It’s rare that the beloved, long-running educational children’s show receives bad press or public hostility but this week, fans have lashed out furiously at the 47-year old TV institution. Last week, the show’s creators announced that they were doing a little house cleaning, and that three veteran cast members were getting the ax.
Bob McGrath (Bob) who is 86, along with Emilio Delgado (Luis) who is 76 and Roscoe Orman (Gordan) who is 72 were among the remaining cast members who’ve stayed with Sesame Street for over four decades. Last week, they were released by the Sesame Network, who produces the show, which airs on HBO. The firings were first announced by Bob McGrath on A Muppet Cast Podcast. McGrath said, “HBO has gotten involved also, and they let all of the original cast members go, with the exception of Alan Muraoka — who is probably 20 years younger than the rest of us — and Chris Knowings, who is also young.”
The producers of the show initially responded in a Tweet, saying, “Since the show began, we are constantly evolving our content and curriculum, and hence our characters, to meet the educational needs of children. As a result of this, our cast has changed over the years.” They explained that their latest retooling would not include the elder statesmen of Sesame Street, who’s contracts were not being renewed for future episodes.
However, neither the Sesame network nor HBO were prepared for the passionate outcry from fans who not only feel that the three stars are still valuable parts of the show but also that the firings were ageist and unfair. Social media unleashed an angry array of displeased comments regarding the firings.
As a result, Sesame Network CEO Jeffrey D. Dunn has suggested that he is reversing his edict. In a statement yesterday, he apologized for the “misunderstanding” and said, “In our latest season, the story lines written did not include appearances by these three actors and we certainly could have done a better job of communicating with them about our ongoing episode plans.” He further added that they were “A Key part of the Sesame Family”.
Dunn also said, “I have been in touch with each of them to meet in person about how we best adapt their talents to the current content needs and preschool media landscape, in a way that honors their historic contributions.” Dunn further said, “We are very grateful for the many loyal fans of Sesame who continue to care so deeply about the show and what it means to them.”
In response to the network’s change of mind, Roscoe Orman, who played Gordon, made this comment to TODAY yesterday; “Due to your overwhelming reaction regarding the status of myself and others on the show, the new producers of Sesame Street have reached out to us with an expressed desire to continue our longstanding relationship, to be initiated with a meeting in September.” He concluded with, “I look forward to sharing with you at such time, the results of that conversation.”
So it looks like the elder statesman of Sesame Street will continue to have a job, although we don’t know exactly what capacity their reinstatement will entail.