Sesame St S6: Grover, Etc.

Today, after a long, unplanned hiatus due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, I’m finally returning to my Sesame Street season 6 coverage with a bunch of classic clips from the 1974-75 year, the first group today revolving around everyone’s favorite fuzzy blue monster, Grover.


Before I go on, however, I’d just like to acknowledge the sad reality that ABC decided to not renew The Muppets. Given that and the fact that I’m already behind, I’ve decided to hold off on completing my reviews of that show, as having them up in a timely manner is unfortunately no longer relevant, no matter how excellent it ultimately became. Instead, I’ve decided to return to them in the future, once I arrive there in chronology after Muppets Tonight, at which point the time and distance might also make it more interesting to reflect on the show’s legacy a little further down the line.


And now, returning to the matter at hand: Grover! We begin with “Marshall Grover Rides Backwards”:



In many ways the above sketch is highly reminiscent of the farm sketch earlier this season in which Kermit wanted Grover to demonstrate how a horse and cart worked, each time getting the logistics increasingly wrong, ending on Grover pulling the cart, with the horse riding in the cart behind him, tugging on his reins and yelling “Giddyup!”, in that Grover is hilariously failing at riding a horse correctly. Although both sketches have a few things in common–rural setting, Grover interacting with Fred the Horse, and confusing front and back in some way–the first has more had to do with the logistics of what pulls what (what is meant to go in front and what behind), and Grover’s befuddlement here has to do with direction. Namely, he is riding Fred backwards, in other words with his front facing Fred’s tail, but mistakenly thinking that Fred is the one going the wrong way.


I particularly love when a genuinely distraught Grover wails that Fred’s “poor head is missing,” and when Fred tells him that he doesn’t know the difference between “front” and “back,” and Grover responds that “That is a terrible, mean, cruel thing to say to me…It is true, but…” the switch from the initial hyperbolic emotion to the almost-aside of a subversive confession sounding like it might have been a classic Frank Oz improv.


When Fred finally sets him right and Grover turns, we get yet another overly emotive Grover moment in which he proclaims, “Oh, Fred, I have missed you!” upon finally “finding” his head, and then we end on the twist: Grover finally facing the right direction but now riding upside down, balancing on his own head. And as with many previous examples, I love that the show doesn’t feel the need to correct Grover. It can end on this gag, trusting the children to understand the joke and realize he’s wrong again. As I’ve mentioned before, Grover is often the butt of the joke in his sketches and yet is so openheartedly lovable and kind, it never feels like he’s being ridiculed. Instead, our reaction is more of an “Aww, Grover!” It comes from love.


What’s probably most interesting about the sketch, however, is how reminscent it is of “The Westerners,” one of the old Sam and Friends sketches, in which Kermit and Chicken Liver were both playing cowboys riding their horses backwards in an attempt to get off of them, the difference there however being that the horses were actually trotting backwards rather than their rider(s) facing the wrong way(s).


Next, we have a bit of Grover’s intrepid explorer side, with him, as usual, innocently entering a situation that ends up with him worse off than before:



So the basic gist of the scene is Grover climbing a tree in order to show us 3 eggs from which 3 adorable little birds are about to hatch, which naturally reinforces lessons to children both about where birds come from as well as counting. As we see, though, the show is getting increasingly sophisticated about how it weaves its lessons into its sketches, because both are seamlessly integrated into the scenario, the comedic twists being highlighted more than anything else.

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