Shane Keating – Hey folks! This year marks Sesame Street’s 45th anniversary, in case you weren’t aware. I would highly recommend anyone in New York or New Jersey visit the Lincoln Center exhibit; it’s truly awesome. As always, another year means another season of Sesame, so let’s take a look at the first few episodes of the anniversary season that aired a few weeks ago.
SHOW #4501 – SCHOOL FOR CHICKENS – Elmo and Chris help Professor Buck Awe (Taran Killam) get his chicken students focused and ready for school.
Wendi McLendon-Covey and Elmo were featured in a pretty humorous new Word of the Day bit. I haven’t seen any of Wendi’s work before, but she was funny. Also featured in the episode was a new stop-motion segment counting to 4 with chicks (very well done) and a really funky, earworm of a song from Segi – “Raise Your Hand.” We also got the first new Super Grover 2.0 bit in awhile, so it’s nice to see they’re still making these even though they’ve shifted away from the STEM material. There’s a small hand-full more of these debuting in the rest of the season, so I look forward to those.
This episode introduces the new “letter” and “number” of the day dance breaks, hosted by Elmo and the Count respectively, backed up by the rest of the Sesame gang. They both are funky and well-shot; the blank backgrounds really make the characters pop. I can’t really decide which one I prefer; probably the Count’s song, as it varies itself with whatever the number of the day is, as opposed to the letter segment, which doesn’t really incorporate the letter into the lyrics. It may get tedious seeing this same footage in every episode, but I enjoy them enough to watch them each time.
The only sort of downside in the episode was the use of the Murray Has a Little Lamb bits. They were previously used in season 39 and were pretty poorly shoehorned into this episode. However, that will be amended in the next show…
SHOW #4502 – BERT’S TRAINING WHEELS – Ernie and Luis try to get Bert to give up his training wheels.
I was slightly shocked to see Steve Whitmire wasn’t doing Ernie in this episode. Instead, it was someone known as Billy B, who’s actually done the voice of Ernie in several stage shows. It slightly distracted me, but whether or not it’s a permanent thing has yet to be confirmed. This story too felt kind of short, but it was nice seeing Luis and his new business practice – running a bike shop. I guess people don’t need their toasters fixed anymore. Still, it’s great to see a new story focusing on Bert and Ernie, what with the little screentime they’ve had lately.
Janelle Monae’s “Power of Yet” song was wonderful. The way it’s filmed is good, involves a lot of characters (the Two-Headed Monster!) and was just an all-round funky song with a great message. Kat Dennings also appeared with Abby in the Word of the Day bit. Not a fan of hers, but she’s popular I suppose. Elmo and Taye Diggs also covered the classic “Let’s Go Driving,” which had a nice new arrangement and animated backgrounds (check out those dancing cows).
The Murray tune-ins at bike school were much better this episode, as they weren’t just repurposed material. There’s a couple of shots of Murray riding a bike with full-body in view that I don’t have a clue how they did. They tend to push the envelope sometimes with these Murray bits and getting him to ride a bike is something Jim probably would’ve loved.
SHOW #4503 – PROUD TO BE ME – Segi doesn’t think she’s snazzy when her favorite book says brown isn’t snazzy.
So, the little girl from the popular “I Love My Hair” segment finally gets a name – Segi (named after Joey Mazzarino’s daughter, for whom he wrote the song). She seems like a nice addition to the street. The story had a great message to it and a great new song, “The Color of Me.” This one also felt a tad short too for some reason.
Also featured were two new song segments – first a film piece, “My Beautiful Skin,” which was very good. The second was neat Anything Muppet piece – “Spanish Me, English Me.” Matt Vogel’s vocals are great on this and it’s nice to see an AM segment that isn’t a spoof of anything. The last time I can think of them doing one of those was, coincidentally, “I Love My Hair.”
“Sesame Street News Flash” returned, in a sense, in the form of the new Murray tune-in segments where Murray talks to kids who think they are special. One even was a puppeteer!
The episode also featured one of the two new “Elmo the Musical” segments of the season – Karate Master the Musical. Not a lot of songs in this one, other than the heavily repeated “Hop Hop Chop” song by Elmo. The animated character, the Ooze, was very well done (animation-wise) and I audibly groaned at the “Patience, young grasshopper.” line (said by Elmo to a literal grasshopper).
SHOW #4504 – NUMERIC-CON – Elmo and Leela solve problems at the biggest number convention around – Numeric-Con!
This was a fun episode! So many great spoofs and jokes to go along with them. Everything about Cap-ten Kirk cracked me up. It did feel a tad incomplete, probably because it was. An extended version of the episode is being released on the “Elmo’s Super Numbers” DVD, so I would definitely check that out. One thing I really enjoyed about the shows is how they really make the theme run through virtually every segment in the episode. Monday’s episode had a lot of chickens, Tuesday’s had transportation and today’s was all about space/superheros.
For starters, the guest star was Zachary Quinto (aka Spock on the recent Star Trek films), who was good in his segment with Grover. Murray went to cartooning school to help create his own superhero, which was entertaining. A new animated segment about a super Zero Hero also debuted, which was pretty neat.
The real highlight of the episode was the first new Crumby Pictures segment of the season – Star S’mores. Not only was it a great Star Wars spoof, but it gives Grover one of the best cameos every and is possibly the best Muppeteer in-joke ever done. It was definitely worth the wait seeing this bit. I can’t see other Sesame regulars appearing in future segments, but it was perfectly implemented here.
SHOW #4505 – PENELOPE THE ENTHUSIASTIC PENGUIN – Big Bird’s pen pal, Penelope, needs help making friends when she comes on too strong.
This street story also felt a tad short; probably could’ve used another beat of Penelope screwing up with the monsters. Others claim to have found Penelope annoying and abrasive. I didn’t mind much, since that was pretty much the point of her character. It was okay as far as storytelling goes. The song was okay too, not as good as the others this week though.
Mindy Kaling appeared in the newest Word of the Day bit, which was cute. She works well with the Muppets. Also debuted were a pair of animated segments – a song about making friends and a nicely done paper-animated segment about the letter K. In a similar format to Wednesday’s tune-ins, Murray becomes a reporter again to talk about friends. Cute bits.
Crumby Pictures debuted a new film – Twilight: Breaking Cookie. It was highly entertaining and I loved how bland they made the Bella spoof character. Something about them parodying Twilight irks me for some reason and I can’t tell why. I think it’s a tad beneath them, but it’s popular and definitely getting hits on their YouTube channel, so I guess the ends justify the means.
So, that covers all the new stuff we’ve gotten so far in the season. The episodes are airing sporadically throughout the year, so I’ll write more when they air (the season finale doesn’t air until June. Yeesh.). So, until the next batch, see ya next time on the street. Peace!
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org