These are strange days in television. There’s a rising tide of discontent towards Hollywood for not being diverse enough when casting, and a growing number of kids shows attempting to deviate from their original course of classic, well-done video making. In the midst of this, one new development has now hit the screen.
A few weeks ago, I was watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert when he brought up the fact that Sesame Street is now moving to HBO from their longstanding distribution by PBS.
My first reaction when hearing the news was, What is going on? Are the producers of Sesame Street crazy? Now, I did not grow up watching Sesame Street but I know a great deal of people who did, young and old. Moving a quite popular kids show from a respectable network television distributor to HBO–the network that brings us Game of Thrones and Entourage–seems a bit kooky. How would would the makers of Sesame Street send it to a subscription viewing service (attracting less viewers), that is know for it’s not so family style programming (I’ll refrain from examples) and expect to succeed?
According to The Children’s Workshop, the producers of the show, the switch was made because the earnings on PBS were on a downward trend. From a business standpoint, I guess I can stomach the fact that money is a deal maker. However, my main rub lies with the changes and consequences of switching to a cable distributor like HBO.
GIven that Sesame Street appeals to people of all socioeconomic classes, and the viewers do not have to pay for PBS, the most notable difference will be a drop in viewership by families and people who cannot afford subscriptions to HBO for $160 year. Many families who cannot send their child to preschool and other child developmental systems use Sesame Street to educate their children. Now with the subscription charge, poorer families will be without a way to give their children at least some form of learning.
The network switch is not the only change coming to the show. Originally, Sesame Street was more of a generalized show, that covered numerous topics and ideas throughout 1 hour of programming. Not only will the show get cut in half (which mind you, will seriously hamper the ability to get programming across) but the show will get a specific theme for each airing. Whether from critical thinking, to numbers, to people skills, the idea is that if you them the show, the ideas will be more succinct in children’s minds than if the show was more generalized.
The new Sesame Street neighborhood is also going to have almost a complete overhaul. Cookie Monster will be fighting a villain, Big Bird is moving to a nest, Bert and Ernie are being relegated to guest stars, and Oscar the grouch will have some sort of interconnection between different trash, compost, and recycling cans, and Wifi will be installed! Seriously: why do you need wifi on Sesame Street? Are the human guest stars unable to live without internet? Why all of now does Big Bird need to move to a nest? I guess my point is here, that the show’s complete overhaul will lose some important aspects and make people who watched the original show nostalgic for the past.
Since the move, Sesame Street producers have come under fire for their complete revamp of the show and from my point of view, justly so. The change of so many classic Sesame Street things all at once will eventually destroy the shows viewer base. I disapprove of the move and feel that just because you need money, means that you should completely refigure a perfectly good thing.