While I didn’t grow up with Sesame Street, I know about it and what it means to a lot of people around the world. I might not have the emotional connection with the program that most do, but I can understand how many will look at this documentary to remember a time of their life that is now past. Yes, I know what Sesame Street is and I have watched scenes here and there, I do love The Muppets and have watched most of their programs, but because I didn’t grow up on Sesame Street, we had a similar thing in french in Quebec but it wasn’t this program. I thought I would be able to watch this without the emotional attachment that most have to the characters and the show. What I quickly discovered was that I was wrong. Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street brought me to tears by the end of it all. As the screen faded to black, I was nothing but a sniffing mess, crying over a show that I had no emotional connection to. I might not have grown up on this program but within an hour and forty-five minutes, director Marilyn Agrelo made me care about everyone who worked on that show and these characters.
A look inside the minds and hearts of the Sesame Street creators, artists, writers, and educators who, together, established one of the most influential programs in television history Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street retails the humble beginnings of the program up until the death of Jim Henson, the man behind the iconic muppets. The highs, the lows, what the show wanted to be, Street Gang draws a compelling picture as to why this show was, and is, so popular.
Because I didn’t grow up on this program, watching this documentary was like experiencing what the show was for the first time. I have never sat down and watched an episode of Sesame Street so I had no idea what it was like, what it wanted to be and what it is. It is clear that from the very start, Sesame Street wanted to educate kids but more importantly didn’t want to talk down to them. It was a labour of love and this documentary makes sure of showing just that, it puts time into showing that this was created by people who wanted kids of all demographic to get an education, something that wasn’t provided by schools.
Documentaries are a double edge sword for me. Too often, they fall into the preachy territories where they show only the good side of things. Sure, Street Gang can fall into that category, but it also shows how at times things didn’t work out for them. It might be brief and fast, but it shows that while the show was highly successful, it wasn’t easy all the time. I found myself gravitating towards those moments because it made it all more real.
Street Gang banks on nostalgia a lot. Interviews might drive the story, but it’s really the footage from the show and from behind the scene that will get a lot of people to watch. It’s never seen before footage, with interviews from those who are gone now intertwined with those still alive. The film makes a point to showcase everyone who was behind the project, from the minds behind it to the educator that helped along the way. Street Gang is in its own way an educational piece, the subject just happens to be about Sesame Street.
I will say that while I appreciate the extend the documentary went into looking into the past, I do wish a small part of the documentary had been about the present. After Jim Henson’s death, the documentary doesn’t touch on what happened next. What is going on now. I understand that probably a lot of those who were in charge back then probably aren’t anymore, but I would have loved to see just a small part of the documentary address the present.
Fans of Sesame Street should be excited for this behind the scene look from the show. It’s a love letter to the labour of love that was put into creating this program. Insightful, it showcases the best and the worst of the program, but also creates this vision of the world that the minds behind Sesame Street wanted to see happen. It’s a documentary that proves shows how important this show was to so many people, and not just only the kids who watched it, but also those who helped create it.