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Marilyn Agrelo
Joan Ganz Cooney, Lloyd Morrisett, Bob McGrath
Writing Credits:
Michael Davis

Witness the birth of the most impactful children's series in TV history.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 7/6/2021

• “The Puppeteers” Featurette
• “Musical Genius” Featurette
• “Origin of a Song” Featurette
• “Sounds of Sesame Street” Featurette
• Muppet Outtakes
• Previews


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Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 6, 2021)

Back in 1969, public television began to air a new kind of educational series: something called Sesame Street. The show became a hit and remains legendary and influential more than 50 years later.

With 2021’s Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, we find a documentary that looks at the series. Expect a fairly standard framework here, as we get the usual mix of interviews and archival clips.

In the former domain, we hear new remarks from writer Christopher Cerf, co-creator director Jon Stone’s daughters Kate Stone Lucas and Polly Stone, Children’s Television Workshop co-founders Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, Research and Curriculum Coordinator Sharon Lerner, Muppets creator Jim Henson’s daughter Lisa Henson and son Brian Henson, cameraman Frank Biondo, actor Matt Robison’s daughter Holly Robinson Peete and wife Dolores Robinson, puppeteer Fran Brill, composer’s son Nick Raposo, head writer Norman Stiles, and actors Roscoe Orman, Sonia Manzano, Bob McGrath, Matt Robinson Jr., Emilio Delgado and Caroll Spinney.

We also find older comments from co-creator/director Jon Stone, Muppets creator Jim Henson, CTW Director of Community Outreach Evelyn Davis, Mississippi Authority for Educational Television’s William Smith, WJDX-WLBT’s Bob McRaney, performer Frank Oz, and composer Joe Raposo.

Gang follows the expected path and looks at kiddie TV in the 60s as well as other aspects of the then-current culture. From there we hear of what led to the creation of Street as well as its path to the screen and its mission.

Gang views aspects of the series’ development, how Jim Henson came to the project, the decision to set the show on an inner city location and the “Sesame Street” set, finding an audience, various cast members and Muppets, some controversies, music/songs, and the series’ legacy.

Since I was born in 1967, I was part of the first generation of Street viewers – and among the initial batch of kids who never knew a world without Street. It’s always been a part of my life, and obviously millions of others saw it the same way.

I can’t remember the last time I watched the show – 1974? – but Gang helps recapture the series’ magic. While not the most succinct documentary you’ll ever see, it manages to offer a compelling love letter to an immensely important TV program.

As I watched Gang, it became obvious how much the world it launched became integrated with our lives. Sesame Street permeates so much of modern culture, even if we ignore all the semi-related efforts in the careers of Henson, Oz and others.

You won’t find a critical eye cast at Sesame Street here – not that I think one could dredge up a dark underbelly. Out of curiosity, I searched “Sesame Street controversies” and found “scandalous” results like the instance Katy Perry wore a somewhat revealing outfit on the show or the time Oscar the Grouch made a comment that appeared to mock Fox News.

Oh, the horror!

The impression one gets from Gang is that all involved with Street wanted to make a program with lasting positive impact on kids and society. Perhaps that simplifies things, and Gang never touches on what the fact the series turned into a massive money-making enterprise meant for it. This means no mention of the Elmo phenomenon.

I don’t mind that, though. Gang acts as something of a love letter to Street, but not one that seems unctuous or overly filled with praise.

Instead, Gang gives us a good look at the series’ creation and a mix of appropriate topics. We find a nice array of insights about the creators’ goals and the methods they used to get there as well as important developments along the way.

Probably the biggest flaw I find here stems from Gang’s relatively brief running time, as 106 minutes seems insufficient. I could watch hours more of this material and not get tired of it. Gang becomes a delightful mix of history, introspection and tribute that satisfies.

Footnote: stick through the end credits for a few treats.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C-

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc – though some TV bits came with the expected 1.33:1 dimensions. With its mix of new interviews and archival footage, Gang looked good for this sort of program.

As always, I viewed the old material and the new shots with different expectations, and the archival stuff jumped all over the place. It could look pretty good at times, but we also got some messy, clips.

I didn’t have any real problems with those, however, as I figured they were about as good as we could get. In any case, the flaws of the old bits didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the program. They blended just fine and didn’t cause distractions.

Overall, the new footage offered nice visuals. Sharpness was quite good, as virtually no softness impacted on the new footage. Those elements appeared concise and accurate.

Colors were reasonably natural, and no notable defects affected the new footage. Blacks and shadows followed suit, as they seemed perfectly positive. Overall, the visuals were solid given the program’s parameters.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Gang, its reliance on music made it a little livelier than I’d expect from a documentary. Songs were a constant companion, and they spread to the side and rear speakers. Stereo delineation was positive and the overall soundfield seemed more than acceptable.

Audio quality was solid. The new interview comments sounded just fine, as they offered perfectly acceptable clarity. No issues with edginess or intelligibility occurred, as they provided warm and natural tones.

Music also demonstrated good range and definition, while the occasional effects appeared well-reproduced. This mix did enough right to earn a “B-“.

A few featurettes follow, and The Puppeteers lasts two minutes, 52 seconds. It offers notes from puppeteer Fran Brill as well as actors Roscoe Orman and Caroll Spinney. They give us some thoughts about puppeteers Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt.

This and the following clips really offer deleted scenes more than actual featurettes. As such, “Puppeteers” becomes a decent addition but it feels a bit incomplete.

Musical Genius goes for three minutes, 17 seconds and brings comments from writer Christopher Cerf, composer Joe Raposo and son Nick Raposo. As expected, “Genius” gives us some thoughts about Joe Raposo’s career. We learn some about Joe in the main feature, but “Genius” provides a few more notes.

Next comes Origin of a Song, a one-minute, eight-second piece with Nick Raposo. We find brief notes about the series’ iconic theme. It seems too short to tell us much.

Sounds of Sesame Street spans two minutes, 42 seconds and provides a look at the series’ audio with sound designer Dick Maitland. This turns into a short but engaging view.

Finally, we find When It Went Wrong, a two-minute, 51-second collection of Muppet outtakes. It boasts notes from Brill and Cerf. The main attraction comes from the Muppet bloopers, though, and these offer amusement.

The disc opens with ads for Memory: The Origins of “Alien", Senior Moment and Skyfire. No trailer for Gang appears here.

With Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, we get an affectionate look at the seminal TV series. It offers a good mix of viewpoints and become a highly entertaining take on the show. The Bly-ray comes with adequate picture and audio as well as minor bonus materials. This winds up as a fun and moving take on Sesame Street.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
0 3:
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