One of the great strengths of Sesame Street since its earliest days has been its ability to simultaneously cater to both its core audience of very pre-school and young school age children and to the adults who often watch the show alongside their kids.
The liberal sprinkling of knowing references to things that only adults will comprehend – nothing too R-rated naturally but certainly above the heads of any of the youngsters watching – has meant that while mum or dad, or both are keeping young Jill or Joe company, they aren’t bored out of their brains and are more likely to keep the TV on.
More importantly, it meant that rather than abandoning their children to the TV and leaving it to function as a well-educated babysitter with impeccable spelling and numeracy skills (and a giant yellow six year old bird), they were apt to stick around and make learning a collaborative experience.
Part of this imaginative tradition of keeping the adults happy while the kids learn their ABCs and 123s, has been the affectionate of everything from Star Wars to Boardwalk Empire, Law and Order to The Apprentice (check out a great list of Sesame Street parodies here.)
And now current TV sensation, Downton Abbey, has joined this long and illustrious list with an affectionate send up that, in line with Sesame Street usual love of the absurd, goes all out to poke gentle fun at the show while explaining the concept of upside down and why it can be such a pain (falling steak and kidney pies among them, and it appears eventual starvation, a fate that is certainly not befitting of a countess, I’m sure).
As always it is highly entertaining, downright delightfully silly, and educational as well, and as good a sign as any that Sesame Street is as relevant and “with it” as it’s ever been.
Sesame Street will air all new episodes from 4 February (US time) and you can catch the spoof in that new batch of educational goodness.