1969 was certainly a banner year. Neil Armstrong touched down on the moon. Woodstock took place in upstate New York. The Beatles released Abbey Road. The Boeing 747 is first placed into service. The television shows The Brady Bunch and Monty Python’s Flying Circus debuted. While those shows, for better or for worse (not necessarily in that order), eventually went off the air, another show that got its start in 1969 is still going strong: the venerable children’s show Sesame Street.
It would be difficult to be a part of American society and not be familiar with the show — everyone, it seems, knows Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and the ubiquitous Elmo. The show was meant to depict the sort of world kids in the big city themselves lived in and the idea worked. It worked so well that now, forty years later, the show is as popular as ever. As of 2006, Sesame Street was the most watched children’s show in the world — there are 20 international independent versions and it is shown in over 120 countries.
Next week, the show begins its 41st season and includes — as always — some big name guests. “The new season will be star-studded,” Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer, says. “We have Cameron Diaz in our premiere episode, and Adam Sandler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kobe Bryant, Eva Longoria, Christina Applegate, Ricky Gervais, Greg Kinnear, and more — we have over 30 celebrities this season. And we also have First Lady Michelle Obama!” Mrs. Obama will be on the show talking about planting a garden and eating healthy.
Initially, the show “was like a magic carpet ride,” says Bob McGrath, who has played Bob on the show right from the start. “It was a tremendously exciting time. It was just one of total exhilaration. None of us anticipated that it was going to have the impact around the world that it has had. We didn’t have any long-term outlook. It was just a very joyous thing from the get-go. But I think we all had a good gut feeling after that first year that we were on to something special. It was an extraordinary experiment that’s worked out miraculously.”
After 40 years, the miracle continues and I, for one, am glad of that.
What do you remember most about the show? Share your memories of the show in the comments!