When I was offered the chance to review Sesame Street, Old School Volume 3, the latest collection of classic Sesame Street episodes on DVD, I jumped at the chance. I had bought the first two Old School sets and had been amazed by what could be found within -- even one of the show's "test pilots," before there even was a Big Bird, is on one of the previous volumes. I was also impressed with how smart the shows were... watching, it's no wonder I could read before I got to kindergarten.
I was also excited because this latest set, distributed by Warner Home Video, covers 1979-1984... in other words, the exact era in which I would have been watching, having been born in December 1977. That means very little Elmo, but more Telly Monster, Forgetful Jones, and other characters of that era. We even have Kermit the Frog with the news! The set includes the season premieres from those five seasons.
Content-wise, the episodes can't be beat. A trip to Puerto Rico makes it clear to me how I knew some Spanish when I was very young. An episode where Big Bird goes to school is included, as is one where he runs the New York City Marathon, all the while trying to convince everyone else that Snuffleupagus is real and is coming to run. A "bird watchers" episode featuring the legendary Madeline Kahn is also included, as are highlights from each given year. The set brings a smile to my face, even though I'm about 30 years beyond the target demographic, just because it pushes every single nostalgia button. Well, almost every. I'll get to that in a bit.
Bonuses also include an interview with Carroll Spinney (the man behind Big Bird) and clips from the famous episode where they talk about the fact that Mr. Hooper has died. This historic episode is one of my earliest "TV events" in memory, and may have been how I and many others of my generation first learned about death. I love that these clips are within, by the way, though I wish they had just included the entire episode rather than just a few clips, for context.
I don't know what Sesame Street is like nowadays. When I've seen parts, it's always an Elmo cartoon or something flashier than what we had. But "what we had" was educational, entertaining, and well-written... I wouldn't trade that for the world. And who knows, those readers with children might even find that it is just as educational for today's child as it was in the past, even if it's presented in a different way.
Sounds perfect, right? Unfortunately... it's not. While clearances were made to include appearances by such characters as Kermit The Frog, Beetle Bailey, and even Richie Cunningham and the Fonz within this set, I can only assume that the clearance was not made for the theme music/opening sequence, which is such a bummer, because that is such an iconic thing that sets the mood for the episodes. I'm assuming the clips are not lost, as I've seen the openings for some of these episode on Youtube, so I can only assume someone along the line got cheap. That's really disappointing, as, again, it is an irreplaceable thing that makes Sesame Street, well, Sesame Street. Instead, we get a cheap-looking title card with the episode number, narrated (I think) by Carroll Spinney. This also means we don't have the closing credits, either, which means no "kids running around chasing Barkley the dog." Or at least, that's what I remember from childhood. Then again, I also thought Barkley was a one-eyed dog; so what did I know?
Assuming there is a Volume 4, we'll be hitting territory I've never seen, but I'm on board. Clearing the opening credits might help sway me, though. All in all - don't let this glaring omission ruin what makes for a whole day's trip down memory lane.
Sesame Street, Old School Volume 3 hits DVD on Tuesday, November 6. Order yours from Amazon.com and support this site!