Street Gang: The Complete History Of Sesame Street

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Overview

The story of one of the most important and beloved shows on television—how it got started, nearly failed, and was saved by Elmo

When the first episode aired on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street revolutionized the way education was presented to children on television. It has since become the longest-running children's show in history, and today reaches 8 million preschoolers ...
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Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street

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Overview

The story of one of the most important and beloved shows on television—how it got started, nearly failed, and was saved by Elmo

When the first episode aired on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street revolutionized the way education was presented to children on television. It has since become the longest-running children's show in history, and today reaches 8 million preschoolers on 350 PBS stations and airs in 120 countries.

Street Gang is the compelling and often comical story of the creation and history of this media masterpiece and pop culture landmark, told with the cooperation of one of the show's cofounders, Joan Ganz Cooney. Sesame Street was born as the result of a discussion at a dinner party at Cooney's home about the poor quality of children's programming and hit the air as a big bang of creative fusion from Jim Henson and company, quickly rocketing to success.

Street Gang traces the evolution of the show from its inspiration in the civil rights movement through its many ups and downs—from Nixon's trying to cut off its funding to the rise of Elmo—via the remarkable personalities who have contributed to it. Davis reveals how Sesame Street has taught millions of children not only their letters and numbers, but also cooperation and fair play, tolerance and self-respect, conflict resolution, and the importance of listening. This is the unforgettable story of five decades of social and cultural change and the miraculous creative efforts, passion, and commitment of the writers, producers, directors, animators, and puppeteers who created one of the most influential programs in the history oftelevision.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Many of the young viewers who tuned into the November 1969 premiere of Sesame Street are now the grandparents of children just beginning to watch this astonishingly resilient show. The longest-running children's program in American television history has not only outlived numerous controversies; it has been the inspiration for dozens of international spin-offs featuring characters with names like Zeliboba, Pong Papong, and Max Meiker. Michael Davis's Street Gang traces the evolution of Sesame Street from its first inkling to the new millennium. The cast members populating this complete history include not only Bert and Ernie and Oscar the Grouch but also Muppets creator Jim Henson and even Richard Milhouse Nixon.
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

People rarely look to find reality in TV shows, but to escape it. Sesame Street, the first educational program for children, is a happy exception, and Davis's true stories about the imaginary neighborhood only enhance the show's noble mission as well as its tone of frantic, fantastic realism. Looking beyond children's favorites of the 1950s-Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, Miss Frances' Ding Dong School-four pioneering individuals asked, in 1965, "Do you think TV could be used to teach children?" Those pioneers-Tim and Joan Cooney and Lloyd and Mary Morrisett-would go on to helm "the world's most influential children's program," despite a lack of experience (Joan became an executive director with "no credentials except a BA in education"). Well-researched details and an unflinching eye make Davis's book continuously fascinating; beyond perfectly human tales of alcoholism, disease, psychotic breaks and affairs, he reports that Caroll Spinney, the man who would fill the towering, bright yellow Big Bird suit, weighed 42 pounds in the second grade and "answered to the nickname PeeWee." Davis also chronicles the barriers Sesame Street broke through, hiring women in powerful positions, reaching out to the black community with an "inner city ambassador," and addressing formerly taboo topics (breast-feeding, death) with care and sensitivity. Any grown-up fan will relish this account, gaining an even greater appreciation for the cultural contributions of Kermit, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and all their neighbors. B&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

Caroll Spinney (carollspinney.com), the voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch and winner of the Library of Congress's Living Legend Award, here narrates journalist Davis's gentle yet often surprising look at Sesame Street, the world's longest-running (40 years) and widest-reaching (120 countries) children's show. This will be a sure-fire hit in just about every library; highly recommended. [Includes a bonus interview with Davis and Spinney; the Viking hc was recommended "for all reference and browsing collections," LJ12/08; visit www.streetgangbook.comfor a bonus chapter profiling Roscoe Orman, who played Gordon on the show.-Ed.]
—Joseph L. Carlson

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593161408
  • Publisher: Listen & Live Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2008
  • Series: Nonfiction
  • Format: CD
  • Pages: 7
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Davis was a senior editor and family television columnist for TV Guide from 1998 to 2007. A Neiman Fellow, he has also worked for The Baltimore Sun and Chicago Sun-Times.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 43 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(30)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 43 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Can you tell me how to get behind the scenes of Sesame Street?

    Reading this new book from former TV Guide editor Michael Davis is a good first step.<BR/><BR/>In a breezy and engaging style, Davis takes Sesame Street not only back to its beginnings, but back to the disparate roots of the core creative team who brought it to life. From Joan Ganz Cooney's childhood in Arizona and early experiences working for NYC's Channel 13, to the early genius displayed by Jim Henson on "Sam and Friends," to kiddie classic "Captain Kangaroo" where Jon Stone, Sam Gibbon, and Dave Connell all got their start, Davis spends so much of the book covering how these people *got* to Sesame Street that by the time the show actually begins airing on Nov. 11th, 1969, you're about halfway through the book.<BR/><BR/>Not that this is a bad thing; for many of this book's readers, "Sesame Street" has simply been a fact of life, and kiddie TV forerunners like "Howdy Doody," "Ding Dong School," and "Captain Kangaroo" are novelties to be dredged up in random clips on YouTube. It's kind of like looking at one of those charts where they show the evolution from apes to humans.<BR/><BR/>There's plenty of juicy behind-the-scenes stuff, and Davis manages to strike a tone where he's neither writing a fluff piece (though his love of the show is very evident) nor trying to tear down an American pop culture icon. (The truth behind the slow decline and death of actor Northern Calloway, who played David in the '70s and '80s, is finally revealed here, and it's incredibly tragic.) The hurdles required to get the show off the ground, and keep it going in its early years are immense and well-documented. As "Sesame Street" prepares to enter its 40th season on the air, it's hard to imagine that there was a time where they weren't even sure if there'd be a second year.<BR/><BR/>There's probably more detailed books about the history of "Sesame Street" and the Children's Television (now Sesame) Workshop out there, but "Street Gang" is really accessible, and a quick read. A must-read for anyone who's waxing nostalgic about that part of their childhood. If anything, it'll deepen your appreciation of a show many of us grew up on.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    People talking about literal street gangs

    Listen,the book is called street gangs because the author is telling how it would be like if your were part of the gang of the sesame street people,HES NOT TALKING ABOUT STREET GANGS LITERALLY!thank you.


    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2013

    STREET GANGS

    Uh oh does not sound too good( blahhh)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    To won't read

    First of all, the book is talking about Sesame Street not street gangs. Second of all, not all minorities are involved with gangs. America was built on imigrants. That is why we're called "The Great American Meltingpot". I'm sorry to spout off like this, but it's comments like that that make my blood boil.
    P.S Linda Bove inspired me to learn ASL.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2013

    Great book

    Great book by Mr. Davis it explains the truestory of why sesame street anyone who grew up in the 70s will love this book i highly reccomend it to anyone who loves sesame street and gets the theme song stuck in your head will like it

    Angelina

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    To wont read

    ITS ABOUT SESAME STREET, NOT GANGS!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    A Sesame Treat

    This is a wonderful book that brings back many memories of watching Sesame Street as a child. No one can duplicate the amount of thought research and love that went into the making of this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2010

    Review for Street Gang

    Street Gang, by Michael Davis, is filled with great information and is good for anyone wanting to take a trip down memory lane. I read it for a history paper and the information and details inside were phenomenal. The book is also great for leisurely reading. Even if I weren't writing the paper, I would still read the book. I'm giving it to my English teacher tomorrow to read! I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to go down memory lane.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Street Gang

    I can't think of a better Christmas gift for your booklover than a copy of Street Gang, and just in time for Sesame Street's 40th anniversary! Any fan of Sesame Street will love this trip behind the scenes. Street Gang details Jim Henson's friendships, brilliance and imagination.

    Melissa

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2009

    The Best Source to Learn about Sesame Street!!

    I have read just about every book that is out there about Jim Henson, Sesame Street, and the Muppets and I learned more from reading this book than I did from reading all of the others. I loved reading how all the business deals went and everything that goes into securing funding for Sesame Street. There is so much work that goes on behind the great specials and amazing television and reading in-depth about it was wonderful. There were so many things I didn't realize that happened or was going on to make everything work! This is absolutely a must-have for any Jim Henson, Muppet, or Sesame Street fan.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2009

    Reading this book is like looking at a family album and finding out that your family was an important part of history.

    Michael Davis lovingly takes the time to give each family member his due tribute. He has painstakingly researched an amazing amount of information and relayed it in a very enjoyable form. I devoured this book like it was a double chocolate cookie and I was, well, you know who.
    I have to admit that the first thing I did was turn to the photo pages mid book. I wondered who the heck Lloyd Morrisett and those cute babies were. Why was Captain Kangaroo in the book? And good grief, I couldn't decide if Jim Henson looked wiser as a serious teenager or as a bearded adult.
    My favourite pictures are of the cast and puppeteers sitting around that famous stoop in front of the brownstone. There is a warmth that radiates in particular from a photo of a young boy giving Oscar the Grouch a kiss, believing in the muppet while a girl on the top step giggles from her vantage point of the puppeteer doing his magic to bring Oscar alive. This for me pretty much summarizes the feel of this book. As a kid I totally believed there was Sesame Street somewhere. As an adult I have no problem marveling at the effort and artistry it took to make Sesame a reality. With the telling of its story Michael Davis does not destroy the illusion. He just adds another dimension to our enjoyment of Sesame Street. There are not too many things in this world that get better in the explaining.
    Thank you Michael Davis for this wonderful book.
    This review was brought to you by the letters M and D and
    by the number 10 out of 10.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2009

    AN ENJOYABLE READ

    I really enjoyed Street Gang and found it well written, thorough, and vividly descriptive. It was funny, touching and, clearly, exhaustively well-researched. I loved all the juicy details about the many players involved in bringing this ground-breaking series to the screen. Sesame Street was social engineering at its finest - not just for teaching ABC's and 123's but for the way it portrayed people of different backgrounds living, working and playing together. The book does a great job setting the show in the context of the children's shows that came before and bringing to life the many people involved in its inception.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

    Well-researched.

    This book provided fascinating information about Sesame Street for the ones of us who still adore the program. There were times when I felt that there were more details than needed. Thus, it periodically seemed to "bog down" a bit. It was worth the purchase and reading of the book to experience the scene of Big Bird's dealing with [or not] the death of Mr. Hooper. As a grief counselor, I will be quoting this to my classes.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Telling how we got, how we got, to Sesame Street

    Detailed history of the development of the much loved TV show provides insights not only into its growth but also delightful memories of the characters we grew to love over the years. I found myself humming the theme song every time I picked up the book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2009

    Amazing look into the world of Sesame Street

    As someone who grew up in the late 80s and 90s in love with Sesame Street and everything Henson, this book served as the perfect history book and road map to a time and story I didn't know much about. Michael Davis does a great job in setting up how the idea of "educational programming" came about, and how that grew into into Sesame Street, and the Children's Television Worshop. He sets up the history of all the key players in the storyline, charting how they made it to New York and the street. It's a great way to learn about a show that has impacted so many.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    How We Got to Sesame Street

    Anyone who grew up in the 70s until now is familiar with the question raised in the Sesame Street theme song - "Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?" Michael Davis answers this question by telling us how we GOT to Sesame Street! <BR/><BR/>This book explores how Joan Ganz Cooney, the unsung 'parent' of the show, had to fight tooth and nails to get this great show on the air. Not only are her efforts detailed but those producers, directors, actors and Muppeteers who also used their talents in a collaborative effort that has won a multitude of awards and accolades and opened up a world as familiar to us our own homes. <BR/><BR/>But do not be fooled by the subject matter. This book is definitely for adults as it explores even the darker sides of some involved, particularly that of Northern Calloway (David) and his slow descent into madness and drugs. There are also quoted F-words and such that would not be for sensitive readers, which is my only complaint with the book. <BR/><BR/>No Sesame Street fan should be without this book. It will bring you a whole new appreciation for the show.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is brought to you by the letter T for thanks..

    A definite must read and own. It's amazing how much Sesame Street has touched our lives and stayed with us throughout our childhood into adulthood. I can't imagine a life without Ernie or Oscar and you know what, I don't want to either. Thanks for everything. Lisa

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Street Gang, a definitive history of Sesame Street

    Street Gang by Michael Davis is a great resource for all fans of the Jim Henson work or Sesame Street's great influence on a number of generations. The book chronicles the challenges the CTW team went through along the way and eventually how an iconic program was created. I was expecially interested in how Sesame Street had direct ties to Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo. Overall a very interesting read and quite informative.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2009

    THE STREET GANG BROUGHT ME BACK TO A GREAT TIME

    THE STREET GANG BROUGHT BACK A LOT OF MEMORIES FOR ME. I GRADUATED HIGHT SCHOOL IN 1969 AND GOT MY TEACHING CERTIFICATE IN 1973. THE EDUCATIONAL VALUE OF SESAME STREET HIGHLIGHTED WHY I CHOSE THIS PROFESSION. OUR THREE CHILDREN LIKED THE PUPPETS BUT THEY ALSO LEARNED THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIPS AND COMMUNITY THAT SEEMED TO FORM THE BASIS OF THIS SHOW. I LEARNED AS MUCH AS THEY DID AND WITH SIX GRANDCHILDREN I CURRENTLY WATCH EPISODES WITH THEM AND THIS BOOK BROUGHT IT ALL BACK AND REFRESHED THESE VALUABLE MEMORIES -- WELL DONE MICHAEL DAVIS!!!<BR/><BR/><BR/>JB

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2009

    A MUST READ!

    Thank you, Michael Davis, for penning the ULTIMATE Sesame Street book! Though I was already almost a teenager when Sesame Street aired, I've always been a big fan of the show as I used to watch it as I babysat my sisters and brothers. How satisfying to read a book that goes behind and beyond one of the most enduring and endearing television shows of all time. BRAVO and congratulations, Michael! A fan forever, Patti

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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