Tuesday, November 10 marks the 51st anniversary of the premiere of Sesame Street, the enduring children’s series that tackles topical issues filtered through the lens of its colorful puppet residents. Characters like Big Bird and Cookie Monster are the gold standard for innocuous childhood role models. But there was a time when the content of Sesame Street was questionable enough to get a contemporary “intended for grown-ups” tag.
Footage from original episodes of the show that was released on DVD in 2007 under the title Sesame Street: Old SchoolVolume 1 and Volume 2 demonstrated content parents would find somewhat alarming today. Shots of kids riding bicycles without helmets were common; kids ran through construction sites and jumped on old mattress box springs, activities that would be verboten today. Even Cookie Monster was a de facto spokes-monster for smoking: He sported a pipe.