Sesame Street Ep #536

A "quiet day" on Sesame Street!

A “quiet day” on Sesame Street!

And now we’re at the start of Season 5! My, these Sesame Street seasons fly by, don’t they? As with the fourth season premiere, rather than giving a blow-by-blow of the entire episode, I’m just going to be highlighting key moments, because again, no plot, little cohesion from scene-to-scene other than some thematic links, and to be honest, it’s getting a little draining. Revisiting the clips remains a great deal of fun, as does discovering and rediscovering moments within these episodes but watching them from start to finish is becoming a bit of a chore.

 

Again, I’m hoping that changes when I get to the ’80s episodes. Or, ideally, sooner! And again, you can follow along with this one yourself on the Sesame Street: Old School Volume 1 DVD set.

 

So, let’s begin:

 

–As with a lot of the other premieres, this one’s opening sequence reintroduces us to Sesame Street, its characters, and environs. This one is actually pretty interesting in how it begins rather quietly inside Luis’ Fix-It Shop, where Luis is asking a little girl, Krystal, to answer his phones while he goes off on a quick coffee break (but, seriously, child labor much, Luis?), but then the world begins to expand when he steps outside and instantly passes Sam the Robot and the local fruit seller, Mr. Macintosh, from whom he buys a mango.

Then, noticing a little girl, Doris, who looks like she’s about to lose her helium balloon, he offers to help tie it to her wrist, but instead loses hold of it and it floats up to David, who has been resting on a ledge up there. He catches it, goes downstairs to bring it down to her, at which point the action transitions to Bob and Big Bird leading a bunch of kids to the basketball court to play. And then David asks Maria if she’d like to get a hot dog with him at the cart, and while they do that, Susan is just greeting Gordon as he comes home from work, and as the scene continues to fill with more and more people, the cacophony grows louder and louder, at which point Gordon ironically welcomes us to “just another quiet day on Sesame Street”!

At nearly 4 whole minutes, it’s a rather drawn-out scene in which nothing much actually happens, but at the same time it beautifully captures the hustle and bustle of this upper Manhattan community, and impressively does so in one single tracking shot, the camera zooming in and out and weaving in and around Sesame Street, creating an effect akin to what it might be like for a kid walking around the neighborhood, greeting old friends.

"Fat Cat"

“Fat Cat”

–This energy carries right into the next segment, “Fat Cat,” a song by Joe Raposo and Jeff Moss that, like many others before it, I’d completely forgotten about until experiencing it once more and being instantly catapulted back to my childhood. The scenario is actually very similar to the set-up of “Mahna Mahna,” and even features Sesame Street‘s Mahna Mahna counterpart, Bip Bippadotta (who, as I’ve explained before, had a very similar personality and look to that fuzzy bearded character) riffing crazily while other singers around him shake their heads disapprovingly.

This one has a bit more of an educational agenda, however, introducing the concept of rhyming. It features 3 Anything Muppets, each saying a different rhyming word, such as “fat,” “cat,” “sat,” and “hat,” in a slow, steady rhythm, and then Bip bursts in, madly scatting and using all of the previously listed rhyming words plus even more in fast, nonsensical sentences, until the other 3 shut him down. And then it happens again. And again.

It’s been said that a large part of Jim Henson always really wanted to be a rock star, and never is that more clear than in characters like Dr. Teeth, Mahna Mahna, and Bip, where he just lets go with reckless abandon, and it is a joy to behold, in some ways even more here than in “Mahna Mahna,” because Bip is just taking so much mischievous joy in his endlessly zany sentences and rhymes. I particularly love his rhyming the words “y’all” and “shawl” at one point.

–Shortly after, we have what might be the most famous clip in Sesame Street history, in which Kermit asks a little girl, Joey, to sing the alphabet with him:

 

 

What’s so remarkable about it is that it’s entirely improvised. Jim Henson had no clue that she would begin to interrupt the flow of the alphabet by throwing in “Cookie Monster” every few letters, breaking into giggling hysterics each time, but he rolled with it, never breaking character, because to that little girl, Kermit was entirely real. And it’s so sweet because it’s exactly the sort of thing that a little kid would find genuinely hilarious. And then, of course, there’s the moment where Kermit walks away in an exaggerated huff and she calls him back, not by apologizing, but by simply saying, “I love you.” “I love you, too,” he says. “Thanks,” she replies and kisses him sweetly on the tip of his nose (for lack of a better word).

And it’s so heartwarming because it’s so real. She gets that he’s teasing when he pretends to leave, just as she was teasing by saying “Cookie Monster,” and the two relate to each other so beautifully that it might be the most perfect demonstration of the power of the Muppets and Jim Henson’s genius in microcosm ever captured on film. He embodied Kermit so fully with relatively simple hand gestures and vocal inflection that this piece of fabric became real. The man underneath didn’t even factor in for her.

–In another Kermit-and-real-child scene shortly afterwards, he appears in his reporter attire, doing a “Frog on the Street” interview of a young girl named Julia, in which he inquires as to whether she knows the various sounds that different animals make, this particular clip being most memorable due to her not knowing the sound that a horse makes (Kermit admits he can’t do it either!) and then telling him that a frog says “Riggit riggit!” The expression on Kermit’s face is priceless.

 

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