And that’s what I believed we all were, children of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s; in the eyes of educational television programmers: a family. Mr. Hooper was the kindly shop owner; Luis was Mr. Fix-It; Gordon the affable husband and stalwart of the brownstone located at 123 Sesame Street. Integrate some puppetry, and BEWM! The Count, Big Bird, Snuffleupagus, Grover, even crusty old Oscar the Grouch himself, were no less than family too.
So it’s with a heavy and disappointed heart that I read that Bob McGrath (“Bob”), Roscoe Orman (“Gordon”), and Emilio Delgado (“Luis”) have essentially been written out of the family narrative, or, for lack of a better word, fired.
How does Sesame Workshop intend to explain the departures of three of the show’s best loved actors, within the scope of the program? It will be the cheapest of shots and a little too convenient to write any one of them off as having passed away, especially in light of Sesame Workshop’s expressed intention of having McGrath, Orman, and Delgado appear in upcoming productions. Talk about being confusing for a child. Gordon’s wife, Susan – played by Loretta Long – will continue to appear on Sesame Street. The writing team might be able to convince their target audience that Susan and Gordon fell prey to the growing trend of grey divorce, but what about Bob and Luis? Bob is a singer/performer and Luis a repairman. Please don’t tell me that we should anticipate their career resurgence as co-leads in an off- off-Broadway production of Handy Manny: The Musical?
If anything, this “creative decision” has a definite smell of ageism to it. As a soon-to-be grandmother, I am a tad insulted by the idea that tech savvy kids in the year 2016 can’t be allowed to continue learning and growing alongside their elders. It’s perplexing: “responsibly raised” children shouldn’t be allowed to play outdoors, nor should they interact with senior citizens on a popular television program that has celebrated children and their connection to the world since 1969?
I can’t help but think that Mister Rogers would never have done something like this. In his neighbourhood, the one adjacent to Sesame Street on PBS that I loved so much as a young child; puppet characters came and went, and human actors playing humans were added, but no one was fired. Retired, maybe. Not like this.
Sesame Workshop, you are no longer allowed to pitch your street sign on my lawn. I am old enough to have in my (parents’) possession vinyl soundtrack albums with Bob, Luis, and Gordon singing and performing on them. My grandchild will listen to those instead.