Jarrod Fairclough – Yesterday we were all disappointed to learn that three of the longest running cast members from Sesame Street have been let go. Bob McGrath revealed that he, along with Emilio Delgado (Luis) and Roscoe Orman (Gordon) are no longer with the series. Bob has been with the show since Day 1, Emilio since 1971 and Roscoe since 1974. In the wake of this disappointing development, I wanted to take a moment to look back on the substantial contributions these men made to such a successful series.
Gordon Robinson has been a character since the first episode of Sesame Street, even delivering the shows first lines. And while he was played by 3 other actors first, there is a reason that Roscoe Orman has been in the role since Season 6. In auditioning for the series, Roscoe had a hard time not looking at the puppeteers, but credits his improvisational skills, especially with John John, as the reason he got the job. Over the years Roscoe and Gordon became synonymous with the street, and while other cast members came and left, Roscoe stuck around, generally being a father figure to the child like Muppets.
Roscoe was never afraid of looking silly, either. Perhaps that’s the mark of a successful Sesame Street human – being willing to play. Roscoe dressed up in super hero outfits, bad wigs and unflattering pajamas, as well as had his bald head and mustache lovingly mocked on a few occasions.
Roscoe not only taught us our ABC’s and 123’s. He taught us how to be patient, how to be calm, how to be a good father/husband/person. He taught us science, which one of these things is not like the other, and he was once an action hero, standing on a moving car to rescue Big Bird in Follow That Bird. If you get the chance, be sure to read his autobiography ‘Sesame Street Dad’ (available here for Kindle)
Emilio has the distinction of being one of the longest running Latino actors on any series anywhere in the world, which is not a feat to be ignored. At a time when very few Latinos were on television, Emilio and Luis were a beacon of things to come, showing the real life mixture of people that you’d find in suburbia.
Over his 45 years living on the Street, Luis showed us the evolution of many working class men. He began single, working at a small upstart business. He evolved in to a loving husband and father, a successful business owner who changed careers a couple of times, and a loving friend to everyone around him. He was patient with Elmo as he packed for an imaginary holiday. He was forgiving to Telly when he broke his vase.
There are no ends to the contributions Emilio made to the Spanish speaking community. He translated Joe Raposo’s ‘Sing’. He sang a multitude of songs, both existing and original, in Spanish. Several people on Facebook and Twitter yesterday admitted that they were inspired to learn Spanish because of Maria and Luis.
Emilio has been very kind to us here on The Muppet Mindset, and we wish him all the best as he moves on to the next project.
Caroll Spinney. Loretta Long. Frank Biondo. Bob McGrath. All four of these people were on set when cameras rolled for the first time on Sesame Street. And today we say thanks to Bob, both the character and the actor, for 47 years of music, laughter and learning.
After gaining fame as a pop star in Japan (#Bobu), Bob was cast on the Street for its initial test pilot, though he was initially reluctant of the shows format (Fun fact, the character was named Bobby in the script, but Bob requested to have the ‘by’ dropped). For 47 years, Bob taught us music was everywhere. He taught us the piano. He taught us sign language. He even taught us who the people in our neighborhood were, in one of the shows most iconic songs.
More than anything though, Bob gave us consistency. Being there from Day 1, every audience who ever watched the show for 47 years knew who Bob was. Grandparents who had watched the show when they were young could be watching it with their small grandchildren, and both would have their own memories of Bob. I’ve often heard people say ‘Bob sounds like my childhood’, and that’s true for millions, if not billions of people around the world. Thanks, Bob.
I don’t pretend to understand what has been going on at Sesame Workshop and HBO. However please try not to be cynical about the series after these developments. Yes, a lot has changed over the past 18 months, and no, we don’t know what else, if anything, is to come. But whoever is pulling the strings over there (excuse the pun) obviously has a game plan, and I have faith that we’ll finally get to a place soon where harmony, education and humor will be the main export from the show and the company, just as they have done for the past 47 years.