Michael Wermuth – Today we’ll take a look at my top ten favorite Prairie Dawn segments. I had actually planned on doing this article shortly before Fran Brill’s retirement was announced, but I guess now is a good time regardless.
10. Fairy Tales Today: Rapunzel
Until I was planning this list, I had barely been aware of the Fairy Tales Today segments, but as I was looking for Prairie Dawn clips to watch and include, I found the Fairy Tales Today segments and they are great, maybe even underrated. The best one I’ve found is the one about Rupunzel, in which she gets her long hair tangled up in a park, making many park guests trip over it. Rupunzel ends up just cutting her hair, which Prairie rejects because then there’s no story, not to mention that there’s still a big mess of hair in the park.
9. The Adventures of Prairie Dawn: The Empty Box
A segment from The Adventures of Prairie Dawn series, in which an excitable announcer makes a big deal out of Prairie Dawn doing simple tasks. In this one, Prairie decides to throw a box away into a trash can, but the trash can comes to life and runs away, making it a more exciting adventure.
8. Monty’s Flying Circles
In this segment, Prairie gets annoyed by Monty, who’s hosting the show Monty’s Flying Circles (given that his name and personality are based on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, I wonder if this was his first appearance), annoying Prairie with his flying circles… Which aren’t really flying, as Monty is just holding onto the circles and pretending they are flying. So he changes it to Monty’s Flying Rectangles. Obviously.
7. Monsterpiece Theater: Little House on Prairie
Prairie’s one appearance in Monsterpiece Theater has her being the subject of a silly pun, as a little house is on top of her head. Since the main feature was short, Alistair Cookie presents a second story, “Little House Under Prairie,” which Prairie finds sillier than the first, and then he presents “Little House In Prairie.” But when Prairie protests that it’s not possible to put a house inside her, Cookie changes it to “Little House In Cookie,” and you can probably guess what happens next.
6. The Four Seasons Pageant
My favorite of Prairie Dawn’s many, many musical pageants is this one, which involves the four seasons. Herry represents spring, Ernie represents summer, Cookie Monster represents fall, and Bert represents winter, while Grover acts as the hapless stage manager (and makes the snow fall too early). It’s a lot of fun and incredibly goofy.
5. Prairie Dawn Invites 3 Monsters
An early appearance by Prairie Dawn, has her seeing Grover and inviting him to dinner, but since he can’t go anywhere without Herry, she has to invite him as well and adds them, but then Herry says that he can’t go anywhere without Cookie Monster, so Prairie adds them and invites them to dinner. She offends them when they learn that she thinks they are cats instead of monsters, but when she says they were going to have cookies and ice cream they all start meowing. You can tell this is an early appearance because Prairie would by now know better than to mistake monsters for cats. This segment is fairly simple but it still has some kind of charm to it.
4. First and Last Cookies
Prairie Dawn had a lot of funny pairings with Cookie Monster. In this one, Prairie Dawn has a few cookies for Cookie Monster, and asks him which one he’ll eat first. Cookie Monster isn’t concerned about that, because he plans to eat them all, but she convinces him to eat them one at a time, until he gets to the last cookie. Realizing it’s the last cookie, Cookie Monster panics because he thinks it’s the last cookie forever, until Prairie explains that it’s only the last cookie for now and he can always have more later. This is a good segment to show Prairie’s straight man side to Cookie Monster’s comical side.
3. All By Myself
Prairie Dawn sang this song at least twice. The first version came in the 1980s and featured Elmo and two other monsters as back-up singers, while the later had her joined by The Oinker Sisters. I like the original a little better, but the two versions do show a little contrast for how her personality has developed from a fairly generic little girl (whose main distinction from Betty Lou and other generic kid characters was that she put on pageants) to later when Prairie started to be a lot smarter for a little girl.
2. What’s My Letter?
Another of Prairie’s early appearances, with a form of early installment weirdness, finds Prairie Dawn as a contestant on Guy Smiley’s game show What’s My Letter? She has to guess the correct letter, E, and has trouble figuring it out despite how easy the clues are (“it comes after the letter D and before F”) and she only wins by accident when she learns that the prize is a pet mouse (“Eeeeee!”). If this segment came later Prairie would have been able to give the correct answer right away, maybe even question how easy it is (like in The Triangle is Right), or maybe a different character would have been the contestant.
1. What’s Prairie’s Problem?
Not the one with Guy Smiley (which is also good) but the one hosted by Sonny Friendly. Taking place in the arbor area, Sonny gets Prairie involved with this game, which contestants guess her problem. Big Bird and the Birdkateers guess, and everyone ignores Prairie’s complaints that she doesn’t have a problem, but then when she tells Sonny that the game show is her problem, she ends up winning (and she’s actually happy to win). But she ends up being disappointed when the prize is a trip to Sesame Street, since they are already there.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org