“Sesame Street” will make its debut on HBO Saturday, with a new 30-minute format and several other changes from its 45 seasons on the Public Broadcasting Service, where it will continue to air.
The first of two new episodes will air at 9 a.m. On following Saturdays, a new episode will air at 9 a.m., followed by a repeat episode at 9:30 a.m. New episodes dubbed in Spanish will debut simultaneously on HBO Latino.
Episodes from past seasons of “Sesame Street” will air daily at 8 a.m. on HBO Kids, with more than 150 episodes from five seasons available for streaming on HBO Now and HBO Go.
“Sesame Street” will continue to air on PBS weekdays and Sundays. The 35 new Season 46 episodes initially airing on HBO will begin airing on PBS this fall.
The preschool educational series will have new opening and closing songs, an updated set, a new segment, “Smart Cookies,” and a new bilingual Hispanic cast member, Suki Lopez.
“Sesame Street” will have “more of everything” that research has shown “engages kids” and “parents love,” executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente said.
There will be more music, “more interactivity” and a focus on “a core group of characters,” Parente said.
“We have a lot of characters for a show that’s for very young kids and they get lost (with) too many characters,” Parente said. “We’ll see all the characters, but the core you’ll see every day so the kids can build a relationship with those characters.”
“Sesame Street” will also have a “nuanced change,” embedding what Parente called its lessons in being smarter, stronger and kinder “in a child- relevant topic,” like bedtime, boo-boos and animals. Every segment in an episode will be tied to the episode’s theme.
There will also be an increased amount of celebrity guests, Parente said, including singers Sara Bareilles, Nick Jonas singing “the sexiest song about triangles you’ll ever hear,” Pharrell, Gwen Stefani and Ne-Yo; hip-hop artist Aloe Blacc; the girl group Fifth Harmony; and actors Alan Cumming, Gina Rodriguez and Tracee Ellis Ross, Parente said.
The show’s open will take place in the “Sesame Street” neighborhood for the first time and the familiar theme song will have “a new upbeat update,” but will have a “familiar melody,” according to HBO.
The new set will give several characters new homes. Elmo has moved into the 123 Sesame Street brownstone; Cookie Monster has moved above Hooper’s Store; and Big Bird has a new nest.
Oscar’s can has been updated and moved to a more central location, allowing him to “add grouchy commentary to any situation,” according to HBO.
The “Smart Cookies” segment has Cookie Monster and a team of crime- fighting cookie friends seeking to thwart the continued efforts of The Crumb, a villain with many tricks up his sleeve.
Lopez portrays Nina, a tinkerer, builder and a fixer who works at Sesame Street’s laundromat and bicycle store, helping the street’s furry residents solve their daily dilemmas and being a positive role model for preschoolers.
“Sesame Street” is coming to HBO thanks to a five-year partnership between the premium cable network and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization that produces the series, announced in August.
The partnership is the result of Sesame Workshop coming “to the conclusion that it might not be possible to finance it any other way,” HBO Chairman and CEO Richard Plepler told City News Service in an interview held in connection with the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.
Sesame Workshop had been seeking a partner “that understood our relationship with PBS and our mission,” Parente said.
“It’s very important for us to have ‘Sesame’ content in the hands of the kids who need it the most, and we’re so thrilled that HBO is a great partner in that regard,” Parente said. “They understood that right away.”
Plepler said discussions with Sesame Workshop CEO Jeffrey D. Dunn about a partnership began after he had heard “they were thinking about some other options because the (business) model wouldn’t work.”
“We had mutual friends and somehow we all got together,” Plepler said.
“It was really a very easy and organic conversation because we said to them, ‘We love this franchise. We’re all about great story telling. We’re all about quality. You’re all about quality and great story telling. We can enable you to do more and we don’t want not to have PBS have an opportunity to have this.”‘
The partnership will allow for more original “Sesame Street” content to be produced, Parente said.
The series made about 18 “new-ish” hourlong episodes for PBS last season, mixing new and original content, according to Parente. “Much more” of the HBO episodes will be new, Parente said.
“Had we not found HBO, we would have done less episodes potentially,” Parente said. “The business of a live-action show that’s shot in a studio with three cameras is an expensive show to produce.”
Parente said after “having been on public television for so many years, it’s exciting to be a partner with a company that has real marketing chops and budgets behind that to let people know all the great things we’ve been doing.”
Plepler called the partnership “a win-win-win-win.”
“It’s a win for the consumer, a win for HBO, a win for Sesame Workshop and a win for PBS,” Plepler said.
—City News Service