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SESAME STREET: OLD SCHOOL
Volume One

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, Oscar the Grouch
Directors:  Various
Special Features:  See Review
Video:  Color Full screen
Audio:  Dolby 2.0
Studio:  Sony Warner Video
Length: 300 minutes
Release date: 
October 24, 2006

“Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet!

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”

“Presenting the further adventures of everybody’s favorite hero, the man who is faster than lightning, stronger than steel, smarter than a speeding bullet, it’s SuperGrover!” 

Show ****

In some ways I always feel like I was born in the wrong era since the music and clothing styles of the past seem so much more to my liking, but on the other hand, I was fortunate enough to be only one year old when Sesame Street debuted on PBS, the show that in many ways “made” the network.  My father was an educator and originally insisted that I was not allowed to watch TV at all, but when Sesame Street came along, he almost insisted that I did watch it!  I even remember lying to my parents, saying I had to use the bathroom, when in fact I snuck into their room and watched it on a tiny black-and-white television.  They caught me, but how could they really be mad?  Even today, my wife and I occasionally watch it (we don’t have kids yet) and remember how much fun the show was.

We learned so many valuable lessons from the show, such as Big Bird’s confusion about the alphabet being letters rather than one big word, and knowing that our parents loved us just as much as before we spilled a glass of milk all over the floor.  I also remember being told not to be like Oscar, who was so grouchy.  Being a kid was tough but sometimes those lessons seem so simple compared to the messy landscape of adulthood. 

It is difficult to underestimate the impact of this show on so many young people who saw it in their pre-school years.  It taught us that learning can be fun, with great music, the unforgettable original Muppets such as Kermit the Frog, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Bert and Ernie, Count von Count, Cookie Monster, as well as people of so many ethnicities and ages such as Bob, Maria, Gordon, Susan, Luis, and Mr. Hooper.  Even in its early days, guest stars were everywhere, such as Lena Horne, Johnny Cash, and Bill Cosby. 

“It’s not easy bein’ green…having to spend each day the color of the leaves…”

This invaluable three disc set and booklet contain plenty of trivia, including the correct spelling of “Snuffleupagus.”   We learn that Gordon was actually played by three different actors, though since 1973 Roscoe Orman has filled those shoes.  It even has (of course) a special section in the middle for the young ones and is printed on thick strong paper like the package itself. 

Video ***1/2

I am surprised how good even the very first episode looks, very little grain or other problems.  Considering this was not done in Hollywood to begin with, either it was shot on better quality film than I expected or else someone did a fine restoration job.  Probably some of both.

Audio ***

Only Dolby stereo, but like the video much clearer than you might expect for a low budget show from the 1960’s.  Very little hiss or other problems.    

Special Features ****

Disc One has a Classic Cuts list of the first season list, which includes Kermit singing “Bein’ Green”, Ernie singing “Rubber Ducky,”  James Earl Jones (the first celebrity for the show), and of course Oscar singing “I Love Trash.”   We also get to see the original version which was pitched to the network.  It is not bad, but the pilot is much better, though Big Bird is even dopier and stranger looking than you might remember, and Oscar is orange!

The other discs feature the first episode of seasons 2-5, and classic cuts from each one, including possibly the funniest kid show segment ever, Kermit the Frog reporting on Rapunzel, which she lets down all of her hair, and of course then Prince Charming can’t climb up to rescue her. 

Summary:

Pure genius: a show aimed at pre-schoolers, of en educational nature, that is truly entertaining even for adults.  For those of us who remember good times before Elmo, this set is priceless.

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