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The story of one of the most important and beloved shows on television-how it got started, nearly failed, and was saved by Elmo. When the first episode aired on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street revolutionized the way education was presented to children on television. It has since become the longest-running children's show in history, and today reaches 8 million preschoolers The story of one of the most important and beloved shows on television-how it got started, nearly failed, and was saved by Elmo. When the first episode aired on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street revolutionized the way education was presented to children on television. It has since become the longest-running children's show in history, and today reaches 8 million preschoolers on 350 PBS stations and airs in 120 countries. Street Gang is the compelling and often comical story of the creation and history of this media masterpiece and pop culture landmark, told with the cooperation of one of the show's cofounders, Joan Ganz Cooney. Sesame Street was born as the result of a discussion at a dinner party at Cooney's home about the poor quality of children's programming and hit the air as a big bang of creative fusion from Jim Henson and company, quickly rocketing to success. Street Gang traces the evolution of the show from its inspiration in the civil rights movement through its many ups and downs-from Nixon's trying to cut off its funding to the rise of Elmo-via the remarkable personalities who have contributed to it. Davis reveals how Sesame Street has taught millions of children not only their letters and numbers, but also cooperation and fair play, tolerance and self-respect, conflict resolution, and the importance of listening. This is the unforgettable story of five decades of social and cultural change and the miraculous creative efforts, passion, and commitment of the writers, producers, directors, animators, and puppeteers who created one of the most influential programs in the history of television.


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The story of one of the most important and beloved shows on television-how it got started, nearly failed, and was saved by Elmo. When the first episode aired on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street revolutionized the way education was presented to children on television. It has since become the longest-running children's show in history, and today reaches 8 million preschoolers The story of one of the most important and beloved shows on television-how it got started, nearly failed, and was saved by Elmo. When the first episode aired on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street revolutionized the way education was presented to children on television. It has since become the longest-running children's show in history, and today reaches 8 million preschoolers on 350 PBS stations and airs in 120 countries. Street Gang is the compelling and often comical story of the creation and history of this media masterpiece and pop culture landmark, told with the cooperation of one of the show's cofounders, Joan Ganz Cooney. Sesame Street was born as the result of a discussion at a dinner party at Cooney's home about the poor quality of children's programming and hit the air as a big bang of creative fusion from Jim Henson and company, quickly rocketing to success. Street Gang traces the evolution of the show from its inspiration in the civil rights movement through its many ups and downs-from Nixon's trying to cut off its funding to the rise of Elmo-via the remarkable personalities who have contributed to it. Davis reveals how Sesame Street has taught millions of children not only their letters and numbers, but also cooperation and fair play, tolerance and self-respect, conflict resolution, and the importance of listening. This is the unforgettable story of five decades of social and cultural change and the miraculous creative efforts, passion, and commitment of the writers, producers, directors, animators, and puppeteers who created one of the most influential programs in the history of television.

30 review for Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brina

    I wrote an entire review that Goodreads deleted for me. I’m frustrated because it is one of my better efforts but I decided to make frustration into a Sesame Street teaching moment. I grew up during the 1980s when Sesame Street was in its heyday. Seasons would last over one hundred episodes and story arcs would be nearly as long. The human characters and muppets captivated my attention for nearly a decade as I continued to watch the show with my younger sibling well after I had graduated from th I wrote an entire review that Goodreads deleted for me. I’m frustrated because it is one of my better efforts but I decided to make frustration into a Sesame Street teaching moment. I grew up during the 1980s when Sesame Street was in its heyday. Seasons would last over one hundred episodes and story arcs would be nearly as long. The human characters and muppets captivated my attention for nearly a decade as I continued to watch the show with my younger sibling well after I had graduated from the usual viewing age. Sesame Street will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in a few weeks so I was in search of a book behind its history. Former TV Guide writer Michael Davis wrote Street Gang ten years ago in honor of the show’s 40th anniversary and I decided to read it in anticipation of the 50th anniversary special planned for November 10. If a reader is searching for the history of Bert, Ernie, and Big Bird, they will only find what they are looking for in the second half of this book. The first half is just as interesting as Davis outlines the early history of television, the gaps in quality educational programming for young children, and how the creative minds behind Sesame Street brought the show to where it is today. Or so the story goes CBS producer Lloyd Morrisett noticed his four year old daughter Sarah watching cartoons one morning in 1965. At a dinner party he brought the lack of educational programming to the attention of his friend Joan Ganz Cooney, a powerhouse of a woman at the dawn of the women’s movement, and together they founded a task force that would lead to the production of a quality television program for pre school age children, that would also bridge the gap between rich and poor. This was no small task because Public Television was in its nascent years, but Cooney was up to the challenge, and the rest, one can say, is history. Sesame Street started in 1969 thanks to grants from the Ford and Carnegie Foundations and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. With grants at an upward of $8 million, Cooney founded the Children’s Television Workshop, and once Sesame Street established itself as the show that Cooney and Morrisett had envisioned, the yearly grants and scheduling took care of itself. Producer Jon Stone envisioned a Street in the Bronx, and that is how the brownstone at 123 Sesame came to be. Combined with the talented song writing of Jeff Moss and Joe Raposo as well as the classic Muppets of Jim Henson, Sesame Street was an instant success. Children and their parents were mesmerized by the Muppets as well as the storylines featuring early hosts Susan, Gordon, Bob, and Maria. Combining their interactions with songs, games, and relatable Muppet characters, the show was a force to be reckoned with in the 1970s and beyond. Davis devotes the second half of the book to the show itself and it’s human and Muppet characters. The 1980s, the decade when I watched the show, was when Sesame Street established itself as the iconic classic that it is today. Storylines featuring the death of Mr Hooper and Maria and Luis’ wedding lasted entire seasons. Children learned about life cycle events and in Big Bird found an eight foot tall ally who would teach them about life’s important moments. Susan and Gordon adopted Miles, deaf librarian Linda joined the cast, as well as Gina and Alan, who took over Hooper’s Store. Combined with classic songs as the Count counting to eight, C is for Cookie, and Ernie’s ballads I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon and Dance Myself to Sleep as well as classic Put Down the Duckie, the Sesame Street characters became a vital part of my childhood. Creative minds Stone, Moss, Raposo, and Henson gave the Street a strong foundation in the early days of educational programming for children. It is thanks to their efforts combined with Cooney’s visionary leadership that Sesame Street is still viable today. Davis notes that in the years 1990-1995 many of the original founders of Sesame Street unexpectedly passed away. It was a time of transition for the show with a new generation of thinkers and competition from Barney the dinosaur. To combat Barney, the 21st century Street has focused on marketing machines Elmo and Zoe as well as other female characters Abby and Rosita to complement Bert, Ernie, and Big Bird. With the 50th anniversary upon us, Cookie Monster still spoofs movies once a week and Bert and Ernie take great adventures. Murray and his lamb explore New York, and new human characters have helped to modernize the street to show it as a melting pot of cultures that is 21st century America. With new innovative minds behind the scenes and new generations of kids who haven’t watched Sesame Street yet as well as classic clips available on YouTube, I would not be surprised if Sesame Street lasts another 50 years or more. 4 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I had such high hopes for this book, instead it was ridiculous. There was way too much information on people who really had little--if any--relevance to Sesame Street. For each person who did matter there were pages upon pages about the ancestry of that person. Do you really care what the great grandparents of the original executive producer did for a living? I'm pretty sure this guy wrote down every single note of research he did for this book as about half of it had nothing to do with anything I had such high hopes for this book, instead it was ridiculous. There was way too much information on people who really had little--if any--relevance to Sesame Street. For each person who did matter there were pages upon pages about the ancestry of that person. Do you really care what the great grandparents of the original executive producer did for a living? I'm pretty sure this guy wrote down every single note of research he did for this book as about half of it had nothing to do with anything. James Taylor appeared on Sesame Street three times. Here is a bulleted list of things he thought about while he was there. Hence with so much useless information, Davis has a hard time organizing it all. Case in point: Davis is discussing Jim Hensen's funeral (including what color each person wore) only to interrupt his lengthy commentary to discuss (using 3 full paragraphs) who the actor who played Big Bird married the second time around, including the details of their courtship. Don't worry though because he returns to the play-by-play of the funeral right after that. Don't bother with this one.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dan C.

    There are some very valid criticisms of this book in the other reviews listed on this site. Yes, it is a bit misnamed because rather than being a Complete History of Sesame Street, it is more of a Complete History of the key players behind the making of Sesame Street. The first half of the book contains nearly every excruciating detail of anyone that was even remotely involved in the making of the show. However, if you persevere through all this, the last half of the book has tremendous payoff. O There are some very valid criticisms of this book in the other reviews listed on this site. Yes, it is a bit misnamed because rather than being a Complete History of Sesame Street, it is more of a Complete History of the key players behind the making of Sesame Street. The first half of the book contains nearly every excruciating detail of anyone that was even remotely involved in the making of the show. However, if you persevere through all this, the last half of the book has tremendous payoff. Once Sesame Street actually gets on the air (at about the midpoint of the book) the prose picks up and the book is a tremendously engaging read. As the 70s turn into the 80s and 90s, the prepping that Davis did in the first half of the book makes sense as to completely appreciate those who created Sesame Street requires understanding their origins. A book that would give people a complete history of Sesame Street would be mammoth in both scope and size. This is the closest we'll get to that. And I, for one, am glad that Davis wrote this book and paid as close attention to detail as he did.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    An informative, almost clincal, look at the people and personalities involved in bringing Sesame Street to life. Manage your expectations, though -- this is no year-by-year review of what occured on the show. In fact, the first show doesn't even air until slightly over mid-way through the book. Mostly, it's the story of a core group of educators, advocates, producers, financers, artists, and entertainers who turned a dinner party question -- "Can television be used to teach children?" -- into an An informative, almost clincal, look at the people and personalities involved in bringing Sesame Street to life. Manage your expectations, though -- this is no year-by-year review of what occured on the show. In fact, the first show doesn't even air until slightly over mid-way through the book. Mostly, it's the story of a core group of educators, advocates, producers, financers, artists, and entertainers who turned a dinner party question -- "Can television be used to teach children?" -- into an International Institution. Nearly all the players in here are committed to their cause and brilliant in their own ways -- and most of them also have ways of making the others around them crazy, whether its the egomania of songwriter Joe Raposo, the perfectionism of the do-it-all Jon Stone, or even Jim Henson's handwringing over being typecast as a Children's Puppeteer. The true hero here -- and thus the recipient of the most ink -- is Joan Ganz Cooney, who holds the organization together through sheer force of will and the power of her personality. Again, manage your expectations. If you're looking for vignettes about the show and its sketches, Sesame Street Unpaved is probably the better book for you. This one is the behind-the-scenes look at the mechanics of creating, writing, directing, producing and, yes, politicking an enormously successful children's show.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Schoen

    Wow. I had such high hopes, but man, this was poorly written. Davis seemed compelled to include every random fact he discovered while researching the book, whether or not it had any remote relation to Sesame Street, or was even mildly interesting. One hundred and twenty pages into a 350 page book, and we're only up to a written proposal that maybe there should be a television show that tries to educate kids. But we've had time for mentions of Fred Friendly taking on McCarthy, the number of bridg Wow. I had such high hopes, but man, this was poorly written. Davis seemed compelled to include every random fact he discovered while researching the book, whether or not it had any remote relation to Sesame Street, or was even mildly interesting. One hundred and twenty pages into a 350 page book, and we're only up to a written proposal that maybe there should be a television show that tries to educate kids. But we've had time for mentions of Fred Friendly taking on McCarthy, the number of bridges constructed as part of the Works Progress Admisitration's budget, and the revelation that Joan Cooney's Jewish grandfather was a charter member of a restricted country club in Pheonix (Cooney was Henson's partner and one of the founders of Children's Television Workshop). And the language, well, it's just painful. "As autumn turned to winter in 1929, a direful shadow crossed the continentm like biblical darkness falling upon Egypt." "Collegiate rivals Harvard and Yale can each claim a measure of paternity for Sesame Street. During the show's three-year gestation period, from 1966 to 1969, researcher, faculty leaders and graduates of both Ivy institutions touched nearly every phase of its development." Oh my lord.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Not what I was expecting, but not bad. More a history of the business of making the show than a history of what happened on the show throughout the years. I was kind of expecting a history of the storylines and the developments of the characters, but this was more the story of the people who worked in the background and made it all possible. A well-written, informative work nonetheless.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    They definitely taught me how to read before I went to school. We only had about two picture books* in the house but Sesame Street and Electric Company taught me so much. And The Muppet Show, less skill-based, was another constant favorite of mine for several years right before bedtime, not to mention Muppet Babies, which was excellent. And so far I love this book. But I got sad at the Jim Henson dying part. :'( *The Tomtin and the Fox and The Velveteen Rabbit. They definitely taught me how to read before I went to school. We only had about two picture books* in the house but Sesame Street and Electric Company taught me so much. And The Muppet Show, less skill-based, was another constant favorite of mine for several years right before bedtime, not to mention Muppet Babies, which was excellent. And so far I love this book. But I got sad at the Jim Henson dying part. :'( *The Tomtin and the Fox and The Velveteen Rabbit.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    The television show that can appeal to children and make parents feel like they are good parents and upright citizens for showing it to their kids, that is where the money lies, my friends. Growing up I was not a discerning television viewer. I watched Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, Pinwheel, Today’s Special, and a whole host of bad cartoons ranging from Space Ghost to that bizarre time traveling one that was basically just a half hour commercial for Laser Tag. There was maybe only one show amongs The television show that can appeal to children and make parents feel like they are good parents and upright citizens for showing it to their kids, that is where the money lies, my friends. Growing up I was not a discerning television viewer. I watched Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, Pinwheel, Today’s Special, and a whole host of bad cartoons ranging from Space Ghost to that bizarre time traveling one that was basically just a half hour commercial for Laser Tag. There was maybe only one show amongst the batch that some part of my small reptilian brain recognized as better than the rest. I was an avid Sesame Street fan. I loved the show, the movies, the awful books they churned out ( The Monster at the End of this Book excepted). Oddly, this love didn’t fade as I grew up. I still have a strange fascination with the world it created and years ago I purchased Sesame Street Unpaved to sate some of my curiosity. Who were these people who created my mental childhood home? Who were the actors? The puppeteers? The writers? Unpaved didn’t do much to answer any of that, aside from giving me choice nuggets like the fact that Bob was a teen singing sensation in Japan. So the time seems just about right for Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. Pulling in at a cool 406 pages, author Michael Davis has gone above and beyond the call of duty. And while I might have removed a chunk or two for the sake of svelting down the book as a whole, you will not and can not find a book that will better answer your questions about the birth of this most impressive of children’s television shows. It began at a dinner party where a man launched into a speech about the vast unfulfilled potential of television. It began with a sentence from a psychologist: “Do you think television could be used to teach small children?” There wasn’t any answer to either of these points at the time, until Sesame Street formed. Sesame Street, the greatest educational television show for young children ever created, was the product of a lot of sweat, tears, and psychological blood. Under the care of Joan Ganz Cooney it found its legs. Performers like Jim Henson were brought on board. Actors and teachers, corporations and people who worked the streets of Harlem... there were people involved in its birth that would have no idea of its future impact. With a practiced eye author Michael Davis dives into Sesame Street’s world, bringing up everything from previous children’s programming to musical geniuses to the death of Jim Henson and beyond. An exhaustive, almost entirely complete, examination of the forces behind Oscar, Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, and even Elmo. Picking up the book I admit that at first I did not much care about the people behind the scenes. In fact, if you are reading this book solely for the purpose of finding out more about Carol Spinney and Sonya Manzano, you may just want to start reading at Chapter Fifteen and not look back. I’d encourage you to reconsider, though, because when you get right down to it Sesame Street owed its very existence to the people involved in everything from Howdy Doody to Captain Kangaroo. From Ding Dong School to Tinker’s Workshop, from Kukla Fran and Ollie to Laugh-In (it makes sense when you think about it), all these shows played some small role in Sesame Street’s creation. And then you start to become involved with these characters pulling the strings. Joan Ganz Cooney wasn’t just the show’s mother; she was and is a truly fascinating woman in her own right. The kind of person who was, for example, Vin Scully’s date the night the Dodger’s won the World Series in 1955. Every person involved has stories like this one in their histories. And Michael Davis has done his best to sniff them all out. Of course, if all you want is to know about is information on the performers, there’s plenty of that to go around as well. This book delves into the nitty gritty of everything from Northern Calloway’s (David’s) mental instability (and the real reason he died) to the Belgian born jazzman who plays during the show’s musical opening. You can find out how every guy on the show essentially thought that Maria (Sonya Manzano) was way hot. Or the fact that Bob really really WAS a Japanese pop star for a while there. There is an odd blip when it comes to talking about the third Gordon on Sesame Street, Roscoe Orman. Davis chooses not to talk about this major player in spite of the fact that he is the Gordon most children watching from Season Six onward think of when his name is said. As one of the early major players, his absence is an odd glitch in an otherwise complete collection. A significant portion of the book is dedicated to the seemingly dull but strangely fascinating topic of basic funding for an untested hypothesis: Can television teach? Our new millennium renders such a question almost laughable. Duh, of course it can teach. But it wasn’t so evident pre-Sesame Street. So it is that for me, a child of the 80s, the book provides some background to those mysterious names that would appears before and after each episode of the show. Things like The Children’s Television Workshop, The Carnegie Corporation, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and (altogether now) viewers like you! Children of the 60s may have memorized commercial jingles but children of the 80s memorized funding contributors. Truth be told, Davis spends surprisingly little time considering the show in its later years. We know the changes it went through had something to do with Franklin Getchell. Something to do with the rise of Elmo. Something to do with the Tickle Me Elmo craze... actually a LOT to do with that. I was pleased as punch to read about the rise and fall of that brief attempt to expand the neighborhood with elements like a hotel and other places around the corner from “the street”. However, I was utterly unprepared for the revelation that Abby Cadabby, the Ally McBeal of the Sesame Street universe, was the direct brainchild of Joan Ganz Cooney herself. That hurt. Now we have a show that is profitable, that can compete with Nick Toons, the Disney Channel, and other major competitors, but that somehow lost its way in the process. It met Barney head-on and then proceeded to emulate that horrid purple dinosaur. Not the happy ending one might have hoped for. In terms of the writing itself, as an author Davis plays with time and continuity like a child with a bouncy bauble. One minute you’re in the 1950s, then you suddenly leap forward to the 70s, and then back again to where you were when you started. One such example is when he mentions the Children Television Workshop on page 121 (I’m working off of a galley, so my page numbers may not match up to the final copy) and then doesn’t go about explaining what it is until page 127. The result is that you’re left with the impression that you must have missed something along the way. It also means that as an author Davis has decided to be consistent about names, which adds its own confusion. For example, Joan Ganz Cooney is always referred to as Cooney (her married name) even when we hear about her pre-married life, while Sesame Street is always called by that name rather than a generic “the show”, which makes the whole how-it-got-its-name section seem almost redundant (not to say, confusing). Davis also has a penchant for a pretty bizarre turn of phrase. When discussing the hanky panky that went on behind the scenes he says with a straight face, “Philandering tends to rub the topcoat off a man’s soul. All it took was a look at the reflection in the shaving mirror to see the painful loss of luster. ” Hoo boy. Or how about the night Sesame Street was thought of, which involved some people having a dinner from a recipe in a Julia Child book. “Let history note, then, that Julia Child, public television’s grand dame, provided the savory sauce poured on the night Sesame Street was conceived.” But you can get used to it. Once you get into Davis’s style the words become enjoyable. Like describing Jon Stone’s attempts to sidestep “a water bug the size of a Sunsweet prune.” Of course, the book is long. Too long, one might think. For a Sesame Street fanatic like myself, this is not a problem. I love diving into the minute details and the millions of tiny backstories. Others who simply want a comprehensive look at the show itself, however, may find themselves wading through a lot of information before they find what they want. So while I enjoyed every page in my own way, I concede that some judicious pruning would probably be in order. In the end, the book makes for a perfect complement to the Sesame Street Old School: Vol. 1 DVD released a year or two ago. The information gathered in the book spills over nicely into the DVD. Now before picking this title up, I suggest that you figure out what kind of Sesame Street fan you are. If you’ve only a passing interest in the show, you may wish to skim this book. If you are a rabid fan, it will answer your every need. And if you fall somewhere in the middle you will find a book that answers your questions, raises even more, and though a bit long is a fun and satisfying look at a world that has passed. A world that did a lot of good in its day, and that will continue to charm in one way or another. For adults.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hank Stuever

    Thorough, excellent, entertaining -- and, I should add, HELPFUL, if, say, you're a television critic in 2019 tasked with getting your head around five decades of "Sesame Street's" success and origin story. (Even if you're of an age to have been among the first toddlers to soak it up circa 1970.) What you've read here in other people's reviews is true: It takes more than half of the book just to get to the premiere of "Sesame Street" on TV in 1969. But it's a fascinating build. Thorough, excellent, entertaining -- and, I should add, HELPFUL, if, say, you're a television critic in 2019 tasked with getting your head around five decades of "Sesame Street's" success and origin story. (Even if you're of an age to have been among the first toddlers to soak it up circa 1970.) What you've read here in other people's reviews is true: It takes more than half of the book just to get to the premiere of "Sesame Street" on TV in 1969. But it's a fascinating build.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    When I was in grad school, I signed up for a class called Death and Literature. The description sounded awesome and I was being a bit morbid. What it turned out to be was a philosophy class in literature class clothing, which resulted in me reading Heidegger for weeks at a time, only occasionally broken up by "She" or "Dracula." The few moments of awesomeness did not make up for the fact that I was dragged through "Being and Time." And that's what reading "Street Gang" is like. This is not a comp When I was in grad school, I signed up for a class called Death and Literature. The description sounded awesome and I was being a bit morbid. What it turned out to be was a philosophy class in literature class clothing, which resulted in me reading Heidegger for weeks at a time, only occasionally broken up by "She" or "Dracula." The few moments of awesomeness did not make up for the fact that I was dragged through "Being and Time." And that's what reading "Street Gang" is like. This is not a complete history of Sesame Street. This is a slog through the personal histories of several of the key players who created Sesame Street: Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone, David Connell, Sam Gibbon, and Jim Henson. And when I saw histories, I mean you learn about their parents' upbringing, their upbringing, schooling, weird relationships, everything! This book is hyper-detailed, bogging it down. What isn't about family history is about how the show got funded, which has the potential to be interesting if we weren't forced to walk through every step of the process. And, of course, we do. You finally get to the genesis of the show and its characters and stories in Chapter 12... so if you want just that, skip to page 166. To finish my complaint on the book's completeness, it skims a fair amount of the 1980s (compared to the detail of earlier chapters) and gives very little info on the mid-1990s and beyond. This is probably because management changed at the CTW and Davis does not fawn over these people. Elmo is the most-covered subject during this time period. I'd also have to say that the writing structure is incredibly awkward. Readers are flung forward and backward and forward again in time within the span of a few paragraphs, all usually to tell a story that usually doesn't need telling. Like did I need to know that Cooney's personal assistant attended her abusive ex-husband's funeral for her, so she could report back to her boss on how it went? Or should the moment Jane Henson steps forward to speak and Jim Henson's funeral really be the time Davis first brings up that they had had marital problems? That's not to say that there aren't fascinating stories about Sesame Street, its creation, and its creators. The book is full of them, but you have to be patient and dig around to get them, and I'm not sure it's really worth your time. You do gain an appreciation for how ground-breaking this series was and still is. You also wonder if maybe it was a requirement that you have a terminal illness in your future, as much of the end of the book is dedicated to all the contributors to the show who died of cancer, AIDs, or other diseases. It's kind of frightening how many people involved in the show have died. I can't say that I really recommend this book. Mostly, I recommend the middle of this book. Unless you're looking for a history and finances lesson, with some Muppets thrown in for good measure.

  11. 5 out of 5

    LibraryCin

    3.25 stars This is pretty much what the subtitle says: a history of Sesame Street. The first half of the book was getting Sesame Street to air. Much of the book also included mini-biographies of many of the Sesame Street “players”, including behind the scenes people, puppeteers, and on-screen actors. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for more fun behind-the-scenes stuff, but there was a lot of business history...a lot of business. I don't mind biographies, and some were more 3.25 stars This is pretty much what the subtitle says: a history of Sesame Street. The first half of the book was getting Sesame Street to air. Much of the book also included mini-biographies of many of the Sesame Street “players”, including behind the scenes people, puppeteers, and on-screen actors. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for more fun behind-the-scenes stuff, but there was a lot of business history...a lot of business. I don't mind biographies, and some were more interesting than others, but the best of the book, for me, was after Sesame Street started airing and there was more behind-the-scenes info. It makes me want to see if I can find some of the episodes online. I particularly enjoyed the description of the episode that aired after Mr. Hooper's death and how it was explained to Big Bird.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I'm an adult, and realize that TV shows are not real, that the characters are actors, and that "Josh Lyman" isn't a real person, but rather Bradley Whitford portraying a character. Despite the fact that I'm an adult and understand how TV and the Land of Make-Believe works, I still forget that the people on Sesame Street aren't real people, but are *characters*. I swear, if I ever saw this man, I'd yell "Gordon!" The book started out a bit slow for me--I wanted to read about Sesame Street, but Dav I'm an adult, and realize that TV shows are not real, that the characters are actors, and that "Josh Lyman" isn't a real person, but rather Bradley Whitford portraying a character. Despite the fact that I'm an adult and understand how TV and the Land of Make-Believe works, I still forget that the people on Sesame Street aren't real people, but are *characters*. I swear, if I ever saw this man, I'd yell "Gordon!" The book started out a bit slow for me--I wanted to read about Sesame Street, but Davis goes back waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back to the beginning of television and to the biographies of each individual involved with the formation of the show. In retrospect, it makes sense since, really, there wouldn't be a Sesame Street if Person A hadn't had that one thought, and Person B hadn't had a similar thought, and Person C hadn't been there to give such-and-such help, etc. It's just that I was expecting a *little bit* of background, and then lots of The Show Through the Years. But I came to appreciate Davis' approach to the book. The end, though, was extremely disappointing. The book is titled The Complete History, and yet the history really leaves off at about 1990. Davis does mention some things that happened after 1990 or so, but it's mostly deaths, Elmo, Zoe, Abby, and the attempts to revamp the show, particularly in 1994 with the "Around the Corner" plan to introduce new characters and settings down the street from Sesame Street. The final chapter is 45 pages long, and all but 11 pages are about the deaths of creators and other cast and production people. That should have been included in the Epilogue, not as a bummer final chapter. More about the 1990s and 2000s (see *complete* history), please, and less about one death after another (Man, 30-plus pages of "He died. He died. She's sick. He died." *I* wanted to die!) It's kind of interesting, as a side-note, to see how Sesame Street, Maggie Gyllenhall, Joss Whedon, and Holly Robinson-Peete are all intertwined. And as we know, I *hate* sloppy editing. There was a lot in here, unfortunately -- endnotes and text mismatches, missing quotation marks, etc.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emilia P

    Yes, the style of this book -- interview snippet after interview snippet after disjointed point in Sesame Street's history was not so hot. I thought it worked just fine as Sesame Street was still a twinkle in the eyes of its creators. The complicated process of gathering both the entertainers and experts on children's education and the revolutionary idea of setting the show in the inner city in a way that could interest inner city kids as well as just about every other kid in the world really all Yes, the style of this book -- interview snippet after interview snippet after disjointed point in Sesame Street's history was not so hot. I thought it worked just fine as Sesame Street was still a twinkle in the eyes of its creators. The complicated process of gathering both the entertainers and experts on children's education and the revolutionary idea of setting the show in the inner city in a way that could interest inner city kids as well as just about every other kid in the world really all came together very coherently, as the book illustrated. But Part Two -- what actually happened once Sesame Street succeeded was really disjointed, probably could have been written in bullet points. A stronger unifying thesis would have made it hella better. Nonetheless, it reminded me of some of the most powerful parts of Sesame Street: the Christmas episode, Mr. Hooper's Death, Maria and Luis's wedding. Some of these made me cry on the bus -- the great thing about Sesame Street, which this book reminded me of, was how it was honest and simple and wildly creative at the same time. I was glad it traced the downward turn of the nineties with all the old guard that started it getting old and dying, while the show started losing its integrity. The slightly infuriating addition of Around The Corner (cleaned up suburbanized Sesame) happened right around the time I stopped watching, and I thankfully missed out on the bulk of Zoe, and all of the Elmo's World junk...this book was a little bit too pro-Elmo, but I liked the story that Elmo was born when his original puppeteer threw him across the room at the underling puppeteer and said disgustedly "Somebody find a voice for this guy!" In general, just an ok book, but it reminded me throughout of something I love dearly and that has shaped my and millions of other children's outlook on life for the last thirty years, and that was exactly what I needed. That and sesame street on Youtube. Hooray.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michael P.

    This book is an indispensible mess. Too scholarly for general readers and too general for scholarly readers, it does not include a survey of scholarly articles about the effectiveness of the series that scholars will expect, but includes a long chapter on the history of CAPTAIN KANGEROO, exactly the kind of detail that scholars expect but will bore many other readers when the information pertinent to the story Davis tells could be summarized in two paragraphs. The documentation is below scholarl This book is an indispensible mess. Too scholarly for general readers and too general for scholarly readers, it does not include a survey of scholarly articles about the effectiveness of the series that scholars will expect, but includes a long chapter on the history of CAPTAIN KANGEROO, exactly the kind of detail that scholars expect but will bore many other readers when the information pertinent to the story Davis tells could be summarized in two paragraphs. The documentation is below scholarly standards, but there is far more of it than most readers want. This neither fish nor fowl quality makes long passages seem both underdone and unnecessary, which is a very odd result. Add to this that the last hundred or so pages do not seem of a piece with all that came before. The book had been an almost painstaking history of SESAME STREET, but now alternates skips-through-time scenes of the continued history with the old guard growing sick and dying. It makes for a strange flow. A “where are they now” appendix would have been a happier solution. The developmental editor may have let Davis down, but he does his best not to let readers down. This is a wonderfully full account of the origins, development, and early days of SESAME STREET, with a briefer summary of the past 20 years, but an odd reading experience.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Social trends, complaints about the banality of children's television, professional ambitions and personal genius combined in a profoundly unlikely way in the 1960s to produce Sesame Street, a show of unparalleled influence that taught generations of children to count and read. At the center of a cast of interesting characters to breathe the show to life was Jim Henson, a puppet performer who saw himself as an entertainer of adults first and foremost, but also as someone who had something to say Social trends, complaints about the banality of children's television, professional ambitions and personal genius combined in a profoundly unlikely way in the 1960s to produce Sesame Street, a show of unparalleled influence that taught generations of children to count and read. At the center of a cast of interesting characters to breathe the show to life was Jim Henson, a puppet performer who saw himself as an entertainer of adults first and foremost, but also as someone who had something to say to kids as well. This history of the show—how it almost never happened and the people who defied the odds to bring it to life—is an interesting tale of imaginative and stubborn artists and executives who wanted to do right by children. The story of how they succeeded, and how they weathered the show's decline and the loss of Henson in the decades that followed is filled with humor, pride and grief. As a fan of history and of Sesame Street, I found the story interesting, if not especially dramatic (well, stories of one performer's manic-depression, cocaine use and battery incarceration notwithstanding). But the book is filled with gems about the origins of favorites like Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and Cookie Monster, which made me smile and laugh and remember just how welcoming and warm the show's characters were.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Frey

    It's quite an interesting story, particularly the combination of forces that connected a plucky band of idealistic and dedicated researchers with the wizard that was Jim Henson. I listened to the audio version narrated by Carroll Spinney (Big Bird). Interestingly, he did a nice impersonation of Henson, but watered down his voices (to my ear) when quoting his own characters, like he didn't want it to seem too shticky. Still, it was warming to hear the story told in a familiar cadence, and it adde It's quite an interesting story, particularly the combination of forces that connected a plucky band of idealistic and dedicated researchers with the wizard that was Jim Henson. I listened to the audio version narrated by Carroll Spinney (Big Bird). Interestingly, he did a nice impersonation of Henson, but watered down his voices (to my ear) when quoting his own characters, like he didn't want it to seem too shticky. Still, it was warming to hear the story told in a familiar cadence, and it added another layer of poignancy when he was describing his own participation in Henson's memorial service. I was glad the story included how Sesame Street planted the seeds for Avenue Q. That felt like fun bonus material. And I never knew about the grave mental-health and drug issues that plagued Northern Calloway (David). Nor did I know that Henson struggled with how badly he did not want to be thought of as a children's entertainer. I coincidentally found myself listening to the story of how Gordon, Bob, and Luis were cast on the same day I would find out they had been let go from the cast. That was a bit surreal. But overall, this is a great history for anyone who grew up on the show--particularly on "classic" Sesame Street.

  17. 4 out of 5

    SouthWestZippy

    Very interesting look at the history of Children's TV. Talks a little about Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Dowdy and a few others. Very adult look at behind the scenes and the network workings. Very interesting look at the history of Children's TV. Talks a little about Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Dowdy and a few others. Very adult look at behind the scenes and the network workings.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Susan Bazzett-Griffith

    So I think I've read most, if not all, bios and non-fiction books about Jim Henson, and most of them tend to be more about the Muppets than Sesame Street, so I was looking forward to this one. This is definitely the most in-depth history of the show I've seen compiled, but the book wasn't exactly what I thought, or hoped it would be. And disclaimer- I read the first 75 pages or so dilligently, and then skimmed through the next hundred pages or so because the detail level regarding the broad hist So I think I've read most, if not all, bios and non-fiction books about Jim Henson, and most of them tend to be more about the Muppets than Sesame Street, so I was looking forward to this one. This is definitely the most in-depth history of the show I've seen compiled, but the book wasn't exactly what I thought, or hoped it would be. And disclaimer- I read the first 75 pages or so dilligently, and then skimmed through the next hundred pages or so because the detail level regarding the broad history of children's television and Captain Kangaroo, and Joan Cooney's family ancestry simply bored me, and I almost put the book down for good. Am glad I persevered, though, because the second half was genuinely interesting. I particularly liked hearing the backgrounds of the actors on the set- Loretta Long and Bob McGrath and Matt Robinson and the tragic/creepy/sad battles with mental illness of Northern Calloway. I also found the history of the political battles regarding CTW and public broadcasting funding interesting, and the stories about the rivalry between the two main songwriters for the series. The book overall, though, was too long, and the background history too much, too much about Joan Cooney, and while there was plenty about the puppeteers, there was not enough about the actual Muppets themselves for me as a fan. I also felt that by kind of wrapping up describing how most of the original movers and shakers of the show had died, that they didn't FINISH the earlier part of the narrative regarding funding and ratings and how Sesame Street actually has lost its hour long shows produced primarily for PBS-- that seems like it should have been VERY relevant to much of what the book covered, yet was totally left out. I definitely learned a ton about the history of the show, and this book would be a valuable resource for someone doing an academic paper about children's television history, Sesame Street in general, or PBS as an entity; however it was at times a very dense read and didn't flow particularly well. The best parts of the writing tended to be describing funerals and memorial services of people who've died, and when it talked about particular plot arcs and lessons taught by Sesame Street to its viewers over the years. So 3 stars- I liked it, but most people would not, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to anyone other than folks with weird fandoms and obsessions to Henson and the Muppets (like me).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ozma

    A thorough history of the inception and creation of Sesame Street. Basically, the daughter of an executive at the Carnegie Corporation was staring at the "Native American" filler screen on television every morning before the cartoons would start. The exec thought to himself, could television be used to teach children? And it all snowballed from there. Unfortunately, not much insider gossip but enough to interest you. The personalities that worked on this show and their quirks are incredibly inte A thorough history of the inception and creation of Sesame Street. Basically, the daughter of an executive at the Carnegie Corporation was staring at the "Native American" filler screen on television every morning before the cartoons would start. The exec thought to himself, could television be used to teach children? And it all snowballed from there. Unfortunately, not much insider gossip but enough to interest you. The personalities that worked on this show and their quirks are incredibly interesting to read about. It's a bit dry, but it is a big achievement to compress all this information into one book. Jim Henson was a genius who owed his career to Sesame Street, but it greatly bugged him that he was pigeonholed as doing children's work. He liked doing sassy puppet comedy (which he eventually achieved with the Muppets). He was also deeply depressed at the commercial failure of The Dark Crystal (his feature length film). The woman who founded it all, Joan Ganz Cooney, cooperated with the writing of this book and gave extensive interviews. She and her cohorts were true liberals, believing that helping the urban poor through massive spending would work. And they were, overall, right, and actually spawned a major capitalist genre of educational marketing to children. The best part, for me, was re-living, in a way, how great those characters are/were and the feelings you had when you saw Big Bird being incredulous, or Ernie needling Bert for the umpteenth time. I realize now how much I identified with some of these characters and saw myself in their attempts at figuring out the world. Even to this day I find Sesame Street to be very telling of the human experience at a basic level. Many, many years later, after competition from Barney, Sesame Street created their first character based on focus groups and marketing studies: the girl puppet Zoe. The traditionalists disdained the move, but it kept Sesame Street commercially viable. Most other characters until then were more organic in their creation. For instance, Elmo was a background muppet for years until one puppeteer tossed Elmo to another saying he wasn't interested in it. Kermit was very Jim Henson, as was Bert, whom he also played. The man who played Big Bird suffered from a birth disorder that always made him a bit odd and out of sorts. And, this book is the first and only I have not found one typo in. it is technically perfect. Quite an achievement, in my opinion. Yes, I did manage to get this back to the library in time and did not incur a single late fee! UPDATED THIS REVIEW TO 4 STARS FROM 3, B/C MANY YEARS LATER, I STILL REMEMBER IT WELL AND CONSIDER IT ONE OF THE BOOKS I ENJOYED THE MOST. A FULL READ, BY WHICH I MEAN, I LEARNED FROM IT, REMEMBER IT LIKE I READ IT YESTERDAY, WELL WRITTEN, AND LEFT A STRONG AND GOOD IMPRESSION.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carin

    So when I finished reading this book, I went online and watched "C is for Cookie," "These Are the People in Your Neighborhood," "Rubber Duckie," and "It's Not Easy Being Green." I also watched Johnny Cash singing "Five Feet High and Rising" with the help of Biff, the Martians discovering a fan, and David doing some disco roller-skating. Mr. Hooper counted to three with the help of chairs, and a baker fell down the stairs carrying three birthday cakes. Being a chld of the '70s, I am not a fan of So when I finished reading this book, I went online and watched "C is for Cookie," "These Are the People in Your Neighborhood," "Rubber Duckie," and "It's Not Easy Being Green." I also watched Johnny Cash singing "Five Feet High and Rising" with the help of Biff, the Martians discovering a fan, and David doing some disco roller-skating. Mr. Hooper counted to three with the help of chairs, and a baker fell down the stairs carrying three birthday cakes. Being a chld of the '70s, I am not a fan of Elmo. I remember when Snuffleupagus was still thought to be imaginary, and when Maria and Luis got married (I know, you'd think I was too old for the wedding memory but I have a brother 12 years younger.) This history of Sesame Street is thorough and nostalgic. The author uses a few too many 50-cent words than are necessary, and he coud have used a few more dates (it's so well-researched that I am sure it's not because he doesn't have the dates, but that he didn't want it to seem pedantic.) It's a great story with too many early exits in the end. Unfortunately I don't think this author was perfect for this book, although he's certainly done a good job. I did learn a lot of fun pop culture trivia, one of my addictions. The most shocking was that one of the actors, who played David, became mentally unbalanced. He was on the road in the off season, in Nashville, my hometown. And there was an incident. He broke into 4 homes and vandalized them. ON MY STREET. In 1980, when we were living there and I was 6. I asked my Mom and she doesn't remember the incident at all. When he was arrested they found he'd beaten up his girlfriend with a tire iron, remembered nothing, and he was committed. Granted the vandalisms were at the other end of our street, about a half a mile away, but it is shocking to me that this wouldn't have been news, at least in town. Of course stories like this are rare. More common were sweet stories about the inspiration for Children's Television Network and the inception of Big Bird. It was informative, interesting, and inspiring. Joan Ganz Cooney is a wonderful role model all young women should aspire to.

  21. 4 out of 5

    cubbie

    it's funny because i feel like i'm the opposite of a lot of reviewers for this book, but i also agree with a lot of the points. unlike many, i loved the first half of this book. i couldn't put it down, and i loved the in-depth narrative and the showbiz myths a lot. i told a bunch of people about it, and actually compared it to harry potter and twilight and the way people read those (fyi, i don't like hp, and i haven't read twilight. they aren't really my genre.). for me, it was that addictive, fl it's funny because i feel like i'm the opposite of a lot of reviewers for this book, but i also agree with a lot of the points. unlike many, i loved the first half of this book. i couldn't put it down, and i loved the in-depth narrative and the showbiz myths a lot. i told a bunch of people about it, and actually compared it to harry potter and twilight and the way people read those (fyi, i don't like hp, and i haven't read twilight. they aren't really my genre.). for me, it was that addictive, fluffy, fun read. but then, about midway through, some things happened. one, it started going faster. it started zooming past details and zipping through stuff. i attribute part of my lack of interest to the fact that for me after jim henson died, i lost a lot of interest in sesame street anyway, and i felt like the book lost its magic at about the same time that i felt the show did. but i think the writing does change, and the things that are focused on are not what i'm as interested in. a lot of people have commented on it being disorganized, and i think that it (like this review) is. my biggest fault though is that it left a lot of loose ends. there are a lot of things that changed that only get mentioned or never get discussed. we know that the actor for gordon changed, but i don't think we ever know when, why or how (... or maybe it was in there, but i just missed it because there was so many other things going on). what actually happened with the sesame street muppets after jim henson died-- is everybody who is still alive still doing all the puppeteering? it seems like it from the book, but i don't think so. i think the book needed a couple more edits and maybe it needs a sequel to tie up the loose ends. but i really loved reading it and i learned a lot from it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    This book is AMAZING!!!! It has obviously been many many years since I sat down and watched Sesame Street, but this book made me not only want to sit and watch Sesame Street, but also to look up clips from Sesame Street from when I was a kid. The amount of work, effort, research, time, care, love, and devotion to creating a show that would entertain while educating, and educating while entertaining pre-school kids is astonishing. I am in awe of all of those who pioneered children's television th This book is AMAZING!!!! It has obviously been many many years since I sat down and watched Sesame Street, but this book made me not only want to sit and watch Sesame Street, but also to look up clips from Sesame Street from when I was a kid. The amount of work, effort, research, time, care, love, and devotion to creating a show that would entertain while educating, and educating while entertaining pre-school kids is astonishing. I am in awe of all of those who pioneered children's television that led to the development of Sesame Street. No script went untested, and no skit was thrown in just because. There was always a rhyme and reason for what went on on Sesame Street, down to every tiny detail. This show revolutionized children's programming, and also pushed the boundaries fairly constantly (did you know they did a short segment on breast feeding in the 70s? check it out it's a really sweet segment with a guest and Big Bird) It was great to take a trip down memory lane and remember all my favorite characters, and see them in a new light. For instance, one of the researchers said "you need a Mr. Bumbles on the show. Someone who falls down a lot, but gets up, brushes themselves off, and keeps going. Someone a 4 year old can relate to." And thus was born Big Bird. I am not one to pick up a non-fiction book, but I'm so glad my roommate got this for me for Christmas. I have a new-found respect and sense of awe for Sesame Street and those involved. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up immediately. :o)

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    As a child who grew up watching Sesame Street, it's hard not to get emotional about this one. On one level it's a glowing portrait of what happens when a bunch of really decent people get together to do a nice thing for children. It makes it much easier to understand how Sesame Street has survived and thrived for years, because it's never been about just one person and has always been a team effort, with key players coming and going throughout the years allowing the show to adapt and change with As a child who grew up watching Sesame Street, it's hard not to get emotional about this one. On one level it's a glowing portrait of what happens when a bunch of really decent people get together to do a nice thing for children. It makes it much easier to understand how Sesame Street has survived and thrived for years, because it's never been about just one person and has always been a team effort, with key players coming and going throughout the years allowing the show to adapt and change with the times. Just like the show, the book doesn't try to hide the dark parts of the show's history, or more accurately, the dark parts in the stories of the key players involved in the show's success. The book talks about how Mr. Hooper's death was portrayed on the show with poignancy and also details actor Norman Calloway's (David) decline sympathetically, not to mention it's focus on the tremendous and sudden loss of Jim Henson. On the brighter side, the audiobook is narrated by Caroll Spinney, the voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, lending a weird meta-quality to the whole affair. Spinney loses his composure only a couple times when recounting the more emotional moments of the show, notably during the filming of Mr. Hooper's memorial and when talking about his wife of over 35 years. As a bonus to the audiobook, the author interviews Spinney at length about his life and time with Sesame Street. A detailed and loving, but not overly sentimental tribute to a pioneering children's television show.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Lindsey

    Sesame Street was born the same year that I was, so I can't remember a life without strong educational programing. I gravitated to this book because of the cover -- even at 45 I can't seem to resist the characters from Sesame street with their complex personalities, grand sense of human, and bright colors. This book had me search YouTube to watch some of my favorite bits from the show, as well as searching out some of the moments that were described in the book. Normally, I struggle with books th Sesame Street was born the same year that I was, so I can't remember a life without strong educational programing. I gravitated to this book because of the cover -- even at 45 I can't seem to resist the characters from Sesame street with their complex personalities, grand sense of human, and bright colors. This book had me search YouTube to watch some of my favorite bits from the show, as well as searching out some of the moments that were described in the book. Normally, I struggle with books that are full of people I don't know. Other than Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Carol Spinney, I knew none of the people who were foundational to the creation of Sesame Street. At times, I found the timeline difficult to follow because I didn't know why a certain person was important, but overall the individuals are well described and their connection to the show and its creation is clear. I enjoyed reading some of the behind the scenes stories, especially those that were specific to the creation of specific characters. This is one of the books that would do really well in an enhanced e-format with links to music, photos, and video. I did this on my own by stopping and looking things up on YouTube, but it would be nice to use some of the technology available to embed it into the e-version of the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    I really wanted to like this book. However, there was way too much back story. Sesame Street has been on the air for 40 years, but we don't get to the airing of the premier episode until two-thirds the way through the book. We quickly rush through the first ten years of the show, then start covering the deaths of many of the principals. Facts are often laid out in an odd order. For example, about the tenth time Tom Whedon's name is mentioned, we learn that he is the father of Joss Whedon, someth I really wanted to like this book. However, there was way too much back story. Sesame Street has been on the air for 40 years, but we don't get to the airing of the premier episode until two-thirds the way through the book. We quickly rush through the first ten years of the show, then start covering the deaths of many of the principals. Facts are often laid out in an odd order. For example, about the tenth time Tom Whedon's name is mentioned, we learn that he is the father of Joss Whedon, something I was wondering about the first nine times. And while the subtitle is "The complete history of Sesame Street", it really isn't about Sesame Street, the show. It is entirely about the people how started Sesame Street, and their back stories. While in the beginning of the book, everyone raises the question "Can TV teach?" (or perhaps, "What can it teach?"), after forty years of evidence, this book never really tries to find an answer to that question. I would have also like to read more about the other CTW shows. They are mentioned in passing, but it is interesting that Sesame Street has been produced continuously for the lifetime of CTW, but dozens of other shows have been made, most of which lasted just a few years.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Burt & Ernie, Oscar and Elmo (who came in the 90’s) – all of these are common household names and icons. Who would have thought this with the show’s first appearance in 1969. This book details the gestation period of Sesame Street. This almost takes us half-way through the book before we get to the first TV show. There are many details on the myriad personalities involved. It definitely proves that Sesame Street was a team effort of a wide assortment of personalities – p Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Burt & Ernie, Oscar and Elmo (who came in the 90’s) – all of these are common household names and icons. Who would have thought this with the show’s first appearance in 1969. This book details the gestation period of Sesame Street. This almost takes us half-way through the book before we get to the first TV show. There are many details on the myriad personalities involved. It definitely proves that Sesame Street was a team effort of a wide assortment of personalities – producers, writers, actors, puppeteers and musicians. It was not one person who made Sesame Street what it is – it was a group of very talented individuals. Some, like Jim Henson, were famous before Sesame Street. But it was Sesame Street that made them remarkable and eternal in our memory. Mr. Davis describes the lives and the motivations of these people. At times there are so many of them that it becomes confusing as to who was who and the roles played – one would almost require a small index at the end of the book with a brief time outline of their careers. Because the show is now over forty years old some have died, many prematurely (Jim Henson comes easily to mind). Nevertheless Sesame Street endures, educates and entertains.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meaghan

    This book took me over two months to read. I kept renewing it from the library, because I knew I just needed the right mood and the right timing to really dig in to this history. There are so many interesting facts and names and connections in this web of the beginnings of children's TV, I wanted to be able to absorb and remember them all. I'd say I read the second half of this tome in about a week and a half (which is good for me!) I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Sesame Stre This book took me over two months to read. I kept renewing it from the library, because I knew I just needed the right mood and the right timing to really dig in to this history. There are so many interesting facts and names and connections in this web of the beginnings of children's TV, I wanted to be able to absorb and remember them all. I'd say I read the second half of this tome in about a week and a half (which is good for me!) I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Sesame Street, of course, but there's such a wealth of varied information that historians and media gurus could also dig it: you've got your civil rights, the history of children's programming and public television, Jim Henson + the Muppets and creative arts. Reading this gave me perspective on what was going on TV-wise in the 60s and 70s (and a bit in the 80s and 90s), the various roles involved in TV production, and also made me consider the furry friends as commodities, which was sobering and eye-opening. Also drove me to watch the documentary The World According to Sesame Street, which is much more focused on the international versions of the show and compelling in its own right.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen Germain

    This book took a long time to get through, because it was a very dry read. The title is “Street Gangs: The Complete History of Sesame Street.” This is not an understatement. The author, Michael Davis, is detailed to a fault. It seems very unnecessary to find out the meals served at important meetings or the History of every single person that ever was a PA on the show. In his efforts to give a complete History, Davis alienated me. I started this book back in December and have had to read it in s This book took a long time to get through, because it was a very dry read. The title is “Street Gangs: The Complete History of Sesame Street.” This is not an understatement. The author, Michael Davis, is detailed to a fault. It seems very unnecessary to find out the meals served at important meetings or the History of every single person that ever was a PA on the show. In his efforts to give a complete History, Davis alienated me. I started this book back in December and have had to read it in small chunks to get through it. If you can get passed the inane details, the History of Sesame Street is actually very interesting. This is the story, not only of Sesame Street, but of the children’s shows that predated it. It also has a lot of interesting History of the 70’s and 80’s, especially we regard to the social climate. The book also had a fair bit of the creative side of Sesame Street, with Jim Henson and his Muppets. In particular, I liked the bits about writing for the show and the musical talent. Thank You to Gothamgal for bookcrossing this book to me!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susie

    I didn't really know how to rate this. The information in this book is incredibly interesting, but that is all that really carries the book because the editing is TERRIBLE in so many ways. The chapter organization hardly makes sense. There are clear errors throughout (one time the author called Joan Ganz Cooney's - one of Children's Television Workshop's founders - mother by her sister's name. A clear error that anyone who was paying attention would have caught. it annoyed me). Also, it feels as I didn't really know how to rate this. The information in this book is incredibly interesting, but that is all that really carries the book because the editing is TERRIBLE in so many ways. The chapter organization hardly makes sense. There are clear errors throughout (one time the author called Joan Ganz Cooney's - one of Children's Television Workshop's founders - mother by her sister's name. A clear error that anyone who was paying attention would have caught. it annoyed me). Also, it feels as if Davis just did many many interviews and a ton of (really good) research then literally DUMPED it all in the book. However, I loved this book for it's subject matter. It could have been the crappiest book ever written (as it turns out, it's only the 2nd crappiest-edited book I've ever read), yet it's subject matter just makes it absolutely fascinating. I didn't want to put it down even though I was definitely annoyed with the English errors. I recommend this to anyone who ever loved Sesame Street.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Simpson

    I have a two-year old who loves Sesame Street. And I still pretty much love it, too. Getting to read a book like this when the show is so front and center in my life was a treat. The care and diligence that Michael Davis put into this book is clear, and he makes the bureaucratic whirlwind that led to the initial season really, really interesting, all while letting Jim Henson and his creations take a back seat. It's a great read for any fan of the show. I really liked it, but I think it peters out I have a two-year old who loves Sesame Street. And I still pretty much love it, too. Getting to read a book like this when the show is so front and center in my life was a treat. The care and diligence that Michael Davis put into this book is clear, and he makes the bureaucratic whirlwind that led to the initial season really, really interesting, all while letting Jim Henson and his creations take a back seat. It's a great read for any fan of the show. I really liked it, but I think it peters out towards the end, and gives the last 15-20 years a pretty short shrift. The latter particularly bugged me, because the show is such a part of my life right now. I want to hear about whether it's just my imagination, or is there a greater emphasis on parodies these days. I want to hear how Rosita was conceived. I want to hear the show's response to charges that Abby Cadabby is a shameless cash-in on girly-girl culture. I want to hear about the newer human cast members, and how they've worked with the ones who have been there for decades. Nonetheless, it's a great book.

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