“Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street,” is a nostalgic, honest biography of a beloved television series, from how it was born to how it transitioned over the years.
Director Marilyn Agrelo’ takes us back to the beginning with her documentary about the show that wouldn’t have happened unless certain people had met at a particular time and agreed that children deserved better programming.
Psychologist Lloyd Morrisett and producer Joan Ganz Cooney came up with the notion that children’s television could be educational as well as entertaining. After Cooney brought in retired director Jon Stone, he in turn connected with puppeteer Jim Henson.
I love Cooney’s theory about commercial jingles. She figured that, if kids could sing beer commercials after hearing them, they could learn their letters and numbers in songs, too.
The first four, and the incredibly talented writers Christopher Cerf and Joe Raposo, created the unique show, with young urban children in mind, that seemed to come along exactly when it was needed.
One of the most interesting – and sad – sequences involves Matt Robinson, who first played Gordon. The forward-thinking Robinson created Roosevelt Franklin, a character that created some controversy and finally was omitted from the show, resulting in Robinson’s departure, too.
Another earnest portion of the show reminds viewers just how dedicated those involved with the show were – to the detriment of working such long hours to provide top-notch children’s programming that they essentially ignored their own children.
Other scenes are imply delightful, with children and celebrities alike interacting with various Muppets as if they are real.
Some of the finest moments are at the very end, which you won’t want to miss in this enjoyable documentary about how children learn – and how a handful of people revolutionized television.
3 ½ stars
Streaming on Fandango, Vudu and prime vide.
Running time: One hour and 47 minutes.
Rated: PG for brief foul language.