Ryan Dosier – Sesame Street‘s latest televised special, “The Cookie Thief” debuted on PBS last week, taking over the PBS Kids segment every day. The special has been promoted like crazy via Sesame Street‘s brilliant social media channels, including Cookie Monster’s Twitter and Facebook, Cookie Monster appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and Cookie Monster going on a museum tour in New York City. Unfortunately, the promotion leading up to “The Cookie Thief” was more exciting than the special itself.
The special finds Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Chris visiting the brand new Museum of Modern Cookie Art opening near Sesame Street. Once inside, the trio gets swept up into a mystery involving stolen cookie paintings. Obviously, Cookie Monster is the prime suspect after he displays some trouble controlling his appetite around the paintings. The museum security guard (SNL‘s Rachel Dratch), her trio of penguin guards, and museum tour guide Prairie Dawn try to bring Cookie Monster to justice, while Elmo and Chris try to help him clear his name.
The special runs at just over half an hour and plays out like an extended “street story” segment from a regular episode of Sesame Street. Most of the special is rather repetitive and boring, with only an exciting climax and finale really catching my interest. Counting, self control, and other typical Sesame Street lessons are littered throughout the special. Grover, who is apparently a time traveller, is present in some very funny flashbacks showcasing the creation of some of the museum’s most famous cookie paintings. Prairie Dawn and Cookie Monster also get to play on their classic relationship with Cookie Monster eating all of Prairie’s cookie shaped official museum accessories. But for the most part, “The Cookie Thief” is dull and uninteresting. (To a 24 year old man, acknowledging that this special was absolutely not targeted at him.)
But what the special lacks in excitement it makes up for in gorgeous set design and magnificent performances. The cookie art, ever present in the background, is amazing. Every piece is better than the last, with cookie parodies of classic art such as “Starry Night,” Picasso’s “Girl Before a Mirror,” and dozens more. It’s a real (pardon the pun) treat for the eyes to watch the background in the special. At every turn there is another hilarious or brilliant piece of cookie art. I’m not sure who designed all of these pieces, but they need to be commended.
The performances throughout are also wonderful, with David Rudman impressing as always as Cookie Monster and Ryan Dillon proving once and for all that he is exceptional as Elmo. Fran Brill also shines as Prairie Dawn, in what I suspect was Fran’s final performance (there is a delightful in-joke at the end of the special where Prairie declares it’s time for her to retire). Abby Cadabby shows up in the last portion of the special and the ever-awesome Leslie Carrara-Rudolph makes her command the screen. Obviously Eric Jacobson is excellent as Grover, that’s a comforting and delightful given. Chris Knowings is also great as Chris, delivering the only line to make me laugh out loud after Abby turned him into a coconut. And Rachel Dratch is fun, if not a little uncomfortable as the museum guard.
As a whole, “The Cookie Thief” is enjoyable enough. It will probably leave adult fans of Sesame Street wanting more but is sure to please the much younger target audience. That being said, I keep wondering what could have been if Sesame Workshop had opted to produce a 45th anniversary special for Sesame Street instead. “The Cookie Thief” is probably the closest we’ll get to an anniversary special, which is unfortunate but understandable. A Cookie Monster special is absolutely more marketable and reusable than a special of that nature. But if we don’t get a 50th anniversary special in five years, then we’ll have a problem.
2.5/5 Delicious Cookie Paintings
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org