‘Sunny days’ for “Sesame Street” on its anniversary

Sure, people joke that Bert and Ernie were gay, that Cookie Monster would do anything to get a fix and that the whole thing where Big Bird was the only one that could see Snuffleupagus until one day when magically everyone could see him, too, was just plain weird. The fact is, however, that “Sesame Street” most likely played a significant role in getting us to where we are today. So have a little respect.

In the United States alone, “Sesame Street” has helped over 74 million people become adolescents and adults. Every week, it reaches out to eight million more Americans. It also has 120 international productions, to make it the most widely viewed children’s series in the world.

“Sesame Street” will be celebrating its 35th anniversary with a primetime special, airing Sunday, April 4 at 8 p.m. on PBS. The show will take a journey back through time to revisit some of the its most memorable moments. It will then re-air on April 5 on PBS Kids as the first episode of the new season, so you’ll have more than one opportunity to re-visit your childhood pals, including Big Bird, Snuffy, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Telly and the Count.

In the special, Elmo, the energetic and fuzzy little red monster, takes a trip back through time, in the format of his popular “Elmo’s World.” With the help of “your adorable little pal” Grover, the excited and talkative blue monster, he learns about the street where he lives.

Elmo visits moments that we may remember from our childhood television watching. He watches the wedding of the owners of the Fix-It store Maria and Luis, originally in 1988, and sees the birth of their daughter Gabi, from 1989. He also meets Mr. Hooper, the original owner of Hooper’s Grocery Store, who died in 1983 before Elmo was even born.

Throughout its years, “Sesame Street” has always maintained its commitment to providing a meaningful learning experience for children to acquire the academic, social, emotional and thinking skills necessary to prepare them for school and life.

“Since its inception, “Sesame Street” has acknowledged children as thinking individuals, ready for a bigger and richer world, embracing life’s challenges in a nurturing and age-appropriate way,” Rosemarie T. Truglio, vice president of education and research of “Sesame Street,” said.

The writers and producers work with child development experts and early childhood educators to create shows that provide lessons of letter and word recognition, number, size, shape and amount identification and comparison, cooperation with others, respect for differences, acknowledgment of similarities, and expression of their emotions while coping with feelings and overcoming obstacles.

In recent years, the show has taken on a new format, which has been successful in keeping children interested and engaged throughout the hour and comprehending the lessons. It also took on more segments to teach kids about different cultures, such as “Global Grover” and “Global Thingy,” and teaches words in different languages on a daily basis.

“‘Sesame Street’ fosters a love of learning and models respect for others who may be different,” Truglio said. “Whether these differences include race, language or ability.”

It has numerous international productions, including an Israeli/Palestinian version that promotes respect and understanding and a South African version that includes lessons about Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The show has been recognized for its excellence numerous times. It has won 91 Emmy awards, more than any other show in television history, as well as the George Foster Peabody Award, for outstanding achievement in broadcasting and cable.

The upcoming 35th season will feature various parodies featuring many celebrities.

A new character named Dr. Feel, the “feelingest” guy in show business, will teach kids about expressing and interpreting emotions. He’ll also deal with conflict resolution when he ends up on the set of “Dr. Phil” and the two quarrel about whose show it really is.

The show will also feature parodies of “Joe Millionaire,” “Spongebob Squarepants” and “Six Feet Under,” featuring three pairs of feet under a table. Julianne Moore will co-star with the Count, as they realize they both love to count, and Norah Jones will do a special take on her hit song, declaring, “Don’t Know ‘Y’ Didn’t Come.”