Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pink Slips on Sesame Street

Just about everyone has been affected by these hard fiscal times. No business or organization has been spared. Like every other non-profit, PBS has been hit hard. It has instituted a recent hiring freeze and the future looks dire. And just because you happen to be a cute, fuzzy monster doesn't mean you're going to be immune from feeling the pain. With staffing cuts looming, it is inevitable that, in addition to their human colleagues, some of the Sesame Street muppets are going to have to be shown the door. Here is my analysis of who should stay and who should go.

The Count

The Count seems like he could serve an important accounting function. Being a bean counter is not stylish, but every nickel these days needs to be accounted for. Reporting requirements are going to proliferate. Someone's got to be in the trenches paying attention to what resources are going where. My concern is that, first of all, I've never seen The Count count to higher than ten. Second, just getting to ten seems to take him an awful long time ("ONE... one federal subsidy dollar, ah ahh ahhhhh. TWO... two federal subsidy dollars, ah ahh ahhhhh"). If PBS were to end up getting, say, a $100 million federal cash infusion, it would take The Count like a thousand years just to verify that the wire transfer had hit. So, while The Count may have some useful skills, they're not going to be of much help unless someone can light a bit of a fire under his ass.

Ernie and Bert

I don't know what kind of don't-ask-don't-tell policy Sesame Street has, but Ernie and Bert are obviously gay and have apparently been in a committed relationship since the late 60s. If PBS had to choose one of them to let go, it's a no-brainer that it would have to be Bert. Everyone likes Ernie better, and Burt's really just been Ernie's (no pun intended) straight man for the duration. If one but not the other got canned, it's not clear what kinds of benefits, as a life partner, he would be entitled to. Could Bert stay on Ernie's health insurance policy? What state is Sesame Street in (it’s hard to tell – probably by design, to keep the paparazzi at bay)? Maybe Vermont or New Hampshire. Wherever it is, someone would have to figure out the nuances of the rules on same-sex partner benefits in whatever the relevant jurisdiction is. I'm sure health insurance would be important to Ernie and Bert. Bert's always seemed right on the verge of getting an ulcer and Ernie's probably got no small amount of liver damage from his days of fast livin' and hard drinkin'.


I have never understood just what exactly Snuffleupagus does, other than mope around and waste all of Big Bird's time. Does he contribute anything at all to Sesame Street's bottom line? He is an obvious candidate for a pink slip. My sole reservation is that he might be clinically depressed - a pre-existing medical condition - and PBS should probably get their employment lawyers involved to make sure there's no risk here of a discrimination claim.

Big Bird

What I’d like to know about Big Bird is how he ever got hired in the first place. “Bird brain” is not a complimentary expression (isn’t there some kind of bird that supposedly drowns itself staring up when it’s raining?). Big Bird’s got a pretty good attitude – seems to generally go with the flow – but, while I don’t think he’d bring the company down during the good times, I also can’t see him really stepping up to the plate during the hard times. He just doesn’t strike me as a go-getter with good initiative. If there were some specific need that would make sense for Big Bird to fill, I’d say keep him around. Otherwise, I think he gets a few months worth of bird seed and told to go find another nest.


Oscar is indeed a grouch, but I get the feeling that, at the end of the day, he's the workhorse of the group. And I'd rather have someone on my team who's rough around the edges but who actually gets shit done than a lot of the other fuzzy little prima donnas who would probably fall over and die if they actually had to put in a full day's work. Is Oscar really even employed? Is the Sesame Street pay scale so twisted that he can have a full-time job and still have to live in a trash can? Or is there something we don't know about that is sucking up all of Oscar's cash? Is Oscar cooking up crystal meth or something on his days off? I would recommend some further investigation. If there are no skeletons in his closet, I'd lean towards keeping Oscar on. On the other hand, it would be sort of funny (ironic too?) to bang on the side of his can and tell him he was canned.

Cookie Monster

I like Cookie Monster. I really do. But the fact is, he is irresponsible and seems to have obsessive tendencies and zero self control. All of us would like to eat cookies all day long, but we learn not to let our base desires take over. I would worry about how Cookie Monster would fare if he lost the structure of having a steady job. He could be pushed to the limit and have nothing but his cookie crumbs to turn to. That's sad, but it's not the concern of PBS. They're trying to keep a business afloat and having a maniacal beast with a bizarre eating disorder in the ranks is not going to help. And cookies aren't cheap either.


Elmo is the toughest call for me. He's obviously the rock star du jour, and he's clearly got the skills to pay the bills. Licensing revenues from the ten billion tickle-me-Elmos that were sold at Christmastime a few years ago are probably one of the main reasons PBS is still around at all today. But fans are fickle and fame is fleeting. I am not convinced that Elmo has any staying power. I think he's already past his prime and that pretty soon you're going to start seeing 3AM infomercials with Elmo hawking crappy exercise equipment or swamp land in Florida. OK, full disclosure here. I'm biased, and a part of me can't wait to see Elmo crash and burn. Why? Because Elmo is a total jive-ass, sell-out Grover rip off. How Elmo ever managed to so completely upstage Grover, who is the very embodiment of all that is awesome and cute, is beyond me. Shameless. Grover’s got too much class to go around bitching about it in public, but I can tell it's just eating away at him. My personal opinion is that the potential damage to PBS’ ongoing integrity if it keeps pandering to this red little poseur far outweighs whatever short term financial hit PBS would take if it shit-canned Elmo.


If Grover were to get the axe, the apocalypse would be near. Sesame Street without Grover? Game over. I have nothing further to say about this except, rock on, Grover. You've always got a place to stay with me.


Michael Zank said...

I think Cookie Monster was axed a long time ago (cookies aren't really safe food anyway), so that should be taken off the list; but then I am not as current on this as I should be. Perhaps it's time to conduct a controlled experiment or an informal poll on center street. In fact, maybe some of the cute girls from your previous post could conduct the poll for you? (Just a thought.)

Unknown said...

Finally, someone speaks the truth about Elmo's. Yes, Grover has always been the real deal.

jaime said...

Elmo, Elmo, Elmo, teaching children to speak in the 3rd person since day one... btw, the Count is up to 20 now and has himself a Countess.