5 Great ‘Sesame Street’ Moments in Celebration of Its 50th Anniversary

Richard Termine

Fifty years of early education awesomeness — and sunny days chasing the clouds away — are honored in Sesame Street‘s 50th Anniversary Celebration special, which kicks off a new season by taking a look back at the lasting legacy of TV’s friendliest thoroughfare.

Created by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett in 1969, and populated by Jim Henson’s beloved Muppets, the series continues to attract A-listers, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who hosts the tribute, with appearances by Itzhak Perlman, Patti LaBelle and Whoopi Goldberg.

Here are five moments that deserve to be remembered.

“It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green”

Early in Season 1, Kermit the Frog (then voiced by Henson) delivered this melancholy, but ultimately empowering, anthem to self-acceptance that proved this kids’ show wasn’t afraid to address topics beyond the alphabet and cookie consumption.

Mr. Hooper’s Death

When actor Will Lee, who played the neighborhood shopkeeper, passed away in 1982, the writers later incorporated his death into a sweetly emotional episode about Big Bird’s struggle to accept the loss of his human friend.

Tina Fey and the Bookaneers

In the 2007 season premiere, Fey traded 30 Rock for a fuzzier address as the captain of a band of book pirates who loved to read so much, they had to sing about it.

Jon Hamm’s Art School

For a “Word of the Day” bit in Season 43, the Mad Men star hilariously tried to explain the meaning of “sculpture” by carrying a collection of increasingly heavy carvings as Elmo chiseled away on his own creation.

Julia’s Arrival

Committed to inclusion, the show welcomed the delightful orange-haired Muppet, who is on the autism spectrum, in 2017. She was first introduced in the 2015 book Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children — which is basically what the show has been teaching us for half a century.

Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, Saturday, Nov. 9, 7/6c, HBO; also airs Sunday, Nov. 17, 7/6c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)