EverythingAEs A-OK

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 10, 2009 | Go to article overview

EverythingAEs A-OK


Byline: Frazier Moore Associated Press

NEW YORK u Big Bird is leaving Sesame Street!

ThatAEs what he decides on the "Sesame Street" season opener. A rapping real-estate agent pitches him on migrating to a new habitat ("habitat," the episodeAEs "Word on the Street"). After sizing up a beach and a swamp for his new habitat, Big Bird chooses a rain forest.

But then he comes to his senses with a musical number.

"Sesame Street is my habitat!" he sings. "Sesame Street is my home!"

Indeed, Big Bird u that towering, yellow-feathered 6-year-old u has been calling Sesame Street home since the show premiered on Nov. 10, 1969.

Now, as it marks its 40th anniversary today on PBS, he remains an essential member of the flock.

He is still brought to life by Caroll Spinney, who also plays trash-can denizen Oscar the Grouch. Spinney is one of but a few charter members of the show still on the Street. Among them: Bob McGrath (Bob) and Loretta Long (Susan), as well as camera man Frankie Biondo.

Hand-picked by Muppet-meister Jim Henson, Spinney was 35 when "Sesame Street" began. He turns 76 the day after Christmas.

In his dressing room at Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, where the show is taped, he

was pondering an existential question not long ago.

"If you didnAEt know when you were born, how old would you think you are?" he mused. "I can apply that to Sesame StreetAEs longevity: It seems like years, but IAEd NEVER guess 40!"

Maybe thatAEs because, even at 40, the self-renewing "Sesame Street" is forever young.

"We think of every year as experimental," says Carol-Lynn Parente, the showAEs executive producer, "and this new season is just part of that continuing evolution. To meet expectations of its audience 40 years later, each new episode has been reformatted as an hourlong block composed of modular programming parts.

Murray Monster, a lively orange Muppet, hosts each episodeAEs four segments. These include Abby Cadabby in the new "AbbyAEs Flying Fairy School," which marks the first time a "Sesame Street" character has been transformed into CGI animation. The program is also kicking off "My World Is Green & Growing," a two-year science initiative designed to increase positive attitudes toward nature and the environment. …

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