Alibi V.14 No.15 • April 14-20, 2005 

Idiot Box

The Sesame Street Diet

“Sesame Street” on PBS

Last week, PBS perennial “Sesame Street” kicked off its 36th season. Thirty-six years of teaching kids the letter “D” is, I guess, enough to drive even the most dedicated of educators mad. (“D! It's a D! Don't you get it already?!?”) How else to explain the shocking revelation that--I can hardly bring myself to say it--this season, Cookie Monster will be cutting down on the cookies?

Now, I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to life down on Sesame Street since that red menace Elmo pretty much took over the show. But have things strayed so far in my absence from the hood? I'm still getting over the death of Mr. Hooper. Can I possibly handle a Cookie Monster who is no longer addicted to the carbs?

Turns out that the producers of “Sesame Street” are steering ever so slightly away from the ABCs and 123s to address America's soaring childhood obesity rates (which, I'm sure, have nothing to do with television watching). The venerable kiddy show's season premiere kicked off a multiyear story arc about healthy habits. This season, each episode opens with a “health tip” about nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest. One major emphasis of this “Healthy Habits for Life” campaign is cutting down on junk foods. And that means fewer cookies for old Cookie Monster.

So, the blue, furry maniac who declared “C is for cookie, that's good enough for me” is now pimping fruits and vegetables? Say it ain't so.

On the website for Sesame Workshop (the show's producers), CM now clutches a healthy apple. On the air, his previous mantra has been replaced with the questionable new ditty “A Cookie is a Sometimes Food,” in which the google-eyed gourmand learns the difference between an “anytime” food and a “sometimes” food. Guest stars like Alicia Keys and Sen. Hillary Clinton will pop up throughout the season to extoll the virtues of a healthy lifestyle. How about Paris Hilton offering Cookie Monster some tips on bingeing and purging?

Where will the madness end? Will Oscar the Grouch be getting a makeover from the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” team? Will Big Bird get psychological counseling for his “imaginary friend” Snuffleupagus? ... Actually, I think that one already happened. Regardless! A Cookie Monster who doesn't pig out on cookies is no Cookie Monster in my book. To hell with today's Pop Tart-bloated preschoolers. By all means, take the cookies away from Kirstie Alley, but leave poor sugar-crazed Cookie Monster to his own vices.

“Sesame Street” airs every weekday at 9 a.m. on KNME-5.