In a lot of ways, my childhood, which involved consuming countless hours of Sesame Street at my leisure (including the gorgeous Grover, and Ernie and Bert) feels like it all happened a million years ago.
It’s probably partly the passage of time and partly the fact that the world today’s kids inhabit is so much more frenetic, more demanding, and yes less far more mobile and on the go than it used to be.
You are an unusual child these days if you’re not competing in at least two or three different sports in the year, learning a musical instrument or two, attending after school tuition, learning to weave Oscar the Grouch toys out of string cheese (OK that may not happen often but how cool would it be if it did right?) and racing around like itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny iPad-enabled versions of their over-scheduled frazzled parents.
And it’s all happening on the move, with increasing numbers of pre-school aged kids consuming content on the go, as they zip from here to there and back again.
Recognising that times have indeed changed and attention spans aren’t what they were, even the great and venerable and justifiably much-loved institution of Sesame Street, a dependable part of life right through my childhood and of course still going strong today, has had to yield to this fast-paced breakneck new dynamic.
The Public Broadcasting Service in America (PBS) has just announced that it will be launching a half hour version of the existing hourlong format, which will continue to broadcast in the mornings, which will go to air as part of their afternoon lineup from 1 September.
The creation of the extra slimmed-down version of the nearly 45 year old show – it first went to air on 10 November 1969 – will “still be hitting the whole-child curriculum” said Terry Fitzpatrick, chief content and distribution officer at Sesame Workshop in an article that appeared on the New York Times website, although it won’t contain “features like ‘Elmo the Musical’ or ‘Abby’s Flying Fairy School’.”
The move has been triggered by the increasing viewing of Sesame Street on mobile devices, including PBS’s mobile app and its Roku Channel, where shorter shows of about half-hour duration work better than the traditional hour long format, both in terms of modern schedules and preschoolers attention spans.
This move to a shorter version of the show, which in effect gives the world 50% more Elmo in their day which can never be a bad things, is yet another sign that Sesame Street, which has has always happily updated itself and moved with the times, is going to continue to be a vital and well-consumed part of kids’ lives even in this crazy busy age.
This Sesame Street update has been brought to you by the letters “R”, “U”, “S” and “H” and the numbers “1 … 2 … 3 … GO!”