Sesame Street Ep #56

Kermit and Green Grover

Kermit and Green Grover

The next sketch, however, features Kermit and so is instantly a hundred times more entertaining, right off the bat, and that’s before we even factor in the very first appearance of Grover on Sesame Street! Well, sort of. He isn’t the Grover we know and love but is instead a random green monster–basically looking just as he did as the middle of the three-headed monster in The Muppets on Puppets; he apparently originated as a monster called Gleep in an Ed Sullivan sketch in 1967–with Cookie Monster’s voice and not the sharpest mind.


Kermit is standing beside a box, and asks proto-Grover if he’d like to help demonstrate the word “in” by getting inside the box. Proto-Grover agrees, and proceeds to stand next to, climb on top of, and crawl under the box, each time thinking he is “in” it. “Why won’t you get in?!” an increasingly flustered Kermit finally yells. “Because I’m in the box,” responds an enormous monster, who pops out, sending Kermit running away, another classic twist on ye olde Monster vs. Kermit sketch, albeit without him actually being eaten.


Unfortuanately, a moment later Gordon appears in order to again take the air out of the room and to force us into another Buddy and Jim sketch about putting shoes in boxes, and I have to confess that I skipped right through it, because I had suffered enough through the first Buddy and Jim sketch, and I’m sorry, boring humans desperately trying to be funny without a Muppet in sight? No, thank you. I have plenty of material to get through fo this site without wasting time on that. This is followed by yet another riveting scene in which Susan folds laundry with a little girl. Because that’s what women do? And I hate to cast aspersions on Loretta Long, who I love dearly, but egads, did she ever grow enormously as an on-screen performer by the time I was watching Sesame Street in the ’80s. To be fair, all of the Sesame Street humans display varying levels of awkwardness at this point but she in particular seems to always sound like she’s trying and failing to remember her lines. But, again, I repeat, she would get infinitely better and more natural and relaxed as she grew in the role.


But, anyway, the laundry folding proves to be a suprisingly unsubtle way for her to ask the girl if she knows what pairs are, which cuts to the pair-of-baby-animals video I’ve seen twice already and assume viewers of the time saw many more times than that. This is followed in close succession with Jazz No. 2 and the Song of Two, and then a cartoon which appeared in the test pilot, about a boy using an eraser . Then, we have another human-presents-a-real-live animal segment, with Bob and a horned owl. Don’t get me wrong, the owl is cool and all, but again, not the most dynamic presentation. Then we get a short film about birds, until finally, finally a life-saving Bert and Ernie sketch.


In it, Bert asks Ernie if he wants to play a game which he calls “What Happens Next?” He shows Ernie a series of drawings of an action that is about to happen, and Ernie’s job is to tell him what will logically happen after that, based on the clues he sees. Each time, however, instead of drawing a reasonable conclusion, Ernie invents a huge, convoluted story, each of which is more ridiculous than the last. For example, when he sees a picture of a girl on a swing pulled all the way back, about to push off, he begins to sob. When Bert asks why, Ernie responds “Oh, cruel fate!”


Ernie and Bert play a game.

Ernie and Bert play a game.

As it turns out, although she seems happy here, she won’t be for long. Soon, her mother will call her in for lunch, and she’ll ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but her mom will discover they’re out of peanut butter, so they’ll go to the store to buy some, and when they’re there, the poor girl will lose her rubber duckie, which she’s brought because you need to bring your rubber ducky with you!


The third picture, of a man about to light a fire with a match, provokes an even crazier response involving the man going outside, slipping on ice, tearing a hole in his pants, and going to the store to replace them, where he discovers that the salesman there is his long-lost brother who his parents gave to a gypsy camp when he was a child because they couldn’t afford to feed him, and he’s only working at the store now to raise the money for an eye operation for his beloved horse!


Naturally, as the sketch proceeds, Bert gets more and more frustated with Ernie, until he demands, with the fourth picture of a car about to drive over a nail, that Ernie simply tell him exactly what will happen next. “A monster will say ‘cookie,'” Ernie responds. Bert, who has had it, demands he tell him how he could possibly get that from this picture. “I’m not looking at the picture, Bert,” he replies. “I’m looking at him,” pointing over Bert’s shoulder to Cookie Monster, who indeed says, “COOKIE!,” causing Bert to faint dead away.


Now, I love this one for a number of reasons. Jim gives such a great performance as Ernie, running the full gamut of emotion, from tears to joy, with the embellished stories providing an amazing vehicle for his Muppety enthusiasm, and Frank is, as ever, pitch perfect as Bert, reacting to Ernie’s shenanigans. The comic timing, the relationship, everything is just beautiful, up to and including the great surprise ending. And perhaps even more importantly, the sketch doesn’t answer what should happen next in each photo, because the joke is clear. Any reasonable kid can tell what should happen next. Instead, they can just laugh and revel in Ernie’s silliness without feeling talked down to. The lesson is subtle and embedded in the sketch.


Gordon with a W.

Gordon with a W.

Unfortuanately, this is immediately undercut by Gordon appearing on the street exterior with those same pictures and proceeding to explain to us, picture by picture, what should have happened next. It could not be more soul-deadeningly boring. And here’s the thing: if Bert had corrected Ernie within the sketch for each picture, it could have worked. But an adult appears afterwards to mansplain the sketch to us in excruciating detail? Dear god, it’s painful.


And as soon as he’s done ruining our fun, he reads an entire book to us about a dandy lion called Dandelion by Don Freeman, and it’s basically what would later happen much more smoothly on Reading Rainbow. It’s a cute book but is yet another element that confirms that this era’s Sesame Street is just not something you want to be watching full episodes of. Highlights do just fine!


Then, we get a film of lions in a zoo, a cartoon about a boy jumping rope, and the Solomon Grundy cartoon from the first episode. And then we’re mercifully granted another Kermit sketch, in which he talks about hair, showing how people have it on their heads, and some men have it on their faces, and as usual, it ends up with him running away from a monster–Beautiful Day, to be precise–who has hair everywhere. It isn’t the best Kermit bit ever, but it’s cute and contains a rare case of Kermit actually hopping to safety!


Finally, nearing the finish, Gordon appears by himself again to talk about the letter W. We get a repeat of Wanda the Witch, and then Gordon rips off Cookie Monster’s move from the first episode by tearing a W in half to show that it can turn into a V. This is so much better when Muppets do it. Then, we get a brief V cartoon, and randomly end with Bob and a baby lamb, a quick film about how things look different up close than far away (what looks like a sky full of planets and stars is revealed to be bowl of fruit, the stars being reflections bouncing off the grapes), and Gordon says goodbye, announces the”E, V, W, 2, and 3″ sponsors, and we are done! Sheesh.


Tomorrow: Sesame Street, episode 115!


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