It's the 40th anniversary of "Sesame Street," which means the show has been around for almost as long as I can remember. I do remember its being a new show, which we watched instead of our previous favorite, "The Banana Splits Club." In fact, because "The Banana Splits Club" featured actors in giant puppet-like suits, I think I must have just figured that "Sesame Street" was a grittier, more urban version of the same kind of show. It too had cartoons and short films, and if those happened to be about numbers and letters, I didn't see that as being so different from the cartoons about pirates and monsters. Which I guess was the point.
Anyway, I am still very fond of the Muppets on Sesame Street, and these are my favorites. You will not find Elmo on this list. Vote for your own in the comments section.
1. The Count. I still know all the words to "The Song of the Count," and most of the words to the "Transylvania Polka." So much to admire about the Count: he's suave, he's debonair, he's got that great accent, he's a really interesting pink/purple color. Of course, my passion for the Count might explain why I never really learned to count past 10. "Ten, ten, wonderful ten! Then I start again."
2. Snuffleupagus. In the early years, Snuffleupagus was visible only to Big Bird, and the rest of Sesame Street thought he was Big Bird's imaginary friend. I don't know who made the decision to make him "real," or why. The humans' unwillingness to believe Big Bird made me horribly anxious, and must have done the same to other children, but I still think that was a valuable lesson for kids. In the name of safety, today's society doesn't allow children to have secrets. I guess that's a necessary trade-off, but it's also a loss.
3. Guy Smiley. "America's Favorite Game Show Host." Not all of Jim Henson's characters survived him, and Guy Smiley disappeared for a while. I heard they were bringing him back, but I haven't watched "Sesame Street" in a long time.
4. Grover. "It is I, your lovable, furry friend Grover." Did you ever notice that Grover speaks in complete, grammatically correct sentences, without contractions? Well, he does. How could you not love him? My brother James had a book called The Monster at the End of this Book, featuring Grover, who ran in fear from page to page pleading with kids to stop turning the pages — until he and the reader realized that the monster at the end of the book was Grover himself. Heavy-duty metaphysical stuff to be laying on kids, if you ask me. I applaud that.
5. Oscar. Moody? Me? Personality is hardwired; the child was the mother of the woman, and I was an irritable kid. I was (and am) also a terrible slob. It's why Oscar lives alone, and so do I. Oscar was much crankier when I was a kid than he is now; these days he's more likely to show his heart of gold, and we've learned that he has a whole Grouch family and various Grouch activities. Oscar and I disagree on anchovies; he likes them, I don't. Also, I have a dog instead of a worm for a pet. Other than that . . .