Sesame Street DVD reissues intended for adults only

Virginia Heffernan has an article in the New York Times about the first seasons of Sesame Street being released on DVD. Interestingly, the DVDs come with a warning: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

Nothing in the children’s entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then – as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 – a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but . . . well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.

Live-action cows also charge the 1969 screen – cows eating common grass, not grain improved with hormones. Cows are milked by plain old farmers, who use their unsanitary hands and fill one bucket at a time. Elsewhere, two brothers risk concussion while whaling on each other with allergenic feather pillows. Overweight layabouts, lacking touch-screen iPods and headphones, jockey for airtime with their deafening transistor radios. And one of those radios plays a late-’60s news report – something about a “senior American official” and “two billion in credit over the next five years” – that conjures a bleak economic climate, with war debt and stagflation in the offing.

The old “Sesame Street” is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper “Elmo’s World” started.

Above, an example of old school Sesame Street. Link (Thanks, daisy!)


  1. …Darn. And here I thought this was going to be about someone finally taking some of those old SS jingles and making them more adult *and* realistic. For example:

    “Oh, a Mugger is a person in your neighborhood…”

  2. Yeah, it’s not suitable for preschoolers today because out of 6 mins., at least a quarter of the time was video of the cows in the field with the singer songwriter peacefully crooning in the background “Hey cow, I see you now.” I can’t imagine a preschooler today sitting still for that long, especially to see how milk makes it to the carton without falling asleep. I’m ready for a nap, if I could just stop hearing “Hey cow…”

  3. Who is singing in that video? He sounds so familiar, but I can’t place him.

    I watched old-fashioned Sesame Street in the early 80s. This new Elmo business? No good.

  4. So I’m 38, I loved this show when I was a kid, but I had no interest in segments like this one. Now, I find this segment oddly beautiful and relaxing, it’s like the opposite of a viral video. Essentially though, that is what sesame street was doing, making viral content with the intent to teach. I’m going to go look it up on YouTube right now, there was lots of fantastic stuff.

  5. This is a great find. Someone gave me these DVD’s as a gift last Christmas, and we couldn’t believe that little disclaimer until we started watching the show. No way could you have a stranger bring a little girl into a house to meet his “wife”.

    Still, I would show it to my son and just explain it to him. But I guess that’s one extra step.


  6. I think the truly definitive milk segment for Sesame Street is this one:

    30+ years later, I’m still waiting to find my own giant milk truck :)

  7. One, Two, Three, Four, Five . . .

    Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten . . .

    Ten tiny turtles on the telephone,

    Talking to ten grocery men . . .

    (la la la la)

    Sesame Street premiered when I was in second grade. Because it was aimed at toddlers, no one in class would admit that they voluntarily watched it, but we all said we did “because mom wanted my little brother to see it.” And then we’d start blathering about the great goofy stuff like the guy (Jim Henson!) falling down stairs carrying a load of cakes.

  8. It’s the music…it’s so…sigh. If today’s children listen to that music, they will become hippie freaks and…teenagers who will rebel against the status quo!

  9. I believe the warning is more for some of the initial characters they used like Piano Man. You know, the guy who would playing his piano until he messed up and started smacking his head on the keys. They were told it probably wasn’t a good idea to have him. As someone who once tried to emulate the character I must agree.

    There are a couple of other instances that I can’t remember along with some changes in understanding how kids learn. They’re listed in the Sesame Street Unpaved which I must recommend as an awesome read.

  10. I love this clip:

    at about 3:26 the guy tells Big Bird “he must be high” because Snuffy is nowhere to be seen.

  11. One gets the sense that Sesame Street has changed its target audience, and is now aimed at much younger children than when it originally debuted. You used to have characters to identify with who were like small children, Grover, Big Bird, they had to be taught things like crossing a street at a corner. Now you have Elmo, who is, essentially, a baby, and the show skews more towards that younger age group.

  12. Me and my kid have been loving these old school videos — they’re great. raw, noisy, unscripted much of the time… but not at all hyper, loud and absolutely annoying like Elmo. Ooof, that little imp is banned when daddy’s home!

    I still don’t quite get the NYTimes article tho — Gordon just got off work early, as a teacher, and is showing Sally around her new neighborhood. Too bad children and adults can’t talk anymore without panic stricken, ABC watchin’ people calling him a pedophile!

    These videos are great. The best are the musical nubmers — Bert ‘Doin’ the Pigeon’, the clap clap song, and my favorite (that’s actually a Muppet Show number) — Ma na ma na

  13. it’s so sad. sesame street used to be so very good. i wonder how much of it’s downturn has to do with jim’s death. oh the horror. i’m just glad i’m not a kid today.

    also, i just watched the clip luke posted, and what i heard was “he must be hiding”… and he repeats it a few seconds later. c’mon now luke, sesame street was cool, but not that cool.

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