Sesame Street is one of the world's most famous television shows for children. In 2007, with over 4,000 episodes and counting, it was one of the longest-running shows on TV in the United States. The entertaining educational show is aimed at preschool and elementary children, and features a mix of human actors and puppets. The American version of Sesame Street has been shown regularly on the PBS channel since 1970.
Sesame Street's puppet characters are "Muppets" originally created by Jim Henson, the world-famous puppeteer also responsible for Kermit the Frog and many other well-loved characters. The show's cast of Muppets has long included Big Bird, his best friend Snuffy, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Elmo, Grover, the Cookie Monster, and many other colorful characters.
Sesame Street's human cast members include Bob and Linda, who have been on the show since its beginning; the African-American family, the Robinsons; and Maria and Luis Rodriguez, who are Puerto Rican. The show is well-known for its cultural diversity, and often includes educational lessons in Spanish and other languages.
Over the years, episodes of Sesame Street have featured hundreds of famous guest stars, including Michael Jackson, Elton John, the Supreme Court justices, Bill Cosby, and Tyra Banks, among many others from the worlds of film, TV, sports, music, and politics. Sesame Street has long been noted for its pop culture references, which are primarily intended for the parents or other family members who might be watching, rather than the audience of young children.
Though the original version of Sesame Street was created in the United States, there are now many versions of Sesame Street that have been developed for specific international audiences in countries such as Russia, Mexico, and China, among many others. On the South African version, called Takalani Sesame, the show recently introduced an HIV-positive character, in light of the significant AIDS epidemic in that country. As in South Africa, each unique version of Sesame Street attempts to be culturally relevant, as well as providing interesting and fun educational segments.