Everyone in my neck of the woods has been chatting about PBS hiring JJ Abrams to
reboot SESAME STREET, and I’m of two minds about it.
On the one hand, isn’t it enough with this guy? Rebooting
STAR TREK and now STAR WARS? Does he get to reboot anything that has two words
starting in “S”?
On the other hand, SESAME STREET has been ripe for a reboot
for some time. The original show was edgier – literally more “street.” If you
watch vintage STREET from the 70’s, they’re now adorned with warnings that
“some parts of this show may not be suitable for children.” I guess we were
tougher then? Standards have got snippier. These days who would dare introduce
Oscar the Grouch? He’s a terrible role model. He’s almost always in a bad mood,
and he revels in garbage. Ernie is clearly an obsessive-compulsive, with his
obsession over his bottle cap collection. He’d have to be clearly marked out as
Special Needs or On The Spectrum.
Back in the day, only Big Bird saw the Snuffleupagus. That’s
sort of disturbing -- if you’re the kind of parent who agrees that a kid who
bites his Pop Tart into a gun and goes “bang!” should be suspended from school.
And then there’s Cookie Monster, who has no impulse control. Terrible role
models, all of them.
So now a huge long tract of every STREET is Elmo, who is
perpetually, psychotically happy. Elmo talks to babies and a fish. Elmo's only claim to being a bad role model is that Elmo talks about himself in the third person.
I always thought sort of the point of SESAME STREET was it was clever enough that parents could watch it. Basically, a lot of it was muppet schtick, which is so old, it never gets old. "It's not a good joke," as Jim Henson used to say. "But it's worthy of us."
So I actually have hopes for the reboot. I don't know for a fact that Abrams is going to get back to the original, edgier impulses of the show that have, like Elmo, been medicated into submission, but I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with it.
I am sort of inclined to wonder how you can do a daily show using all CG characters replacing the fabled muppeteers, but you can do amazing things with mo-cap these days. And it's certainly true that Montreal (STREET's new home) has enough skilled mo-cap artisans to support a big chunk of the video game industry. So it's good all round.