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Sesame Street and Zombies

August 5, 2009

Call it another case of life imitating art. Speculation has emerged this week that Elmo might be muscled out as Sesame Street’s most emphasized, most marketed character. The new kid on the family-friendly block is Abby Cadabby, a toddler fairy who will be given a nine-minute segment on Sesame Street episodes when the series returns this fall for its 41st season. After her introduction in 2006, little Abby has already become a fan favorite on the show and its merchandise, including the popular Sesame Street Live tour.

For fans of the short-lived FOX series Greg the Bunny (all 12 of us), this sounds remarkably similar to the series pilot. In the episode, Rochester Rabbit is the star of the once-popular kids’ show Sweetknuckle Junction, but he’s become a drunken, unreliable, stained fabric remnant of the puppet he used to be. Yes, the puppets on Greg the Bunny were (wonderfully, inventively) imbued with human characteristics. When the ratings start to plunge, the network demands that Sweetknuckle’s producers can Rochester and find a replacement. Enter Greg, a lovable young rabbit with oodles of charm and charisma, and the rest is history—well, 13 episodes of it, at least.

So, back in the real world, the producers of Sesame Street seem to now be following that same ruthless corporate logic, pushing Elmo out the door in favor of a newer character with a fresher face. Maybe they’ve seen one too many Youtube videos where pranksters set fire to a talking Elmo toy, which then proceeds to writhe in agony and unleash howls worthy of demons. Whatever the reason, they must believe Elmo’s commercial star is fading.

Ok, fine, so get rid of him. After all, business is business. But, if given the chance, I’d say to the bigwigs at PBS that you need to go a little further with your creative vision and marketing strategies. Replacing an old puppet with a new puppet is BO-RING. You need to stick a finger in the air and realize which way the wind’s blowing. When you do, you’ll soon get a whiff of the noxious stench of slowly approaching zombies.

Think about it. Zombies are everywhere these days. Audiences seem to have an endless hunger for zombie-related products, much like zombies have an endless hunger for brains. Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil, I Am Legend, Zombie Planet…I could go on. And lest you think that zombies are the purview of low-culture mavens only, my effete PBS friends, I should remind you of two recently released cultural artifacts: Dead Snow (about zombie Nazis) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (about…well, it’s obvious what that one’s about).

Yep, that’s right—history and literature have now been zombified too. So, educational television programmers, it’s clear that you’ve got to get with the times. Don’t replace Elmo with Abby Cadabby. Hire those psychos from the Youtube video to kill him off, then replace him with Zombie Elmo. He will delight kids and parents alike, once they get used to the rotting fabric and slurred speech of the muppet undead.

Wrap your BRAAAAAINS around that idea, PBS, and say hello to your next rising, gradually decomposing star.

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