Sesame Street is getting creatively overhauled for season 56. The long-running PBS educational children's program features live-action sketches, animation, and Jim Henson's the Muppets.
“With any change you have evolutions, and then you have things that are slightly bigger steps, while still staying core to who we are,” says Steve Youngwood, the CEO of Sesame Workshop, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “We felt like this was a moment to step back and think bigger about how we evolve it.”
The most apparent change is that Sesame Street will drop the “magazine”-style format in favor of two 11-minute story segments with a new animated series, Tales from 123, shoehorned in between. Kay Wilson Stallings, the executive VP and chief creative development and production officer for Sesame Workshop, describes the changes as a “reimagining” of the show. “It’s going to give us an opportunity to dive further into the narrative,” says Wilson Stallings. “Both the A story and the B story will come together in some way to really help us with whatever curricular focus that we’re trying to have, what lesson we’re trying to make. Kids love a little bit of peril, they love having emotional stakes, and in nine minutes, it’s kind of hard to really dive into those areas really effectively. And so, by opening up these segments and making them longer, it’s going to give us an opportunity to really serve up what we know from research, what we know from across the industry, what we know from our curriculum and education experts, what we know kids are looking for.”
The Upcoming Sesame Street Changes Are the Most Significant Ones Since 2016
In 2016, Sesame Street went from 1 hour to 30 minutes but kept the magazine-style format. The show debuted on PBS in 1969 and is one of the longest-running TV shows in history. In 2016 — the same year episodes were shortened to 30 minutes — Sesame Street also became available on HBO and, now, Max. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Sesame Street is nearing the end of a five-year deal with Warner Bros. Discovery, which debuts new episodes on its Max streaming service (the episodes also air on PBS after a nine-month delay).”
With regard to the new animated series Tales from 123 (pictured), Wilson Stallings says that it “for the very first time will give viewers an opportunity to go inside 123 Sesame Street, which is probably the most famous apartment building in the world. And there, beyond the stoop, is where monsters and humans and fairies and dinosaurs and talking numbers and letters and even food will call home. So this will be a great opportunity for our audience to explore a whole new part and a whole new world of Sesame Street.” Tales from 123 could become a separate spin-off show down the road.
Youngwood adds that they need to “take a brand that people trust, and make sure you do it in a fresh and new and exciting way. That’s what we feel we need to do to make sure that we’re around another 10 years, 20 years, let alone 50 years.”