Sesame Street adalah sebuah acara pendidikan anak-anak yang berasal dari Amerika Serikat untuk anak-anak pra-sekolah dan merupakan perintis standar televisi edukasi kontemporer yang menggabungkan pendidikan dan hiburan (edutainment). Sesame Street terkenal dengan karakter-karakter Muppet, yang dibuat oleh Jim Henson, seorang pemain boneka (puppet). Terdapat lebih dari 4.134 episode yang telah diproduksi selama 37 musim. Musim pertama penayangannya berjumlah 130 episode, tapi musim ke-36 hanya sebanyak 25 episode. Dengan jumlah episode sebanyak itu, Sesame Street merupakan salah satu serial acara televisi yang paling lama tayang sepanjang sejarah pertelevisian.
Sesame Street diproduksi di Amerika Serikat oleh sebuah organisasi non-profit Sesame Workshop, sebelumnya bernama Children's Television Workshop (CTW), yang didirikan oleh Joan Ganz Cooney dan Ralph Rogers. Tayangan perdana acara ini disiarkan pada 10 November 1969, di saluran National Educational Television, dan kemudian dipindahkan ke Public Broadcasting Service.
Karena acara ini memberikan pengaruh yang sangat positif, Sesame Street menjadi salah satu tayangan pendidikan yang paling dihormati di dunia. Tidak ada serial televisi lain yang mampu menandingi kesuksesan dan pengakuan internasionalnya. Serial originalnya sudah ditayangkan di 120 negara, dan lebih dari 30 versi internasional yang sudah diproduksi, tidak termasuk versi sulih suara. Di Indonesia, Sesame Street pernah ditayangkan oleh stasiun televisi TVRI yaitu "Jalan Sesama" pada awal dekade 1974 sampai 1990 dan di RCTI dan SCTV pada awal dekade 1990-an. Selain itu, juga telah dibuat Sesame Street versi Indonesia yang dinamai "Jalan Sesama" versi remake. Acara tersebut ditayangkan di Trans7 mulai 18 Februari 2008.
Serial-serial ini telah memperoleh 109 Emmy Awards, lebih banyak daripada serial televisi lainnya. Sekitar 75 juta orang Amerika pernah menyaksikan serial ini ketika mereka masih anak-anak; jutaan lainnya juga telah menonton serial ini, termasuk orang tuanya.
Sesame Street is an American educational children's television series and a pioneer of the contemporary educational television standard, combining both education and entertainment. Sesame Street is well known for its Muppets characters created by Jim Henson. It premiered on November 10, 1969, and is the longest running children's program on US television. The show is produced in the United States by the non-profit organization Sesame Workshop, formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop (CTW), founded by Joan Ganz Cooney and Ralph Rogers.
Up until the late 1960s, the use of television as an educational tool in the US was "unproven" and "a revolutionary concept". In 1966, the Carnegie Institute hired Joan Ganz Cooney to study how the media could be used to help young children, especially those from low-income families, learn and prepare for school. Cooney proposed using television's "most engaging traits", including high production values, sophisticated writing, and quality film and animation, to reach the largest audience possible. Cooney suggested creating a program that would spread prolearning values to both viewers and nonviewers (including their parents) that would affect them for many years after they stopped watching it.
As a result of Cooney's initial proposal, the Carnegie Institute awarded her an $8 million grant to establish, in collaboration with Carnegie Institute vice-president Lloyd Morrisett, the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) and create a new children's television program and in 1968. Millions more were invested by the Ford Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the US federal government. Cooney began to assemble a team of producers: Jon Stone, Dave Connell and Sam Gibbon. That summer, five three-day curriculum planning seminars, led by Harvard University professor Gerald S. Lesser, were conducted in Boston. The seminars marked the beginning of Jim Henson's involvement in Sesame Street, and provided the show's producers and writers with a "crash course in child development, psychology, and preschool education". The new show, called the "Preschool Educational Television Show" in promotional materials, was built around an inner-city street, a choice that was "unprecedented". The producers and writers could not come up with a name they liked "up until the last moment". They finally settled upon the name they least disliked: Sesame Street, although they initially feared that it would be too difficult for young children to pronounce.
Two days before the premiere of Sesame Street, a thirty-minute preview entitled This Way to Sesame Street was shown on NBC. The show was financed by a $50,000 grant from Xerox. Written by Stone and produced by CTW publicist Bob Hatch, it was taped the day before it aired. Newsday called the preview "a unique display of cooperation between commercial and noncommercial broadcasters". Sesame Street premiered on PBS on November 10, 1969. The new show was praised from the start. As writer Michael Davis states, "...It became the rare children's show stamped with parental approval". The show reached only 67.6% of the nation, but earned a 3.3 Nielsen rating, or 1.9 million households.
As author Malcolm Gladwell has stated, "Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them". Sesame Street was the first children's show that structured each episode and made "small but critical adjustments" to each segment to capture children's attention long enough to teach them something.
Sesame Street uses a combination of animation, puppets, and live actors to stimulate young children's minds, improve their letter and word recognition, basic arithmetic, geometric forms, classification, simple problem solving, and socialization by showing children or people in their everyday lives. Since the show's inception, other instructional goals have been basic life skills, such as how to cross the street safely, proper hygiene, healthy eating habits, and social skills; in addition, real-world situations are taught, such as death, divorce, pregnancy and birth, adoption, and even all of the human emotions such as happiness, love, anger, and hatred. Also, recently, the Sesame Street Muppets discussed the late-2000s recession with their most recent prime-time special Families Stand Together: Feeling Secure in Tough Times.
Coordinating "the clever use of Muppets and animation" with educational curriculum required what the CTW researchers called "careful thought" and influenced the show's structure. For example, they had to decide how to distribute the letters of the alphabet throughout each 130-episode season.[note 2].
From the first episode, Sesame Street's producers have used "different elements" of commercial television: "a strong visual style, fast-moving action, humor, and music". They also used videotaped spots, puppets, animation, live action, and music. Cooney was the first to suggest that they use "teaching commercials", or several twelve -to ninety-second shorts, and the repetition of several key concepts throughout an episode.
The producers and writers decided to build the new show around a brownstone or an inner-city street, a choice that was "unprecedented". They wanted to attract inner-city viewers, so they reproduced these viewers' neighborhoods as its setting—a realistic city street, complete with peeling paint, alleys, front stoops, and metal trash cans along the sidewalk". The cast needed to reflect the diversity of this kind of neighborhood, first with a mix of White and African-American actors, and then with Hispanics and Asians later on. Sesame Street was also the first children's show to utilize research as a production value. It addressed specific curriculum and goals for its preschool audience and used research to "inform production". The research team designated a "curriculum focus" every season, and identified and emphasized a "small set of related objectives" that were written into each episode.
In addition, the researchers and producers made use of repetition and reinforcement throughout the show's segments. The format remained the same from episode to episode, but the content was varied so that new concepts could be introduced. The show was designed to encourage "coviewing" with the use of humor, which was written into the show so that children and their parents could appreciate it together. Cultural references were used, which included bringing celebrities to appear on it, that only adults would understand. Music was also used, since as Cooney observed, children have an "affinity for commercial jingles".
When Sesame Street premiered, research about children's viewing habits assumed that they did not have long attention spans. As a result, each episode was structured like a magazine. They presented a story, dispersed throughout the hour-long show, broken up with segments, or skits, which usually totaled approximately forty each episode. Although the story, which occurred during what the producers called "the street scenes", usually lasted about ten-to-twelve minutes in length, it would take forty-five minutes to tell it.[note 3] It was decided, by recommendation of child psychologists, that the Street scenes, which CTW researcher Edward Palmer called "the glue" that "pulled the show together", would never feature the human actors and Muppets together because they were concerned it would confuse and mislead young children.
Before the show's premiere, the producers created five one-hour episodes for the purpose of testing whether children found them comprehensible and appealing. They were never intended for broadcast. Instead, they were presented to preschoolers in 60 homes throughout Philadelphia in July 1969. The results were "generally very positive", but they found that although children attended to the shows during the Muppet segments, their interest was lost during the "Street" segments. As a result, the appeal of the test episodes were lower than they preferred, so significant changes were made. CTW researcher Gerald Lesser called their decision to defy the recommendations of their advisers "a turning point in the history of Sesame Street". The producers went back and reshot the Street segments; Henson and his team created Muppets that could interact with the human actors, specifically "two of Sesame Street's most enduring Muppets: Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird". These test episodes were directly responsible for what writer Malcolm Gladwell calls "the essence of Sesame Street--the artful blend of fluffy monsters and earnest adults".
 Format changes of the 1990s and 2000s
Sesame Street's format remained intact until the show's later decades. By the 1990s, its dominance was challenged by other programs, and its ratings declined. New research, the growth of the children's home video industry, and the increase of thirty-minute children's shows on cable demonstrated that the traditional magazine-format was not necessarily the most effective way to hold their attention. For Sesame Street's 30th anniversary in 1999, its producers researched the reasons for the show's lower ratings. For the first time since the show debuted, the producers and a team of researchers analyzed Sesame Street's content and structure during a series of two-week long workshops. They also studied how children's viewing habits had changed in thirty years. They found that although the show was produced for three to five year olds, children began watching it at a younger age. As a result, the target age for Sesame Street shifted downward, from four years to three years.
In 1999, a 15-minute long segment that targeted the developmental age of the show's newer viewers began to be shown at the end of each episode. The segment, called "Elmo's World", used traditional elements (animation, Muppets, music, and live-action film), but had a more sustained narrative, followed the same structure each episode, and depended heavily on repetition. Unlike the realism of the rest of the show, "Elmo's World" took place in a stylized crayon-drawing universe as conceived by its host. Elmo, who represented the younger audience, was chosen as the host of the closing segment because younger toddlers identified with him and because he had always tested well with them.[note 4]
In 2002, Sesame Street's producers went further in changing the show to reflect its younger demographic. They decided, after the show's 33rd season, to expand upon the "Elmo's World" concept by "deconstructing" the show. They changed the structure of the entire show to a more narrative format, making the show easier for young children to navigate. Arlene Sherman, a co-executive producer for 25 years, called the show's new look "startlingly different".[3.