I loved Sesame Street as a kid. And I am thankful that I got to experience it when I did. Why? Because when I watched it, there was no Elmo! Yep, he hadn’t been invented yet. I’m not saying I hate Elmo, I just think he is a little overexposed. I mean does he need a fifteen minute segment in every episode? How is there time for the regular Sesame Street stuff? It’s probably crammed in now, and I do know they at least have the other characters walk on to “Elmo’s World”. And the stuff is there while I do not watch (being, well, 40) I do know they did a Game of Thrones parody as well as turning Super Grover into Iron Grover, But, what is it with all the Elmo stuff? Why not just do a spin-off show? It’s gotten so bad I’m surprised Sesame Street wasn’t renamed “Elmo’s Sesame Street”.
I talked about Elmo’s Christmas Countdown awhile back, which is really awful and very disappointing. But almost ten year’s earlier, Elmo was the center of yet another special. It’s a a perfect example for how much Elmo was slowly taking over Sesame Street, airing February 20, 1998 on ABC. It was billed as an all-star celebration of 30 years of songs and laughs on Sesame Street, with Jon Stewart and many big celebrities. Guess who was the center of the special? The title makes it clear :
I mean, why not “Sesame Street-Palooa” or something? But does that mean it was as bad as the Christmas Countdown, or was it at least decent anyway? Let’s talk about it.
The Plot-Jon Stewart is hosting the all-star celebration, when..oh no! Elmo closes the broken door, and Stewart and the entire cast all get locked into the dressing room! Uh oh, can they get the door open and the cast out of the dressing room before the show is ruined? While several people try to assist with that, Elmo steps in as the host.
What I Liked-
The special opens with Kermit on the spot reporting the arrivals on the red caret. Just adorable. The opening is really good too. I had never really heard of Jon Stewart when this was came on, so this was my first real exposure to him. And I liked him, he’s funny. Yes I have seen The Daily Show and yes it can be very funny.
Prairie Dawn. Because I loved Prairie Dawn. She was producing the show.
The other characters get there moments. Telly has a freak out over how the locked door could ruin the show, it’s classic Telly. The others fill in for the crew. Bert and Ernie in the control room is kind of funny. Big Bird may get the best line, he runs a tape to a control room, and acknowledges that he could read the words CONTROL ROOM because living all these years on Sesame Street have really paved off. Cute.
The cameo’s were…OK. David Allen Grier played the stage director painicing that the show will be ruined. Chris Rock appeared….and that’s all. Richard Belzer was there….to be there. Conan O’Brien which is almost funny, Cindy Crawford, and Rosie O’Donnell but we’ll get back to her.
Two songs I did like. “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” by Shawn Colvin with Ernie. I liked this one, and I remember the original, so this one gets a pass. It’s Ernie’s song so his being in it makes sense.
That final Medley was AWESOME. I didn’t care much for the songs (more on that coming). But in the final scene we get a medley of past Sesame Street songs which is adorable. We had Ernie singing “Rubber Duckie”, Cookie Monster singing “C is for Cookie”, Oscar singing “I Love Trash”, Big Bird singing “ABC-DEF-GHI”, and finally the adult actors singing the classic “The People in Your Neighborhood”. This special may have had it dumb moments, but that final number was a fantastic finale.
Oh, and how does the door get knocked down? Oscar saves the day when he causes his worm to sneeze big enough it knocks the door down. Yeah I know, it makes no sense but…I love Oscar.
What I Hated-
The plot is stupid. This is supposed to be set at Radio City Music Hall, how could the door be impossible to knock down? One scene they try jackhamerng the door which fails. Another scene has Jon Stewart digging the floor like he was digging a mine.
Even worst, in a subplot that’s even dumber, Grover is the limo driver bringing Susan, Gordon, Gina, Bob, and Mr. Handford to the studio. However, Grover gets lost and they end up in Roswell, New Mexico. While I applaud they remembered the adults, this was really weeaak. And they had those annoying alien Muppet’s that drove me nuts as a kid!!!
Most of the songs are nonsensical and boring. Having little to anything to do with Sesame Street. Even the Sean Colvin one I said I liked feels, odd. Yeah I get it, they’re covers of classic Sesame Street songs. Problem is that I don’t recognize them especially with the new arrangements. We had :
“Just Happy to be with Me” by The Fugees with Big Bird and Snuffy…for some reason
“Mambo III” by Gloria Estefan (I get that one)
“Zig Zag Dance” by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones with The Count (who is thrown in even though it makes no sense)
“I Want a Monster To Be My Friend” with En Vogue
“Carribbean Amphibian” with Jimmy Buffet and Kermit (this one I almost remember from the show, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” would have made more sense for a classic Kermit song).
“One Small Voice” with Kenny Loggins which is here in Elmo’s low point, more that in a bit.
None of these songs are bad, it’s just the way they are covered it just feels removed from Sesame Street. Which is off in a special about songs from Sesame Street. Heck most of them have the characters jammed in even if itÂ makes no sense, as if the creators themselves knew that these didn’t feel like Sesame Street songs so they tries to dress them up a bit. By the way, I looked up all of the original versions from the show…and I think the better choice wold have been to recreate these by staying true to the classic versions not re-vising them.
There is one I didn’t mention, and that is “Nearly Missed” with Rosie O’Donnell and Elmo singing it. Unlike the others it’s performed on stage “live”. It’s Actually a nice song about being positive. The scene is here to keep the story going when Rosie helps Elmo sing it on stage. They do a decent job but in their exuberance they nearly destroy the show. It’s Rosie’s fault but Elmo runs off upset and Rosie…disappears from the show. We see her run off after him, but she apparently decided the hell with it and left. Elmo is depressed when Jon Stewart saves the day by playing the Loggins song, which snaps Elmo out of his depression. The problem is the Loggins song is awful…I mean real awful. No really, it’s bad.
Thankfully the finale made up for it, as I already mentioned. I love that so much I am going to share a link to it. If you loved Sesame Street you’ll love this :
And yes, the entire cast singing the Sesame Street theme in the end was really cool.
Final Thoughts-Where Christmas Countdown was ALL Elmo, here he is the focus but not so much that the other characters are totally ignored. It has it’s charming moments and the songs for the most part are enjoyable. And it’s always fun to hear those songs again, that final act really makes the whole thing worth a look if you loved Sesame Street as I did growing up.