Sesame St S5: Highlights #3

Kermit counts 4 eggs.

Kermit counts 4 eggs.

And today, we have even more highlights from Sesame Street‘s fifth season! The first one I watched for today’s post is another brief lecture from Kermit, this time about counting 4 eggs. As his demonstration goes on, however, each egg begins to hatch and a baby Muppet chick pops out, which subtly introduces the concept of subtraction. Then, he has 4 chicks to count, after which each wanders off one at a time, reiterating the lesson. It’s also particularly fun because the series of flustered expressions Kermit’s face goes through by the end reach practically epic heights. And you can watch all of them, along with the rest of the sketch of course, here!


I also watched another quick Kermit lecture, in which our intrepid frog stands in a beautiful park on a lovely, sunny day and encourages us to imagine the same setting in different weather. He tells us to close our eyes, at which point the screen goes dark, and to imagine what it would look life it were raining and then snowing, and the scene changes accordingly when the lights come up each time, finally returning us to the original day. It isn’t the best or funniest Kermit scene ever but you have to love the snark at the end when Kermit encourages us by saying, “You all did a real good job! We’ll play [this game] again some time. Want to?…Well, we’ll play it again anyway.” Sesame Street wasn’t always this self-deprecating about its lessons. This is even fairly reminiscent of Kermit’s own sarcasm about their mission statement in the original pitch reel, although here he’s the spokesperson for the show, not playing Devil’s advocate against it! You can watch it yourself here.


"Bruce" laughs at the king's nose.

“Bruce” laughs at the king’s nose.

The next sketch is “The King’s Nose,” a Muppet fairy tale narrated by Maria, which was particularly exciting for me to see because I had a Sesame Street storybook adaptation of it as a kid but had never realized before–at least as far as I can recall–that it had been featured on the actual show. Starring The Amazing Mumford as King Marvin the Magnificent and Ernie as an innocent young boy known as Bruce, it is effectively a Muppety spin on “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” except with nudity swapped out for a small, pink ball. An actual bouncy rubber ball, that is. Keep your mind out of the gutter, people. This is Sesame Street, after all.


In short, young Bruce is tossing his aforementioned favorite bouncy ball when he accidentally breaks one of the king’s windows, the ball crashing through and hitting King Marvin square in the nose, where it sticks. All of Marvin’s fawning subjects, however, rather than suggest he remove it, all decide that, if the king is doing it, it clearly must be the latest trend, and so everyone at court sticks balls on their own noses (again, keep it clean, folks) in order to be just like the king! That is, until Bruce enters to retrieve his ball, sees what everyone is doing and laughs in their faces.


It isn’t until the king finally has someone actually point out to him that not everything he does is magnificent that he snaps out of it and realizes how silly he looks, after all. Which takes the message of “Emperor” and extends it to a moral against all forms of peer pressure, as here the others don’t just compliment the king’s attire but take part in it themselves, via a possibly even funnier image than the infamously naked ruler.


And the comedic capper occurs when we meet King Marvin’s “lovely” daughter, Emily, who devours all of the no-longer-necessary balls…for, you see, “she” is Cookie dressed up in a dress and blonde wig! Experience the fairy tale yourself here.


Grover, the King, and a Beastly Cutie

Grover, the King, and a Beastly Cutie

The next Muppet fairy tale I watched today was “Cutie and the Beast,” a story narrated by Bob and starring Grover–who, naturally, volunteers for the role–as the Beast (I can’t be the only one who was expecting him to play the Cutie of the title, am I?) vying for the hand of Princess Cutie. Although the king demands that only a genuine prince be able to take her hand, he amusingly assumes that the “Beast” has to be a prince who will transform as soon as his daughter kisses him, because that’s how these stories work.


Before this theory can be tested out, however, the “Beast” will have to submit to the challenge of “What Happens Next?” at which point, the King brings out 3 pictures, just as Ernie has done to Bert and vice versa many times before, leaving Grover the Beast to have to figure out the next logical progression of events.


To be honest, this is a rather strange sketch. The “What Happens Next?” game doesn’t really fit in well with the fairy tale framework of the rest, and worse, is just as generally uninteresting and stagnant as when it was done by characters in previous segments. While its educational merit is understandable, it just isn’t particularly entertaining to watch someone looking at a picture and mulling over the implications of the placement of characters and objects in it, and I can’t imagine it was particularly enthralling for children, either. So it basically feels like a fun fairy tale interrupted by learning rather than more effortlessly woven in, as the best Sesame Street sketches do.


On the plus side, it does recover in the end, when Grover wins the day and kisses the princess, only for him to remain exactly as he is while she transforms into a “beast” herself, foreshadowing Shrek by many years. She makes some comment about having been placed under a curse by a witch herself many years ago which doesn’t make a ton of sense, given her father’s surprise, but he at least does get a good line in at the end: “These fairy tales never turn out the way you expect them to!” And you can find that out for yourself here.


Kermit interviews the Big Bad Wolf.

Kermit interviews the Big Bad Wolf.

And speaking of fairy tales not turning out the way they “should,” the next clip is another classic Sesame Street Newsflash, one of quite a few in which Kermit reports on the classic story of “The Three Little Pigs”. This time around, Kermit is standing outside the first pig’s straw house, interviewing him as he makes his way in and following up with an exclusive with the huge, blue Big Bad Wolf. It’s full of lots of great little bits, such as when the pig laughs in Kermit’s face over the idea of the wolf being able to blow down his strong straw house and when the wolf nearly knocks Kermit out a moment later with his foul breath.


And soon afterwards, when the wolf announces, “Little pig, little pig, open the door!” Kermit corrects him, saying “There’s a tradition here…” and explains that he should have said “Let me come in”! The wolf repeats this (“I thought he would say that,” Kermit deadpans), only to hear the pig’s familiar refrain of “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin” at which point the wolf predicatably begins to huff and puff.


However, unlike in the classic tale, the straw house actually doesn’t blow in at all! The wolf lets loose such a might gale of breath that everything else blows away, including trees, a lamppost, a fence, a fire hydrant, and finally Kermit, but the remarkably strong straw doesn’t budge an inch! Another great sketch that doesn’t have a clear moral other than…blowing expectations away, so to speak. And you can watch it here!


Next, more classic clips from the cutest kid to ever appear on Sesame Street. As I’ve said before, this kid, John John, just expresses so much delight at being with the Muppets and treats them so naturally, as if they’re his friends–which, of course, they are–that he’s always a total joy to watch:



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