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'Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days' airs tonight on WXYZ-TV

Posted at 3:20 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-26 15:20:07-04

(WXYZ) — Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, "Movie Show Plus," which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.

"Sesame Street" has been chasing the clouds away for over 50 years, and tonight, ABC plans to celebrate with a two-hour documentary, aptly named "Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days." (airing on ABC at 8pm ET).

Grade: B+

It's not necessarily a grand all-encompassing reunion of sorts, but "50 Years" does manage to bring back several, if not all, of the beloved characters - both human and Muppet - that have become like family to viewers and children alike over the years. Mostly, it chronicles the tremendous social impact that "Sesame Street" has had over the years, a "50 year pursuit of excellence," as one person puts it.

It features interviews with Whoopi Goldberg, Chrissy Tiegen, John Legend, Christopher Jackson, Kamau Bell, Questlove, Usher, John Oliver, Gloria Estefan, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and even Dr. Anthony Fauci, as they share how "Sesame Street" touched them all personally, and to put into context how the show's push for inclusiveness impacted minorities over the years. Sonia Manzano, the actress who portrayed Maria in the earlier years, is also on-hand and gets an entire segment dedicated to her character's portrayal and importance. More recent residents of the block, like director/actor Alan Muraoka, are also on hand.

The most compelling stuff is put right up front, where in the first twenty minutes or so, we learn of an un-aired episode of "Sesame Street" that tackled divorce, featuring Snuffleupagus and his parents (the show was scrapped because despite the important message, it didn't test well with children). And if you were alive at the time, who could forget the heart-breaking episode where Big Bird learns from his human neighbors that Mr. Hooper (the late Will Lee who died in 1982) has died, and what that means.

From those issues, to racism and autism and even the affect of the show on overseas audiences, we learn a lot in the two-hours about the many ways "Sesame Street" has changed us. It wasn't all sunny...the stereotypical and somewhat controversial (and retired) early 70s Muppet character, Roosevelt Franklin, is featured. We even see the political blow-back of a Muppet character introduced in the South African version of the show, that was living with HIV.

It gets a little dry in the later segments as the story seems to veer further and further away from the actual Street, but "Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days" is a great celebration of something that we all know to be common and familiar, a rarity these cloudy days for sure.

​"Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days" airs Monday, April 26th, 2021 on ABC.