Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street is TV Guide writer Michael Davis's book that chronicles the complete history of the show that pioneered educational television. I grew up on the program (who in the US didn't!?) and I'm now watching the new episodes with my own son, and the old ones thanks to the DVD reissue. But I realize that I know next to nothing about how the Street got paved. From CNN:
"The idea they came up with was kind of radical: If you can sell kids sugared cereal and toys using Madison Avenue techniques, why couldn't you use the same techniques for teaching counting, the alphabet and basic social skills? And it works," (says Syracuse University pop culture professor Robert Thompson.)
Indeed, as Davis notes in "Street Gang" (Viking), the genesis of "Sesame Street" was when the 3-year-old daughter of a Carnegie foundation executive was fascinated by television, waking up to watch the broadcast day begin and memorizing commercial jingles. He talked about his daughter with a friend, producer Joan Ganz Cooney. In the liberal ferment of the mid-'60s, both wondered whether educational TV could go beyond the staid classroom shows of the era.
Cooney became the driving force of "Sesame Street." She put together the plan, helped recruit talent, located financing and oversaw production...
Cooney didn't hold much back in telling her story to Davis, and neither did others. From its debut on November 10, 1969, the show was a hit -- within a year, it was on the cover of Time magazine -- but it was not without its personality clashes.
The original Gordon, Matt Robinson, was a producer uncomfortable in the spotlight. Northern Calloway, who played David, struggled with mental illness. The show's primary songwriters, Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss, were constantly in competition; Raposo "fairly seethed with envy" when Moss' "Rubber Duckie" hit the Top 20, Davis writes. The book provides balanced biographies of a number of principals, including producer Jon Stone, whom Davis calls "the heart of the book."
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