What is Sesame Street?

Kathy Hawkins

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 is an educational television show created for preschool and elementary school children.
Sesame Street is an educational television show created for preschool and elementary school children.

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.

The American version of Sesame Street has been shown on PBS since 1970.
The American version of Sesame Street has been shown on PBS since 1970.

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.

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Discussion Comments


My grandkids still watch Sesame Street, but a lot has changed since I watched it myself. They have a lot more celebrities on the show than they did in the beginning. I remember there were some Sesame Street records we could buy, but now there's all sorts of Sesame Street plush dolls and toys and movies available in stores. The show still does some of the things it always has, though, so adults like me won't feel completely lost.


I watched Sesame Street from the first year it was on. Our PBS station was a UHF channel, so the reception wasn't always that good, but I remember watching it at school, too. Somebody would always be chosen to hold the rabbit ear antennas at a really odd angle so the rest of the class could watch the show.

I loved all of the original Sesame Street puppets, like Bert and Ernie and Big Bird. I remember when the grocery store owner Mr. Hooper died, and the day when other people could finally see Big Bird's friend Mr. Snuffleupagus.

I had no idea why they called it Sesame Street until I saw a documentary on the show and a producer explained it was a reference to "Open, sesame!', the command that would open the entrance to a secret cave in Arabic folk tales. The show would be opening children's minds in the same way.

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