Sesame Street turned 40 years old yesterday. Birth was among the many topics covered by the show’s writers, who sought to integrate the actors’ life experiences into the show.
The Wikipedia entry on the history of Sesame Street discusses the 1988 and 1989 story line that addressed Maria and Luis’ marriage, pregnancy and birth.
Sesame Street’s producers and writers began to use their cast member’s personal lives and real-life experiences to cover issues they wanted to address on the show. For the 1988 and 1989 seasons, the topics of love, marriage, and childbirth were addressed when they created a storyline in which the characters Luis and Maria fall in love, marry, and have a child, Gabi. Sonia Manzano, the actress who played Maria, had married and become pregnant; according to the book Sesame Street Unpaved, published after the show’s thirtieth anniversary in 1999, Manzano’s real-life experiences gave the show’s writers and producers the idea. Research was done before any scripts were written to gain an understanding of the previous studies about preschoolers’ understanding of love, marriage, and family. The show’s research staff found that at the time, there were very little relevant research done about children’s understanding of these topics, and no children’s books had been written for children about them. Research was also conducted by Sesame Street in order to target the areas in which children’s knowledge was the weakest. Studies done after the episodes about Maria’s pregnancy aired showed that as a result of watching these episodes, children’s understanding of pregnancy increased.
Episode 2615, in which Maria has her baby, is on YouTube and divided into two parts.
In the first half of the episode, Luis shows up looking sterile enough to perform surgery, then touches a pay phone and a grouch before returning to Maria’s side. Telly sounds like my grandpa, freaking out over the birth of the baby and, as usual, Gordon and Susan are the voice of reason. Oscar has an existential crisis because he’s happy about the baby coming, then turns to see Joe Piscopo and Roseanne Rosanneadanna walking down the hall with their newborn in a plastic bassinet.
The second half is when it all goes down. [Edit: I don’t know if it needs clarifying that “it all goes down” is an expression that means “it all happens,” not that it all goes downhill.]
Just another day in the life of NICU nurse Reality Rounds:
Luis tells the whole crowd that it’s a [spoiler alert].
Maria tells everyone how wonderful it was to feel the baby coming out of her.
I discover that not only are Big Bird and I both seven feet tall, but we were also wondering where the heck her baby was. Big Bird took a peek.
Maria explains that the nurses took the baby away to make sure [the baby of undisclosed gender] was okay, then the nurse brings her back and presents her to Maria on behalf of the institution.
The baby is cute and not hungry in the least.