Forty years…that is how long one of the most beloved television shows of all time has been on the air. Of course, I am referring to Sesame Street, which has entertained children and adults alike with its skits that would teach the alphabet, how to count, healthy eating, and much more. Recently, Sesame Workshop has compiled several hours of clips from all forty seasons into a two-disc DVD set entitled Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days. It was created to show adults and children just how far the show has come since its debut in 1969, and features a sheer variety of classic and contemporary clips. Is the DVD set worth buying for Sesame Street fans? It all depends on whether any of your favorite scenes made the cut, and whether you can tolerate a lot of appearances from Elmo on the second disc.
Each disc contains 20 seasons’ worth of material, For old school fans such as myself, the first disc, which covers Seasons 1-20, is the superior disc. It begins with the opening titles from the very first episode, followed by Gordon welcoming a young girl named Sally to Sesame Street. From there, a huge collection of classic scenes, most of which are featured in their entirety, are presented. Several classic songs are featured, such as Rubber Duckie, I Love Trash, and Ladybug Picnic. Whether you are two or ninety-two, these songs are as catchy and irresistible as ever. The version of I Love Trash featured here is particularly interesting, as it is sung by an orange Oscar. He had orange fur in the earlier episodes, but he was soon given green fur, and has remained that way ever since.
In addition to the Muppet sequences, various animated and live action sketches are also featured. Do you remember Pinball Number Count, with its funky music as performed by the Pointer Sisters? How about the typewriter who would type letters and deal with objects that start with them? What about Teeny Little Super Guy, who lived in a glass and starred in some charming stop-motion cartoons? They are all featured here, and those who grew up watching them are sure to love seeing them again here.
Some of the show’s most important moments pop up from time to time here. There is the scene where the adults tell Big Bird that Mr. Hooper is dead (with his actor, Will Lee, having passed away in real life), and it is as poignant as ever. At one point, Maria and Luis are about to be married, but they wonder if what they are going through will be right for them. One memorable scene has the adults in shock upon finally seeing Mr. Snuffleupagus up close and personal (up to that time, they dismissed him as being Big Bird’s imaginary friend). The disc culminates with the birth of Gabriella, Luis and Maria’s daughter. If you remember these moments, or if you have never seen them before, you will surely agree that they are well worth watching.
Celebrity appearances on Sesame Street tend to be a joy to see, and the ones featured here are no exception. There is a neat sequence in which Mr. Rogers teaches Big Bird the difference between what is imaginary and what is real. Lena Horne sings Grover a cute song in order to make him feel less shy and more outgoing. When Big Bird gets his numbers confused, the lovable droids C-3PO and R2-D2 come to help him out. There is even the memorable sequence in which a bunch of celebrities convince Ernie to put his Rubber Duckie away if he wants to play his saxophone properly. These appearances and many others are quite a treat for fans.
As a whole, the first disc is truly marvelous. There are lots of nostalgic clips here, and fans who remember them fondly, as well as those who have never seen them, are sure to enjoy them. If there is one gripe, it is that even more classic clips could have been included. You will not, for example, see the King of Eight, hear Big Bird’s song about the alphabet being just one long word, or listen to Cookie Monster’s C is for Cookie. Perhaps Sesame Workshop is holding off until the show’s 50th anniversary comes along in 2019 so that they could release a more definitive DVD set. Even so, the clips that are featured here are quite fun, and they represent the series at its absolute best.
Moving on to the second disc, which features scenes from Seasons 21-40, you will find that there is far less nostalgia to be seen. Granted, there are still some nice classic scenes, from Grover’s catchy Monster in the Mirror song, to a cartoon featuring Cecilia the ball, and even a short starring Luxo Jr., Pixar’s bouncing lamp. However, as the disc moves into the seasons from the mid-1990s on, you will see that the show is not what it used to be. As mentioned before, there is a lot of scenes featuring Elmo, who some people see as the character responsible for making Sesame Street jump the shark. The Elmo sequences are well and good if you like the little guy, and certainly his younger fans will love them, but if you are not fond of him, you are free to skip these scenes.
It is not to say that all of the new sequences are bad, per se, because even in the later seasons, there are clips that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Fans will likely feel sorry for Big Bird when his nest is destroyed by a hurricane in a scene that especially resonates well with people who have gone through a similar ordeal. Telly Monster stars in an enjoyable parody of the Indiana Jones movies, which I dare say is better in every way than Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull was. Some people may be worried that, when Cookie Monster learns that a cookie is a sometime food, that he is being forced to give up his favorite food altogether, but rest assured that at the end of this scene, he happily devours a cookie.
More celebrity appearances are included, and they, too, can be enjoyable. There is a sweet duet by Elmo and Alicia Keys sung to the tune of the latter’s own hit tune Fallin. Elmo is also seen in a rather cute sequence with Robert De Niro in which he explains how, as an actor, he can pretend to be many things, and then actually transforms into those things. Then there is the catchy parody of Feist’s song 1-2-3-4, sung by Feist herself, which became a YouTube sensation upon its debut. Again, it is always fun to see celebrity appearances on Sesame Street, and I am certain that they enjoyed their appearances on the show.
The second disc can best be summed up as being one meant for the current generation of Sesame Street viewers, with its heavy reliance on Elmo and its generally being somewhat dumbed down compared to the first twenty seasons. To be sure, there are clips that are still plenty of fun for adults as well as children, but there are also clips that seem to be aimed strictly at kids. It can be useful as a way to entertain children, but compared to the material on Disc 1, it is not quite as entertaining for old school fans. Still, for the latter age group, it is worth seeing at least once, if only to see how the show has changed if you have not seen it in a while.
Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days is, indeed, a rather enjoyable set for both children and adults. Many classic clips are included here, though many others are not. Kids will surely love seeing both old and new clips, and they will also enjoy seeing a lot of Elmo on the second disc. Being on the air for forty years is no small feat, and these clips are proof that Sesame Street still has plenty of staying power. It will be interesting to see what the next forty years will be like for the beloved series. In the meantime, if you and/or your child are a fan of Sesame Street, be sure to track down this DVD set, and I am sure you will find a lot of clips worth watching.
By the way, to find a complete list of all the included clips on both discs and see if any of your favorites made the cut, visit this page: