Sesame St S6: News Flash

"Mirror, Mirror on the wall..."

“Mirror, Mirror on the wall…”

I’ve mentioned before that Kermit’s News Flash sketches were quite possibly my all-time favorite Sesame Street segments, or at least very high up on the list, most likely because most of them blend two of my favorite things: Kermit and fairy tales, specifically those of the fractured variety. Well, as it so happens, Season 6 brought with it a slew of Sesame Street News Flashes, all of which I’m covering today, other than the “Jack Be Nimble” one which appeared in my last highlights post.


We begin with the fairy tales, starting with “Mirror, Mirror,” which just so happens to possibly be my favorite News Flash; it at least shares the top spot with the Rapunzel sketch and the one in which the Big Bad Wolf blows everything but the Three Little Pigs’ brick house away. As the title indicates, it’s a Muppety twist on the well-known story of Snow White with the significant difference being that the owner of the mirror is actually a Sesame Street witch (such as we saw in the coven sketch) with green skin, pointy nose, pointy hat, etc., rather than a glamorous queen, thus making her insistence on being considered the fairest of them all even more absurd than usual.


Also, in a nice twist on the norm, rather than using a Muppet for the magic mirror’s face, instead it is a video projection of that of a human man’s. And for Muppet trivia enthusiasts who might be unaware, that man just so happens to be Jerry Nelson aka the performer behind the Count, Gobo Fraggle, Robin the Frog, etc. And a very cheeky mirror he is, too, confirming for Kermit his delight in getting under the witch’s skin every day. When Kermit asks how the mirror’s apparently daily response of “Snow White” in response to the witch’s “fairest” query goes down each time, he happily responds, “It drives her up a wall, Froggy!”


Which is another funny change. Unlike in the regular story, where all it takes is one response of “Snow White” to send the queen on her quest for vengeance, this witch (performed by Frank Oz) asks the same question every day, and every day gets the wrong answer. And she’s less concerned with hunting down Snow White than she is tricking in the mirror into telling her what she wants to hear. Therefore, this time, she comes prepared, wielding an anachronistic microphone (though, to be fair, so does Kermit), which at first seems to be so that he’ll hear very clearly, but actually ends up being part of her scheme. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all,” she asks but continues on, “…and is wearing a hat, has two beautiful eyes, is green, is in the same room with you right now, and is holding a microphone?!” thinking she’s finally gotten him.


But the mirror outwits her again, because, as it just so happens, Kermit fits that exact same description, and he becomes the mirror’s response! Which is a funny and surreptitiously subversive twisting of gender norms–especially when Kermit gets all flattered and blushy in response–within a seemingly straightforward Sesame Street sketch. And possibly the best part of all: the witch actually ends up agreeing with the mirror, saying “He is kind of cute!” and starts to flirt with Kermit, “Those are sweet flippers…” thus foreshadowing another very famous Oz-performed female Muppet’s decades of flirtation with the little green guy.


And just as it plays with the idea that the appreciation of physical beauty shouldn’t just being relegated to women, it also ties that together with a subtle lesson about specificity in description. Two very different people, objects, etc., can have much more in common that initially meets the eye. And all of this without a drop of condescension or over-explanation to the young viewers, everything effortlessly woven into a comedy sketch that could also be entirely enjoyed on a surface level, as well. Hmm, I might have just argued myself into this being my favorite, after all!


Next, we have another fairy tale sketch–this one about Rumpelstiltskin–that doesn’t work on quite as many levels as the first but leads to an amusingly dark twist in which, as in the previous one, Kermit ends up being drawn into the story himself, but in a extremely undesirable way this time around:



This sketch, which is set on the fateful day when the miller’s daughter has to guess Rumpelstiltskin’s real name or surrender her baby to him, as per their agreement, is predicated on the amusing notion that Rumpelstiltskin is actually the gnome’s last, not first name, and so while at first, the joke seems to be that Kermit is shoving a microphone in her face and asking her how she’ll ever guess a name that they both actually know already–he flat-out asks her how she’ll guess Rumpelstiltskin’s name, and she has no clue, which seems like a meta joke on the story’s conceit–the joke actually ends up being how mundane his actual name is (versus the original story, where the outlandishness of his name is what made it so very unguessable). As it turns out, it’s Bruce, which she fails to guess.


But I’m jumping ahead of myself. Before the imp arrives, the show also weaves in a nifty gag on TV call-in shows by having Kermit put a fake phone number up on the screen in order for viewers to reach them with any information they might have about Rumpel’s true identity. Unfortunately, they get 3 answers, each from a person who swears that he or she knows the truth when in actuality “Fred,” “Otto,” and “Barry” are each other Rumpelstiltskins.


But as it so happens, the miller’s daughter is no slouch and is a much more fiercely protective mother than she’s depicted as being in the original story, for when Bruce prepares to take the child, she answers that her baby is actually “out hunting dragons with his father,” which is likely the truth as his carriage is empty. Or was empty until Kermit perhaps unwisely decided to hide in there when Rumpel arrived. And so, when Rumpel refuses to believe her story, the first place he checks is that carriage, naturally assuming that Kermit is the baby because of course! He proceeds to drag Kermit away as our frog pleads with the new queen to tell Rumpel the truth, but she simply responds, “He likes a 12 o’clock feeding!” Smart woman. Also a very funny sketch, but not quite reaching the multi-layered brilliance of the previous one.


The Woodsman arrives.

The Woodsman arrives.

Meanwhile, the lesson in  “Little Red Riding Hood: The Woodsman” might seem a bit too obvious when compared to either the Rumpelstiltskin one–if that one has one at all–or the skillfully obscured Snow White one. At the same time, however, it’s an extremely funny sketch that might constitute the most unexpected twist to a fairy tale of this batch. Kermit is reporting from inside Red’s Granny’s house, after she’s been devoured by the Wolf but before he’s managed to eat the girl, as well, and in a funny nod to the anachronistic reporter conceit, as the Big Bad Wolf chases her around and around the house, Kermit warns them to watch out for the microphone cord so they don’t trip! He also lets the audience know that, very soon, the Woodsman should be arriving to rescue Red, which is certainly a relief to her.


However, the first knock at the door reveals a mailman instead. And he just so happens to have a letter addressed to the “Wolf in Grandma’s Clothing”. But after showing momentary interest which temporarily throws him off his little-girl-chasing game, the wolf remembers, “I’m a wolf, I can’t read anyway!” and returns to his relentless pursuit (reminsicent of the gorilla in the Sesame Street cartoon who, once he’s reminded that he’s a gorilla, leaves the job interview he’s in the middle of to go swing in some trees). And as you might guess, the second knock at the door isn’t the woodsman either but instead a salesman trying to unload a set of encyclopedias.


Finally, however, the Woodsman arrives to save the day…until they learn that he’s the very Woodsman who cut down the tree that just so happens to be both Little Red and the wolf’s favorite. And so the former enemies become instant allies, uniting to chase the Woodsman down! So, the main “educational” bit is demonstrating the different jobs that appear at the door, but the real fun and more subtle lesson is about how people with fundamental differences can unite for a common cause. Most importantly, though, it’s hilarious.


After one in which Kermit is more of an observer than an active participant, he once again drastically and unwittingly interrupts the flow of the original story in this next report on Aesop’s fable of The Tortoise and the Hare:



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