JJ Abrams’s Sesame Street RebootComplications Ensue
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Monday, April 01, 2013

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.


I actually advocated for Peter Jackson... his reboot of 'The Muppet Show', re-titled as 'Meet the Feebles', walked the fine line between respecting the original work and taking it just a bit further. I never understood why it was canceled right after the pilot?

As for JJ Abrams take on 'Sesame Street', I think the fact that he is grounding the characters in our world to be inspiring. It just makes sense that Oscar the Grouch is a homeless Iraq war veteran suffering from PTSD. And can you get more timely than Burt & Ernie staring in a reality TV show within a show about the trials and tribulations of same sex marriage in America?

Educational and fun for the whole family.

By Blogger Clint Johnson, at 2:37 PM  

Upon reflecting on those characters... They are pretty messed... But I was still glued to the TV at 11am everyday. SS was immediately after the grown man who lived in a house where he dressed up in funny clothes, talked to the picture of an owl like it was a god, and kept a boy and his dog captive in a tree house... Maybe suddenly, I understand my childhood a little more...

By Blogger jmulligan, at 3:05 AM  

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