theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

Entertainment

October 17, 2012

Slate's Explainer: Why isn't Big Bird on a major network?

Big Bird has emerged as the surprise star of the 2012 campaign. Mitt Romney says he likes Big Bird but wants to cut federal funding to PBS, while the big yellow bird has appeared in an ad made by President Obama's campaign. Why is "Sesame Street" on public television, anyway?

Because the networks turned it down. In 1967, a couple of years before the first episode of "Sesame Street" aired on PBS, one of the co-founders of the Children's Television Workshop pitched the concept to executives at NBC and CBS. They both passed on the opportunity, as did Time-Life Broadcasting and Westinghouse. The problem wasn't that the show was for children: Captain Kangaroo had already been a modest success on CBS for 12 years, and the networks had offered periodic programming for preschoolers. But Children's Television Workshop was a somewhat revolutionary idea in 1967. It had a strongly academic bent, drawing together child psychiatrists and child-development researchers from the ivory tower in a way that suggested profit wasn't their motivation. Its executives also refused to allow commercials to interrupt the program, although they were open to ads at the beginning and end. The Children's Television Workshop leadership also insisted that the show focus on disadvantaged urban kids, rejecting calls from television producers that they broaden the target demographic to all preschool children.

PBS desperately needed a winner in the late 1960s and was willing to take a chance. Some PBS programming was so poor that The New York Times television critic noted, "congressmen could scarcely be blamed for wondering if a huge permanent investment in noncommercial video is warranted." "Sesame Street" was exactly the kind of innovative show that could change the narrative about public broadcasting.

It's an odd quirk of history that Bert and Ernie's first-ever television appearance came not on PBS, but in a preview on NBC. And commercialism was the first thing viewers saw: A Muppet noted that Xerox had sponsored the preview, in a move that infuriated some "Sesame Street" executives.

"Sesame Street" has always had an uncomfortable relationship with money. After the show became a smash success, producers worried that the foundations that paid to get the show off the ground would expect it to sustain itself. Some executives adamantly opposed any attempt at merchandising. Even Jim Henson, who was already making money merchandising his comedic Muppets, opposed doing the same with more the educational "Sesame Street" characters. Eventually, however, the prospect of becoming a self-financing model convinced most of the creators that Oscar the Grouch dolls wouldn't tarnish the program.

     

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Entertainment
  • 887805_56493274.jpg Slate: The 10 best movies of 2012

    For the second year in a row, there weren't that many movies jostling behind the velvet rope to get onto my 10-best list. Still, when it came down to distilling a whole year's worth of viewing into just 10 titles, I found with relief that it was impossible to remain stingy with my accolades: There were enough films that genuinely thrilled me this year to fill up a list, and then some.

    December 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 512141_85489295.jpg Slate's definitive Christmas playlist

    There are plenty of people who loathe Christmas music or tire of it quickly, and it can be easy to see why: Every year brings fruitless attempts to introduce a new song into the canon or put a new spin on a holiday classic, and that can be a drag.

    December 19, 2012 1 Photo

  • 800px-Obama_and_Biden_await_updates_on_bin_Laden.jpg In movie, she's a hero. In real life, it's complicated.

    She was a real-life heroine of the CIA hunt for Osama bin Laden, a headstrong young operative whose work tracking the al-Qaida leader serves as the dramatic core of a Hollywood film set to premiere next week.

    December 12, 2012 1 Photo

  • Keeping Pace Acclaimed historical interpreter to portray American humorist

     

    Acclaimed Chautauqua historical interpreter Charles Everett Pace will portray American humorist and poet Langston Hughes as part of East Central University’s 17th Annual Literary Arts Festival on Nov. 8.

     

    November 7, 2012 1 Photo

  • MEXICO OPERA182.jpg Opera takes hold in Mexico's dangerous cities

    In high times and low, Mexicans turn to their music. To love, to lament, there's Mexican music for every occasion: poetic ballads, bouncy polkas, rodeo rancheras, plus goth rock, marimba, Mexican metal, you name it.
    And then there's opera.

    October 19, 2012 1 Photo

  • DEGENERES18.jpg DeGeneres receives Mark Twain prize for American humor

    It's hard to remember now, but about a dozen years ago, Ellen DeGeneres was dead in the water.
    The nice girl from New Orleans with the sunny disposition and the squeaky-clean comedy act had been a star with her own sitcom, "Ellen." But then she had come out as gay, such big news at the time that it landed her on the cover of Time magazine. Then her character on the show came out. Then she and her partner at the time, actress Anne Heche, were very kissy-kissy in public.

    October 19, 2012 1 Photo

  • Microsoft to begin rolling out Xbox music service

    Microsoft's Internet music service will roll out starting Tuesday on Xbox and next week on computers with Windows 8, as the company looks to compete against Pandora Media and Spotify.

    October 17, 2012

  • 98348_8148.jpg SLIDESHOW: America's 13 best haunted houses HauntedHouseRatings.com has released its list of the best haunted houses in America. Here are the top 13.

    October 17, 2012

  • Screen shot 2012-10-10 at 4.56.36 PM.png Slate's Explainer: Why isn't Big Bird on a major network?

    Big Bird has emerged as the surprise star of the 2012 campaign. Mitt Romney says he likes Big Bird but wants to cut federal funding to PBS, while the big yellow bird has appeared in an ad made by President Obama's campaign. Why is "Sesame Street" on public television, anyway?

    October 17, 2012 1 Photo

  • Study: Politically outspoken celebrities will see likability ratings fall


    In this presidential election season, when celebrities endorse candidates while talking to empty chairs, engage in political debates on Twitter and encourage the rest of us to vote via cleverly edited YouTube clips, a new university study suggests that, perhaps, they might all be better off keeping their mouths shut.

    October 9, 2012

AP Video
Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Stocks
Poll

For years, Oklahoma was a mostly Democratic state. In recent years, there has been a swing to Republican affiliation. Have you changed your political affiliation to Republican?

Yes
No
     View Results