Excerpt from Actor’s Devotional Nov. 10th

Posted: May 14, 2009 in Devotionals

GroverActor’s Devotional

November 10th

If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap. If you want happiness for a day — go fishing. If you want happiness for a month — get married. If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.  Chinese Proverb

If it is true that everything we ever needed to know we learned in kindergarten (share your toys, don’t lie, be kind, etc.) then it is fitting that our collective Christian American psyche would be expressed by a children’s TV show. Perhaps the clearest picture of our ideas about equality and reconciliation, Sesame Street debuted on Public Television on this day in 1969.

The TV show’s original format called for people to be intermixed with the segments of animation, live action shorts and Muppets. These segments were fashioned like commercials- swift, beguiling and memorable, and made the educational experience a great deal more enjoyable. This arrangement became a benchmark for what we know today as edutainment based television programming.

Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) aired the program for test groups to establish if the radical new format was apt to do well. Results showed that test viewers were spellbound when the advertisement like segments aired, in particular those with the jovial Muppets, but were actually surprisingly much less engrossed in the street scenes. Psychologists warned CTW against a combination of fantasy and realism elements, but the producers soon decided to mix the elements. A simple measure of cartoon like characters let the humans convey messages without causing viewers to lose attention.  Sesame Street, along with quite a few other Sesame Workshop produced shows (such as The Electric Company, which was produced when Sesame Workshop was still CTW) are all recorded in New York City.

 

 

Sesame Street is recognized for its multicultural ingredient and is complete in its casting, incorporating roles for disabled people, young and old, Hispanic actors, Black actors, and others. While a number of the puppets look like people, others are animals or “monster” puppets of diverse sizes and colors. This encourages kids to consider that people come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and that no particular type is any better than another.

Harmoniously with its multiculturalist perspective, the television show pioneered the concept of sporadically inserting very basic Spanish words and phrases to help young children become familiar with the conception of a foreign language, Sesame Street was doing this almost thirty years before Dora the Explorer made her debut.

Each of the puppet characters has been planned to symbolize a particular stage or constituent of early childhood, and the scripts are written such that the character reflects the progress level of children of that age. This means the show addresses not only the learning objectives of a variety of age groups, but also the concerns, worries, and interests of children of differing ages.

 

Perhaps the most endearing legacy Sesame Street will leave is it is the place where Kermit the frog and the Muppets were first introduced and nurtured to maturity for an American pop culture. Kermit the Frog hosted the section Sesame Street News Flash. In other segments, Kermit would play straight man to the madcap frolics of other Muppets. Big Bird is an eight foot two inches tall yellow canary that lives in a large nest on a deserted lot located behind 123 Sesame Street’s garbage heap. Big Bird is often seen with his friend Aloysius Snuffleupagus who is a large, brown woolly elephant like creature who is known more commonly by his nickname “Snuffy”. Various other Snuffleupaguses have appeared on the show, most notably Snuffy’s little sister Alice and his unnamed mother. Initially, Snuffy showed up when no one but Big Bird was around, leaving the rest of the neighborhood thinking he was imaginary.

Other American icon of muppetry are Oscar the Grouch, who loves trash, lives with his pet elephant Fluffy, and a worm Slimey in a garbage can in the heap. Bert and Ernie, two of the most-recognized Muppets, are friends who live together in the basement apartment of 123 Sesame Street, and frequently engage in comic routines, which showcase their odd-couple personalities. Ernie’s flowerbox was once a hotspot for Twiddlebugs, a family of multi-colored insects.  The Bear family, which resemble the bears of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, also live in Sesame Street. Papa Bear and Mama Bear, welcomed their second child Curly Bear, and Baby Bear and became a good friend of the monsters Telly and Zoe, and everyone’s favorite furry red character Elmo. Elmo has his own section near the end of each show, in which the viewers discover topics in Elmo’s World, an imaginary version of his house.  Grover has had several noteworthy roles over the years, often as a waiter or a superhero (Super-Grover). Cookie Monster fights with his conscience daily during Letter of the Day, as he tries to be in take charge and overcome his addiction… his urge to eat the letters (always made of cookies).

So what is it about this uncomplicated show that enamors us so much?  Well, it displays kindness, sincerity, child likeness, and helpfulness, just to name a few.  It also teaches life lessons on being a good friend, not being rude or arrogant, as well as demonstrating good manners and politeness.  Sesame Street led the way in things like racial reconciliation and social awareness, demonstrating lower income folk not only as people that we need not fear, but who also have things to contribute; something to say.  Isn’t that how God loves us?  Isn’t that what he actually expects of us?  Isn’t the great over riding theme of his being His love?  The world says that people should stay with their kind (racism & prejudice).  Others offer a way that seems right that says that if we can all just get together, then magically we will all get along (romanticism).  But there is a third way to see it.  A set of ideals that demand we act in love because we have been so loved; held together by a set of Truths, that have always been true and so give our actions, our lives and our laws meaning; because they are from outside of ourselves.  That’s why we love Sesame Street.  It has helped us for over 40 years to be what we long to be… loving and loved.  We love it because it loves the way God loves, and asks us to do the same.

I Timothy

 5:10 [We should be known for] good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

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