occur that would satisfy both audiences of SS would be to show vintage SS during prime time or around 10 or so(I can't stand those bbc shows that are on late at night). I do think that kids today would enjoy the old sketches and music, however, they might be a little puzzled by the look of the animation, clothes, etc.(I recently bought 3 old episodes of "Electric Company" and it looked VERY 70's. I think most kids today would say "That's weird!").Finally, PBS needs to bring back the old 1970's logo with the tri colored pbs logo and the weird music!

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