If you haven’t watched “Sesame Street” since you were a kid, you’d probably be disappointed by the (de)evolution of the show. The biggest change over the years is that, with the exception of some fairly great celebrity cameos (Paul Rudd and John Legend have been my favorites) and a stellar “Mad Men” parody, “Sesame Street” doesn’t hold a secret allure for adults like it once did.
The humor and pop-culture riffs are not as sophisticated, and that’s not because “Sesame Street” has dumbed down over the years; it’s because it’s geared its content toward younger children. It used to be a show targeted at kindergarteners and early grade-schoolers, but what they found was that parents were plunking their kids down in front of “Sesame Street” at an earlier and earlier age. So, now “Sesame Street” blends in considerably more cartoon animation, spends less time with Henson’s muppet creations and more time with their computer-animated counterparts, and — of course — Elmo has become a dominant fixture on the show. Originally introduced to appeal to two and three years old, “Elmo’s World” now fills the last 15-20 minutes of each episode with the grating, high-pitched squeals.
That sucks for parents stuck in the same room with their kids, but on the other hand, it’s better to have your three-year-old watching “Elmo’s World” than having his brain scrambled by “Spongebob Squarepants” (no offense to “Spongebob,” who can be funny, but that type of non-sequitur humor Swiss-cheeses the brain of a toddler trying to make logical connections in the world). The question is, now that 20th Century Fox has picked up the film rights to “Sesame Street,” will the eventual movie appeal to adults — like Jason Segel’s Muppet Movie — or will it continue “Sesame Street’s” trend toward appealing to younger and younger kids? The fact that Shawn Levy — the director behind the Night at the Museum movies — is set to produce probably means low-brow comedy, but lots of adult celebrities.
But then, if they can reprise Ricky Gervais’ cameo and song, all will be forgiven.