Photo: ‘Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street’
‘Street Gang’ – Behind the Scenes of Childhood
Behind every great show are hundreds of people that devote their time to making it great. ‘Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street’ is about the people that knew how important this was and spent most of their lives making it. This documentary goes back in time and explores the beginnings of the show and what it was going to be. Through archival footage and present and past interviews of the creators, HBO does a remarkable job telling the origin story of one of the most popular children’s programming ever. Every journey has its twists and turns and this is no exception. The dark is shown, but the light of the show will forever shine brighter.
Behind the scenes, films have grown in popularity as people want to look back at the entertainment that impacted their lives. ‘The Movies That Made Us’ on Netflix is a prime example of that. With people not only increasing their interest in the film industry but also understanding the rights of the crew and the importance of safety as well. It is great to see the dedication to a project, but sacrificing sleep and social time with family and friends can be damaging. Taking everything with a grain of salt while embracing that things are different now and we continue to strive for safety, fair pay, and respect.
There are a ton of great facts and information that is uncovered during this film, but one that really stood out was their pre-production process. It’s known that making a film doesn’t happen overnight, it could take years to get a script off the ground before making it in front of a camera. What this show did was research, trial, and error for the show and see how kids respond to it. This was the first show that was going to be for educational purposes for children rather than for commercial use. They wanted to make it count and make sure it worked. Seeing the importance of the muppets being added to the show because that is what the kids responded to the most was incredibly interesting. Jim Henson’s muppets were made for adult programming at the time so adding him on was a huge shift for him.
The writers also worked with teachers who helped them learn how to bring in different learning techniques so no child was left behind. It’s rare to see writers and teachers work together without overpowering each other. They knew at the end of the day this was for the children and that is what was most important. Jon Stone was vital to producing and directing the show, he never let anyone lose sight of what was important. This is definitely something that people in the industry must make note of and take the time to perfect their pre-production to make sure what they create impacts the viewer.
‘Sesame Street’ – Importance of Diversity
‘Sesame Street’ first aired in 1969 on the Public Broadcasting Station and the impact that it left was huge. Not only was it the first show to serve for educational and entertainment purposes, but also the people that were on the show were not what people were used to seeing. Of course, the monsters are the real stars on the show, but the people that were featured were all of different races. Showing a sense of community and neighborliness despite the color of their skin. Gordon, originally played by Matt Robinson and then replaced by Roscoe Orman, was a Black man that the children adored. He would help them with their problems and give them teachable moments.
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It’s outrageous to think this was mind-blowing at a point in time, but it was. There was also the Mexican character Luis played by Emilio Delgado. He said in his interview this was the first role where the character wasn’t a gang member or a drug dealer, just a friendly neighbor who owned a store. Last but not least is Maria played by Sonia Manzano, a Hispanic neighbor helping the muppets learn. These three characters really changed the game for children’s programming, for the first time they are seeing characters that look like themselves on screen.
Sadly, the 1970s was still filled with racism and the backlash of having this diversity on TV really turned some off. Mississippi State Commission for Educational Television banned the show six months after its premiere. They denied the claims of the diverse cast being the reason for the ban but just thought it wasn’t good for children. The ban only lasted 22 days because of the backlash. The state that needed public education the most were the only ones to turn their backs on the opportunity.
HBO does a tremendous job with producing documentaries. ‘Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street’ has a wonderful rhythm to it and integrates the archived footage seamlessly with the present interviews. Unfolding the origin of a show that impacted entertainment history is critical and could easily be a snooze fest, but it was fascinating to see all of the behind-the-scenes footage of ou favorite characters. Big props go to the director Marilyn Agrelo as she brought Michael Davis’ story to life.
The story of the documentary was always based around the show, but the side story of the struggles of the creators and stars was interweaved perfectly. In some documentaries, certain b-plots begin to take over, but this was balanced and done well. A round of applause must go to the editor, Ben Gold. This is definitely a must-watch for everyone that spent time learning their ABCs with Big Bird and Cookie Monster.
Stream ‘Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street’ on HBO Max now.
Stream ‘Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street’ on HBO here.
Actors (self): Jon Stone, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Joan Ganz Cooney, Christopher Cerf, Roscoe Orman, Sonia Manzano, Matt Robinson, Emilio Delgado |
Directed by: Marilyn Agrelo | Based on the book by: Michael Davis| Produced by: Trevor Crafts, Lisa Diamond, Nancy Abraham, and Matthew Helderman
By Jack Colin
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Jack Colin is a playwright and screenwriter with an immense love for film & television which drives him to learn from and share his passion with anyone willing to listen. Living life as a trans man, Jack wants his writing to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ members and share the positive stories that are so often ignored through his work at The Hollywood Insider, he is eager to give readers a confident outlook on life. The storytellers of the world are the ones who decide what happiness can be. Jack takes pride in The Hollywood Insider’s mission statement to stray away from gossip and to lift up voices in entertainment with supportive and meaningful stories that will promote strength and unity.