In 1997 Sesame Street released a straight to video special, 123 Count With Me, featuring everyone’s favorite rubber ducky lover, Ernie. The special revolves around Ernie going through the numbers, from 1 to 15, at the Furry Arms Hotel (not to be confused with The Furchester Hotel) alongside a dinger, an angry bunny, and 2 bafoons.
While walking along ‘Around the Corner’ from Sesame Street, Ernie finds a missing key from the Furry Arms Hotel. He hands it in to the resident managers, the hilariously inept Humphrey and Ingrid, but must teach them which number is which. What follows is a half hour of hilarity (and education, I guess). Ernie learns that every time he dings a Dinger a certain amount of times, Benny the Bellhop Rabbit will provide a new service, each time becoming angrier and angrier at the pointlessness of Ernie’s dinging. Humphrey and Ingrid continue to become confused by all the numbers, as they take food orders from penguins and watch the furniture destroyed by dogs.
All the while we get lessons on numbers both in the scenes and from some of the classic clips from over the years.
Ernie is my favorite character on Sesame Street, and one of my favorite fictional characters ever. He can go to two extremes, depending on who he’s paired with. He can be silly and mischievous with Bert, or he can be sweet and mature, like when he would occasionally sing with Elmo. In this video he takes on both roles, often within the same minute. He’s the mature one when he deals with Humphrey and Ingrid, but yet he’ll annoy Benny with his dings a moment later, laughing at his suffering. Steve Whitmire did an incredible job with Ernie, helping shape him as Jim Henson did before. While I’m excited to see what Billy Barkhurst does with the character (and I wish him luck), I’ll miss Steve’s take on him (that’s assuming Billy is here to stay, and I have the feeling he is).
All the other Muppeteers are on point in this special, with Kevin Clash knocking it out of the park, as he often did. Benny was a strange character. He was one-note, always getting angry at everyone who asked him to do anything. The Street already had Oscar, so Benny felt a little unnecessary. But Kevin still managed to get some hilarious scenes out of him, with Benny’s constant frustrations with Ernie being some of my favorite Kevin performances of all time.
If there are 2 characters I wish would make a reappearance, it would be Humphrey and Ingrid. I think it’s refreshing for children to see that even sometimes grown ups make mistakes, as was the point of the two. Joey Mazzarino’s Ingrid was that perfect blend of helpful but hopeless, and David Rudman played clueless Humphrey with such ease that part of me wonders if David would just improvise some of the silly things he would say.
While the classic clips slow the whole thing down a little, there’s enough entertainment here that any adult could sit back and enjoy the show along with their kids (or alone, watching it on Netflix at 11pm like I did). 123 Count With Me is just another of Sesame Workshop’s great straight to video stuff, and I can highly recommend it. I give it 6 fish!