Sesame St S6: Highlights

Little Jerry and the Monotones sing "Telephone Rock".

Little Jerry and the Monotones sing “Telephone Rock”.

Today, I begin my survey of highlights from Sesame Street Season 6, and, as per usual, I begin with the clips included on the Sesame Street: Old School Volume 2 DVD set.


The first one is a rockin’, bouncy number written by Christopher Cerf and Norman Styles, “Telephone Rock”, which has a retro sound that seems musically inspired by classic rock songs about calling the operator to put the narrator through to the person they love–the humorous twist here being that the operator is the one the singer wants to talk to)–as well as Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock,” which was itself an homage to early rock n’ roll. Sung by the Muppet rock group, Little Jerry and the Monotones, the basic purpose of the song seems to be simply introducing the concept of the telephone–although children watching today might be confused about why someone would have to go into a strange booth and hold a weird, clunky earpiece attached with a wire to do so. Or what an operator is.


But as is typical on Sesame Street, this jubilant number, at least on the surface, is extremely entertaining due to its catchy, energetic music and funny concept, which is that Little Jerry is calling up the operator just so that she’ll call him back because he just loves hearing the telephone ring–his back-up singers popping up within the cramped booth itself and rocking it back and forth with their swaying–and said operator finally calling the cops on him, one of whom eventually arrives and picks up the entire booth, dragging it out of sight with all four singers continuing their song within it!


The next clip is of Richard Pryor reading the alphabet with a few humorous asides, which is more interesting as a curiosity than for any actual entertainment value, and then we come to yet another classic edition of the Guy Smiley reunion show, Here is Your Life, and while the first one about the oak tree might have been a bit strange–especially when the oak tree’s old friends, who had been cut down and turned into furniture came to visit–this one comes closer to being downright bizarre, with an underlying wicked sense of humor obscured a bit by its plush Muppet exterior. Because here Guy is reuniting a loaf of bread with friends from her past, which carries with it far darker implications, as you can see below:



Firstly, the bread arrives to the studio thinking that she’s there to provide slices of herself for a club sandwich. “How many slices do you want?” she asks Guy with a serene smile on her face, almost creepily compliant in what would surely amount to her death, although that isn’t addressed directly. At least Guy hadn’t mock-threatened the oak tree’s life! But of course, Guy instead surprises the loaf with appearances from her friends, including Carol the Baker from the bakery down the street, who baked her. And this is also a little odd because in a world where this anthropomorphic bread exists, why would she have been separated from Carol instead of just being in the same bakery as her until being sold? And if she were sold, why wasn’t she eaten already? And how long is this timeframe? Was this loaf not baked this morning? If not, why hasn’t she gone stale and/or moldy?


And if that isn’t weird enough, after meeting the cow who provided the milk and the farmer who provided the wheat that made her, she’s then reunited with another loaf of bread who had been her best friend before being sold…but who has since been cut up into smaller pieces, two of which are now peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the other two of which are now French Toast. And they all have human names: Betty and Melissa Peanut Butter and Jelly and Yvette and Danielle French Toast, and each of them now has its own voice. So her former friend is now multiple friends. Also, they’ve been flown in from Alabama, so again, how they (a) haven’t been eaten by now or (b) not gone stale is a mystery for the ages!


Now, as a kid, I never noticed how disturbing this all was, and that was clearly by design, but I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a Muppet sketch with such a twisted sense of humor before! There’s always been a winking darkness to the anthropomorphic Muppet food, such as the vegetables, but I’m not sure if their purpose–to be eaten–has ever been this directly addressed up to this point.


Next up, another classic “celebrity does the alphabet” bit, here with legendary tennis player Arthur Ashe hitting a tennis ball against a wall as kids recite the alphabet:



And, again, I don’t have much to say about it, or the next one, a cartoon called “Magic Pig Calypso Song,” in which we see how various objects look different from different angles, but the one after that, oh boy, I used to love so much, you guys, and it’s one of the classic Kermit-the-Reporter-Meets-Don-Music sketches. Now, for those of you who don’t remember Don Music, he was a hilariously hyperbolic composer (whose eyes, like Scooter’s, are attached to his glasses) played to pitch perfection by Richard Hunt, and the general conceit was that he was actually the man who wrote many of the world’s most famous children’s songs and nursery rhymes. However, he was also prone to writer’s block, banging his head in agonized frustration against the keyboard multiple times whenever he couldn’t come up with a good rhyme. In response, Kermit would often offer suggestions, leading to finished products close to the famous songs but not quite right. This first sketch, in which Don is on the brink of completing “Mary Has a Little Lamb,” is a perfect example:



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