It has been generally believed that Bert and Ernie were named after the police officer and taxi cab driver in It's a Wonderful Life (1946). However, series writer Jon Stone denied this, maintaining that it was only a coincidence. He commented that he and Jim Henson were studying the prototype puppets and decided that one looked like an Ernie and the other looked like a Bert.
When Will Lee died, the production staff decided not to cast another actor as neighborhood grocer Mr. Harold Hooper. Instead, they wrote a special episode dealing with the loss of a loved one ("Goodbye, Mr. Hooper"). When the other cast members talk to Big Bird about the death of loved ones, some are visibly near tears. A child psychologist was brought in to help the writers. The episode announcing Mr. Hooper's death was scheduled for a public holiday, and was publicized in many newspapers so parents could be prepared to answer their children's questions. They were very careful not to say that Mr. Hooper died in a hospital, to avoid making children fear going to the hospital. In polls, fans have consistently voted this episode as the most moving and memorable.
To answer the immortal question, here is how to get to Sesame Street: Take the "R" or "V" train to Steinway Street. Stay on back of train. Walk west on 34th Avenue, three blocks to 36th Street. Turn left on 36th Street. The entrance to Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens is mid-block (between 34th & 35th Avenues).
Gordon never had a last name until 1991 when he became a teacher. Since it would have been inappropriate for students to call him by his first name, Roscoe Orman suggested his last name should be Robinson, after Matt Robinson, the first actor to play Gordon in the show.
The character of Oscar the Grouch was inspired by two people. His attitude comes from a nasty waiter that served Jim Henson and former director Jon Stone at a restaurant called Oscar's Tavern in Manhattan. The voice was inspired by a cab-driver that used to drive Caroll Spinney to the set every day during the first season.
It was decided to allow others besides Big Bird to see Snuffleupagus due to the "Children should be seen, heard and believed" campaign where, if a child were to report something, particularly criminal abuse of their bodies, then adults would believe them.
Possibly the only topic that has never been dealt with on the show is divorce. The producers tried in 1991 with an episode titled "Snuffy's Parents Get a Divorce". In the episode, Snuffy's parents are shown arguing and his sister, Alice, is shown reacting by hitting her teddy bear. The script was reviewed by child psychologists who suggested an emphasis on telling children that if their parents get divorced, their parents will still love them and the divorce is not their fault. The episode was tested on children in daycare centers. But the children came away with those same negative messages. The episode was never aired. In another 1991 episode, Kermit the Frog interviews a bird who sings about how her parents still love her even though they no longer live together though it is not directly stated that her parents are divorced.
Rosita originally appeared on Plaza Sésamo (1972), the Mexican version of Sesame Street (1969). When she joined the cast of the original American version, she became first regular bilingual Muppet on Sesame Street.
In 1990, songwriter Christopher Cerf told radio interviewer Terry Gross that the show was sued for $5.5 million over the song "Letter B," a parody of The Beatles' song "Let It Be." The plaintiff was Michael Jackson's music library, which had bought the Beatles catalog. The Beatles, who no longer owned the rights to the original song, wrote a statement to the court supporting Sesame Street. The case was settled for $500.
Some classic Muppets have been canned for interesting reasons. Don Music, the piano player who would bang his head against the piano in frustration, was discontinued when kids at home started doing the same thing. Harvey Kneeslapper's signature laugh was too much of a strain on Frank Oz's vocal cords. Roosevelt Franklin was considered a negative cultural stereotype; he was the only African American Muppet at the time, and was mostly seen in detention after school. Professor Hastings, a teacher whose lectures were so dull that he'd fall asleep while he was giving them, was discontinued because he was too dull. Some of these segments continued to air on the Canadian version for some time after they were removed from the US show.
Originally, producers intended to keep the Muppets and the human actors separate, in different sequences. However, the producers learned that the audiences were focusing their attention on the Muppets and ignoring the actors. In response, they had the actors and Muppets interact in new scenes. Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch were primarily designed for actors to work with.
In 2004, Natalie Portman appeared as a character named Natalie, who was going to run Hooper's Store for three episodes while Alan was on vacation. After taping one episode, Portman began losing her voice and was unable to continue.
In 1993, the original set was expanded to include new areas located just around the corner from Big Bird's nest, which had previously marked the end of Sesame Street's world. Among these areas was a store initially run by a character played by Ruth Buzzi. The series format was intended to simulate the commercial-filled world of TV to which American children are exposed, with a main plot line being interrupted by frequent commercials hawking educational concepts instead of products and simulated TV programs. The show also made extensive use of the reruns concept by replaying popular segments over and over, intermixed with new material. As a result, children viewing the show in 2002 will still see the occasional segment that was originally created for the series when their parents were still children! Many songs written for the series are now considered standards. These include "Sing," "Being Green," "Rubber Duckie," and "C is for Cookie," as well as the show's theme song. However, when the show changed formats in 2000, this concept is less frequently used than before.
When creating the show, executive producer Joan Ganz Cooney, deliberately made sure that the human cast would be an ensemble with approximately equal roles, so no one person would emerge as the host or star of the show and be able to use this as a negotiating tool and threaten the show's survival when it came time for contracts to be renewed, as Robert Keeshan had been able to do as the star of the Captain Kangaroo (1955) show.
In 2002, producers of Takalani Sesame (2000), the South African version of the show, announced Kami, an HIV-positive Muppet. She was added to address the growing number of people with the virus, including children, in that part of the world.
Hooper's Store had gone through a few redesigns over the years. From 1969-1998, the building was green with a yellow and black checkered design below the window looking out front, an old-fashioned Bell Telephone System logo on the left side, and a green and white-striped awning overlooking the front window. Various murals were painted on the building during those years. In 1998, when Alan took over, the entire front of the building was repainted a bright blue. A new red vinyl awning stretched over the front window, and around the corner to a new side window, with white letters reading "Hooper's Store" on both sides. In 2002, the building was repainted a pale orange color. Starting in 2008, Hooper's store got a complete overhaul. The exterior was painted blue, and the awning is tan with red stripes. The Bell Telephone System sign hangs on the brick wall, above the awning that faces the arbor. The interior is more of a convenience store, with refrigerators, and magazines and newspapers on a special shelf. The walls are light green. The store's "first dollar" and Big Bird's drawing of Mr. Hooper are hanging on the wall.
In 1970, the show was banned in Mississippi in a 3-2 split vote by the State Commission for Educational Television, an anonymous committee member citing that the show uses a highly-integrated cast and that Mississippi was not yet ready for it. 22 days later, the commission reversed its decision.