If you are under the age of 50, there’s a good chance you are fiercely attached toSesame Street, the show that shepherded so many of us through our toddler years.
You may remember sitting in rapt attention, wondering if anybody would believe that Mr. Snuffleupagus was real, or giggling hysterically about Oscar the Grouch’s musical ode to trash. For generations of viewers, Sesame Street is a portal to a simpler, more innocent time in their lives. This creates something of a quandary for the show’s producers: how do you keep evolving a show so it doesn’t get stale without offending its devoted fans?
“It’s a lot harder than we make it look,” says Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of Sesame Workshop, who’s spent 25 years lovingly crafting the content of the show. “When you’re trying to keep a brand that is 45 years old fresh, you have to do it within the essence of what it is. Trying to stay relevant within the confines of people’s expectations is a tricky fence to walk.”
To make things even more complicated, Parente tells Fast Company that Sesame Street–whose 45th season launches today–is written on two levels: for children, of course, but also for the parents who are watching with them. She says the show was never meant to simply educate children, but to foster better communication between toddlers and their caregivers. “The show has to be furry, heartfelt, educational, funny, and clever for both adults and children,” she says. “Any piece of content you produce always has to be some version of all of those things mixed into one.”
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