When Sesame Street made the move over to HBO earlier this year, audiences were skeptical, but, judging by the lack of Twitter outrage, either everyone forgot to keep caring, or the transition was actually a fine one. From what those with kids (tiny humans you keep like pets, for the rest of us) have told me, the switch from an hour format to half hour may actually be a smart move, attention-span-wise, and the new episodes will move to another platform after an exclusive 9-month run on HBO, so we poors will still eventually have access. Most importantly, it sounds like the show still feels like Sesame Street. It’s no small feat that 46 seasons in, new network or not, it’s maintained its core essence.
Until a few days ago, that is, when HBO and Sesame Street messed things up in a major way, by firing three human characters who had been a part of this neighborhood for decades: Bob, Luis and Gordon.
Apparently HBO is going to start killing off characters on "Sesame Street" like they do on "Game of Thrones."— Ryan Teague Beckwith (@ryanbeckwith) July 28, 2016
HBO stands for "Horribly Bad Owners" now that they've canned 3 of my favorite Sesame Street actors. Bye, childhood. https://t.co/D0lYogkPMG— Kelli Russell Agodon (@KelliAgodon) July 28, 2016
The HBO-owned Sesame Street fired Luis and Gordon. This is what TV gentrification looks like: Buy the ghetto, ditch the old brown people.— Baenardin (@marcbernardin) July 28, 2016
I know HBO (and Children’s Workshop) is a business, and they’re trying to create a product kids today will relate to. If my nieces and friends’ kids are any indication, Elmo is more likely to grab their attention than a human face, especially that of an older, gentler actor. I’m not saying I agree with the decision (not at all), but who the hell am I to say for sure that this was the wrong decision in how to keep kids engaged?
However, what is undeniably shitty is the way in which this “retooling” was handled. First of all, Sesame Street continues to deny any meddling by HBO. Yet, by all other accounts, that’s just not true. Also, these veteran actors weren’t even given the respect of a press release. Instead, this story broke when Bob McGrath (aka “Bob) spoke at Florida Supercon.
As of this season, I have completed my 45th season this year. And the show has gone under a major turnaround, going from an hour to a half hour. HBO has gotten involved also. And they let all of the original cast members go, with the exception of Alan Muraoka — who is probably 20 years younger than the rest of us — and Chris Knowings, who is also young.
The upside to all of this is that the outrage from audiences past and present, amplified and unified by social media, got Sesame Street to address and possibly reverse the decision.
Regarding our beloved cast members: pic.twitter.com/NzZ3HAuIc6— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) July 28, 2016
The downside is that their apology makes the way they initially handled all of this sound even worse. This reads like they didn’t even let these actors, these crucial figures in so many of our childhoods, know they were being let go. It sounds like they just changed the locks on their dressing rooms.
They “certainly could have done a better job of communicating with them about our ongoing episode plans”? YA THINK? Dammit, Sesame Street, you cannot ghost on a decades-long relationship and then try to pull the “I’ve just been really busy lately” line. You don’t get to “new phone, who dis” your most veteran actors. If they’re going to be relegated to live appearances or spokespeople only, that’s not the worst thing, but get your shit together and have the decency to tell them (AND US) to their faces.