Street Gang: How we Got to Sesame Street begins with a look back in time. The year is 1981, and we are in New York City behind the scenes on the set of Sesame Street. More than twelve million American children watch what goes on in Sesame Street on an average day. To help us meet several key players that got the show underway, the documentary introduces us to Jon Stone, the show’s first producer. In the present day, Jon still enjoys directing Sesame Street episodes, but back at the beginning, Jon was responsible for creating the show’s tone and atmosphere. Funny enough, Jon never thought he would ever work on a children television program until he met a woman named Joan Cooney. Joan worked as a television producer who decided to think out of the box, including asking the powerful question of what if people on TV could love people instead of just trying to sell something? Well, history was certainly changed forever.
Growing up, Sesame Street was what I would watch straight after a day at school, and I always loved it. Having grown up with the series, it’s quite interesting to go back and learn how this show got off the ground, even more so seeing old footage and watching the cast and crew come together as they plan, create, test and share countless ideas. This documentary is insightful, and introduces us to the show’s educators, producers and writers who were later known as The Children’s Television Workshop.
The film also gives great insight into a young child’s mind, thanks to child psychologist Lloyd Morrisett. Lloyd originally reached out to the TV producer Joan Cooney, and shared his heart and desire to help young children by using TV. He identified the current challenges in schools, including young children struggling to advance in grade levels, bullying and struggling to learn anything new. Before Sesame Street, kids would often sing songs from popular commercials they had seen on TV, promoting alcohol and other products, which is not ideal for a young heart. But once upon a time, this is all the world of TV could offer.
But even when filming began on Sesame Street and the world was starting to appreciate what the team had created, the documentary reveals that the series still had its major challenges. Some of these challenges included the staff working non-stop on set, struggling to develop countless new jingles and attempting to find ways to tackle touching topics such as racism and death.
Overall, having watched Sesame Street a lot as a young boy, I found this documentary highly insightful, pleasing with many heartfelt and sad moments. Have you ever wondered how one of the world’s most beloved TV programs came to be? Well, the answers are here. It’s a positive experience that gives deep insights thanks to old set footage and interviews from key cast and crew. Getting the series off the ground had its challenges behind the scenes, and I found myself surprised by this documentary’s information. I found this documentary, in the end, to be fascinating. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (2021) is Now Available in select Cinemas and on Digital.