Barry Goldwater

Reason Writers Around Town: Nick Gillespie on How We Got To Sesame Street in the Washington Post

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Did you know that Barry Goldwater helped save taxpayer funding for Sesame Street back in the day? Or that the yellow-skinned muppet Bert was seen consorting with Bin Laden right after the 9/11 attacks? Or that the show's politically correct research director in the 1990s once declared that the part of a chicken in a make-believe play could only be played by…a make-believe chicken?

In The Washington Post, Nick Gillespie reviews Michael Davis's Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. A snippet:

Street Gang is mired in unnecessary details, endless litanies of names and prose that is several shades more purple than the skin of Count von Count, the show's obsessive-compulsive, mathematically inclined vampire. "Jon Stone approached a typewriter in the same way that a concert pianist approached a Steinway," Davis writes in a typical flourish, describing a co-producer of the show. Elsewhere, he intones that when Cooney decided to wean her production company off federal assistance, "she had unwittingly made a kind of Sophie's Choice. Sesame Street would survive, The Electric Company would not."

Whole thing here.

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  1. “the yellow-skinned muppet Bert was seen consorting with Bin Laden.”

    Does Ernie know about this? It’s sad to see Osama breaking up a happy home.

  2. Bert is a gay terrorist.

  3. How about “anyone under 48,” Nick? Being 47, I remember rushing home to watch the show from its inception, when the episode numbers were in the single digits. And reading a preview article about the show in “Scholastic” magazine, thinking it was going to be called “See-Same Street.” I’m not sure it helped my education any … I just liked watching the not-snack-PC Cookie Monster eat those cookies.

  4. Sesame Street was after my time but I do have nieces and nephews so avoiding it has proven to be impossible. Some thoughts on the show and the article –

    It’s a good show for kiddies.

    It markets merchandise extremely well.

    No contributor was more important than Jim Henson, the muppet master whose laid-back hippie persona masked a bulldog businessman who never fulfilled his dreams of succeeding with a mature audience.[italics added]

    I call horsefeathers. The Muppet Show was a prime time success story for five(?) years and was definitely aimed at adults.

    This is so classic a Sesame Street bit it had to be linked to.

    Indeed, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which has tracked students since the early ’70s, reports that there has been precious little increase in reading and math test scores among the generations raised on “Sesame Street” (despite the more than doubling of inflation-adjusted expenditures per pupil over the same period).

    It’s difficult, if not impossible, for the social sciences to determine the effectiveness of any individual influence on something as complex as children’s reading and math scores. IM(not so)HO, the unintended negative consequences fron LBJ’s War on Poverty (have we won that one yet?) would likely overwhelm any positive effects that Sesame Street had with children from low income families.

    I give the show ????.

  5. Echoing J sub D.

    The Muppet Show…Pigs in Space!

    I’ll never forget the planet Koozebane. The first time I saw that I laughed my ass off. Because it reminded me of Coos Bay and not only in name. Turns out that Hensen was actually riffing on the real Coos Bay.

  6. The Muppet Show was a prime time success story for five(?) years and was definitely aimed at adults.

    By the standards of the network suits, I don’t think it was*. And he had to produce it overseas and syndicate it in the US. – though which likely helped it survive the initial rough patch. Reruns, the movies**, and ‘moychen-dicin’, I believe ultimately contributed to it being a keystone of the Henson empire.

    *at least per wikipedia, not at first.
    **which were specifically aimed at kids, but had some ‘adult humor’ esp the first one

  7. Jon Stone approached a typewriter in the same way that a concert pianist approached a Steinway

    With a cigar and a tumbler of Black Label? That’s how I do it. But enough about me.

  8. How about “anyone under 48,” Nick?

    Hell I’m 46 and remember the beginning of Sesame Street.That show was for babies.The Electric Company was more geared for my age group but it had this creepy socialist vibe.I much preferred the local commercial TV kid shows that mixed hyperactive studio mayhem with syndicated cartoons.I remember being a guest on one as a Cub Scout and the production staff threated us with violence because we flipped off the camera every time the red light came on.

  9. The Electric Company was more geared for my age group but it had this creepy socialist vibe.

    Huh, what?

  10. Too funny not to link.

    Sesame Street DVDs Dubbed ‘Not Suitable for Children’

    The reason for the warning has been put down to the fact that children nowadays are unprepared to witness the likes of Cookie Monster holding and eating a pipe and that Oscar the Grouch is too miserable for today’s kids.

    But I was heartened to see there’s still a strong majority saying federal government should be smaller, not larger.

    For all that the trolls here try to pretend otherwise, the minarchist ideal of libertarianism is still very mainstream. It just isn’t happening because of politicians’ greed.

  11. But I was heartened to see there’s still a strong majority saying federal government should be smaller, not larger.

    For all that the trolls here try to pretend otherwise, the minarchist ideal of libertarianism is still very mainstream. It just isn’t happening because of politicians’ greed.

    Depends on how you phrase the question. If you ask: “Would you like government to be smaller?”

    A majority of people would probably say yes.

    If you ask: “Would you like to stop getting your goverment cheese?”

    A majority of people will say no.

    It’s easy to say no to big government when it’s not coming out of your pocket (tax witholding being the exception, since it never reaches your pocket in the first place)…

  12. Does Ernie know about this? It’s sad to see Osama breaking up a happy home.

    He said consorting, not contorting. Though I hear those muppets are pretty lithe and flexible when they want to be. 😉

  13. Given Reason’s opinion of what the #1 libertarian issue is, I’d think they’d cut Bert some slack.

  14. as an almost 30 somthing (just old enough to remember leaving the room when a show called that would come on…) w/ a serious monday morning problem, did anybody notice how the imperialist fraggle oppressors would just freakin eat the workerdozers shit like it was drugs, or is that akin to the whole wizard of oz as populist fable conspiracy theory?…for that matter i always thought those commie smurfs vs gold-hungry gargemele & azrael meant somthin too…

  15. Actually, I think the Osama Bin Laden/Bert photo was taken from a interview, with Bert just coincidentally enough in the background. Though that specific photo could be from the website.

  16. “But I was heartened to see there’s still a strong majority saying federal government should be smaller, not larger. For all that the trolls here try to pretend otherwise, the minarchist ideal of libertarianism is still very mainstream. It just isn’t happening because of politicians’ greed.”

    Well, I guess I’m a troll because I don’t see how saying “yes” to smaller government is equivalent to saying “yes” to mini-anarchism.

    There is lots of room in-between where we are at and where you want to go. Simply saying “yes” to smaller government just means less than we have now. It doesn’t necessarily mean going all the way to mini-anarchism.

    Did you miss the episode of Sesame Street where the Count went over not reading into survey questions things that are not there?

  17. “Jon Stone approached a typewriter in the same way that a concert pianist approached a Steinway,”

    Paging Bulwer-Lytton…

  18. How does Gillespie conclude that the relationship between J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson was chaste?

  19. How does Gillespie conclude that the relationship between J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson was chaste?

    Hey, we don’t know what Ernie and Bert do behind closed doors either.

    Public image, man, public image.

  20. The Electric Company was extremely trippy. There can be little doubt that there were a LOT of controlled substances behind the scenes, especially in the first couple of years. The show screams early 70s counterculture (I saw this as the highest compliment).

  21. I remember a bit with Grover talking about the importance of fiber.

    In the bit, he was building a brick wall and remarked that “Fiber makes Grover lay good bricks!”

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is comedy.

  22. With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

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