Tag: Sesame Street

Full Circle

by on Oct.02, 2009, under television

In a 1975 essay for Saturday Night, Morris Wolfe wondered,

given Sesame Street’s forty to fifty different items per hour and its assumption that children have at best a three-minute attention span, is whether one can reasonably expect a child who’s been taught the alphabet this way to focus happily on a static printed page. My guess is that the answer is no, and that what Sesame Street is doing more than anything else is conditioning kids not to read but to watch television. One study has already shown, not surprisingly, that the least popular segments on the programme are those in which books appear.

Not just to watch television, but, in the bite-sized wonder of Sesame Street’s vignettes, to watch commercials in particular. Brought to you by the letter B and the numeral 4 today, Archer Daniels Midland tomorrow. However useful irony is, it always piggybacks its overt message onto its intended subversion. The short form and the quick cut would reach adulthood and apotheosis in the launch of MTV, and stick around forever after. And Maria begat Tabitha Soren.

Upper-middle-brow television has for some years been dominated by a reverse trend — the rise of multi-season arcs, of harnessing television to tell stories that run far longer than even a trilogy of features can. In an odd twist, the current king of long-form television is a show about the rise of commercial attention fragmentation: Mad Men.

Which is just to say that this below is not only very funny,

but also kind of vertiginously ouroborean. And reminds me of this, and what someone once told me, I don’t remember who:

“All television is educational television.”

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