Don't tell Bert or Ernie, but more than a half-century ago few believed that an
experiment in children's television known as Sesame Street would succeed.
The series, which debuted on PBS on November 10, 1969, soon enraptured kids and parents with its mix of education and entertainment. Its episodes, old and new, still circle the globe every day (first-run episodes now stream on HBO Max), challenging social norms and inspiring imaginations.
“Considering we’re talking about five generations of people who have grown up with this show, it’s hard to estimate what we’ve learned from Sesame Street,” says Trevor Crafts, who produced last year’s HBO documentary feature Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street and then wrote a companion book, The Unseen Photos of Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (Harry N. Abrams, 2021).
A lifelong fan of the show, Crafts wanted to explore its genesis, so for his film he optioned Michael Davis’s book, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street (Viking, 2008), which chronicles the show from its inception through 2008.
“Like every documentary, a lot gets left on the cutting room floor,” says Crafts, who produced the film with Ellen Scherer Crafts and Lisa Diamond. “But we’re in such an amazing time of media and being able to tell stories in so many different ways, why couldn’t we take this documentary, expand the stories and resurrect the things we lost in the process of making it?”