Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street is a rather straightforward documentary—it’s completely comprehensive to the first part of the Sesame Street legacy. The origins in trying to reach inner city kids, and helping prepare young children for school, was something I had never thought of before watching. It touches on surprising things like Monsterpiece Theater, the inception of “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” and the raw, honest way the show decided to deal with the death of an essential cast member. I was also very surprised to learn that Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are played by the same person. Vintage footage is great, but can overstay its welcome. It didn’t keep me glued to the screen as much as I’d been hoping.
I appreciated what this discussed and dissected. However, there was a disconnect for me. I think it was more expectations-related than anything else. I had assumed this doc would follow us into the latter years of Sesame Street, like 90s and beyond. Maybe discuss some of the films, or even the wildly successful spinoff, Elmo’s World. Modern cultural impact would’ve been fascinating to watch. Instead, Street Gang laser-focuses on the early years solely. As a result, I feel this was a little lop-sided. It could’ve been strengthened by making it a miniseries, or crafting a sequel that delves into Henson’s impact to even greater effect. To see the ripples he had as it relates to modern day has such tantalizing potential. Jim Henson was clearly loved by all, and it’s heartbreaking that he passed during the early life cycle of this iconic series.
In short, if you’re obsessed with Sesame Street, I would say to watch this armed with the knowledge that it doesn’t feel complete. Older fans in particular will really appreciate the attention to detail as it dives into the root of the big child-education TV renaissance. Bring your tissues for that Big Bird moment. Shoutout to the absolutely incredible post-credits scene, one that perfectly puts the old school footage to good use.
Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street hits theaters on April 23rd, and on demand on May 7th.