Some child psychologists have balked at the newly unveiled set redesign for the landmark children’s TV show, Sesame Street, now entering its 46th season. The brownstone-lined 123 Sesame Street will receive a glossy new lick of paint, so to speak, in an effort to contemporize the set.
Psychologists caution that the repositioning of Oscar the Grouch’s garbage can and Elmo’s new bedroom could prove “traumatic” to change-averse youngsters. “Most younger children—children in general—really like consistency,” Dr. Eugene Beresin, Executive Director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, told Vice News. “The reason you read Goodnight Moon over and over again or the reason you watch the same episode of Sesame Street is because they really thrive on familiarity.”
The show’s producers insist that the alterations are minor, and that rooting the characters in more domestic environs enriches their characterization, personality, and backstory. “The redesign itself is not particularly jarring for young children. They will notice changes, but it’s really about making the set brighter, more fun, grounding the characters in specific locations on the street, making it more of a community feeling,” said Autumn Zitani, director of content for Sesame Street’s education and research team.
Award-winning set designer and visual storyteller David Gallo has conceptualized a new community center, rooftop seating area with a water tower, and a retro-looking Hooper’s store, above which is a new bachelor pad for Cookie Monster, the perennial loiterer.
Meanwhile, Elmo now occupies a bedroom papered with crayon drawings and filled with colorful cubbies bursting with toys, rather than his Crayola-splattered cardboard box–like dwelling of old. This bedroom will be the cornerstone of the main brownstone. Big Bird, on the other hand, has migrated to the skies with a branch-perching nest.
Still, other psychologists hail these sea changes as positive. “Giving children more opportunities to see and recognize sets can only foster their visual spatial intelligence and encourage healthy imagination,” said Heather Lappi, a school psychologist working in Pennsylvania. Conversely, the more conservative Dr. Beresin recommended first monitoring children’s reactions, and offered this hedging remark: “If the child is getting freaked out, turn the TV off.”