Today, as a popular baby-sitter on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the empathetic Dingle often turns to the TV show and its familiar characters, songs and skits to help break the ice with her young charges. " 'Sesame Street' has saved me many times," said Dingle, 23.
In turn, the first 45 minutes of "Sesame Street" promises to be a tighter production with clearer themes and a renewed emphasis on the original neighborhood and its best-known denizens, including Big Bird and Oscar, Elmo and Zoe, Rosita, Telly and Baby Bear. Big Bird, who was featured less frequently in recent years despite market research showing him to be the show's most popular character, is supposed to show up in every episode this season. Similarly, Mr. Hooper's Store, the timeless soda fountain where humor and wisdom were always dispensed in equal measure, will be used as a frequent backdrop once more. The store has a new proprietor too, named Alan (Alan Muraoka).
In its return to the basics, the reformatted show will also emphasize about 10 classic "Sesame Street" songs--original numbers such as "Sing," "Bein' Green," "People in Your Neighborhood" and "Rubber Duckie"--instead of constantly introducing new music. The program's creators are hoping that kids will be more inclined to sing along if presented familiar tunes and that, despite all the changes to the program, they and their parents will feel very much at home. Even the opening has been re-shot in a throwback to the original scene of children blithely following Big Bird through Central Park on their way to Sesame Street.