Sesame Street

On-air since 1969, it's been called the quintessential children's educational show, the loveable creation of Jim Henson.

Sesame Street is an educational television program for young children. It was first broadcast on November 10, 1969 in the U.S. on the National Educational Television network which later became the Public Broadcasting System.

The program uses a mixture of puppets, animation and live action to teach young children basic reading and arithmetic, for example, colors, letters, numbers and the days of the week. It also has segments focusing on basic life-skills, such as how to cross the road safely or the importance of basic hygiene. It is also famous for its use of the Muppet characters created by Jim Henson.

Parodies of popular televison ideas, programmes or cliches have also been a feature of the show over the years. Most famous of these would be the Cookie Monster as 'Alister Cookie' presenting 'Monsterpiece Theatre'. Sesame Street's format of themed segments and sketches within a daily theme and on going characterisation was revolutionary when introduced and has been copied, adopted and built upon by much of contemporary children's educational television.

Another deliberate and strong feature of the show has been its commitment to multiculturalism. From the start the actors hired have covered a wide spectrum of age, colour and disability - almost as wide ranging as the muppets. A Spanish-language version called Plaza Sesamo is produced jointly by Sesame Workshop and the Mexican TV station Televisa, and is estimated to reach 84% of Spanish-speaking households in the US. Alternate versions are also produced in exist in Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Mexico and South Africa.

The programme has not been afraid to court controversy. When the long-serving actor playing Mr.Hooper died in 1982, rather than write him out, the producers decided to have the character die on the show. The episode where Big Bird has to come to terms with the loss of his friend earned the show an Emmy. The South African version of the show now has a character called Kami who is HIV-positive.

Now an institution, Sesame street continues to entertain and educate children the world over and seems likely to do so for some time.