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Sesame Street ending in Japan

Discussion in 'Sesame Worlds' started by Phillip, Mar 20, 2004.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    Farewell to Sesame Street

    There are some American icons we would not miss too much if they were to disappear tomorrow. Starbucks, McDonald's, Britney Spears: Despite their popularity here, they all have perfectly adequate local equivalents. Japanese would still be able to drink coffee, eat hamburgers and listen to annoying pop music in their absence. But there is no local equivalent for a slightly less conspicuous American cultural institution that really is about to vanish from Japan. "Sesame Street," the groundbreaking U.S. children's television show that is going off the air here next month after more than 30 years, occupies a niche all its own. As such, its cancellation is to be regretted.

    "Sesame Street" pioneered a new approach to children's television programming when it was launched in the United States in 1969. There were older shows that sought to entertain, and there were others that sought to educate. "Sesame Street" did both, teaching generations of American preschoolers to spell, count, read, name colors, button their own clothes, cross the street, make friends and acquire many other crucial everyday skills in the company of the late Jim Henson's wildly original and exuberant puppets.
    (We pause here for a nostalgic salute to the entire "Sesame Street" cast, including, but not limited to, ingratiating Big Bird, cute Elmo, voracious Cookie Monster, Bruce Stringbean and the S Street Band ("Born to Add"), clever Kermit, silly Grover, the woolly mammoth Snuffleupagus, Forgetful Jones, Dr. Noble Price the scientist, the Oinker Sisters and, last but not least, those squabbling bachelors Bert and Ernie).

    So great was the new show's appeal that it wasn't limited to America for long. Within two years it had been picked up in Japan; NHK has broadcast it here since 1971. Today, "Sesame Street" is broadcast in some 120 countries around the world, 20 of which sponsor co-productions of the original versions, among them Russia, Israel, Mexico and Germany. The show has won numerous honors, including some 60 Emmy Awards in the U.S. and the Prix Jeunesse and the Japan Prize abroad.

    As far as its presence in Japan was concerned, NHK's goal from the beginning had been to honor the educational vision behind it by broadcasting the show in English. This made sense: Part of the point of the original U.S. show had been language-learning, albeit geared to American preschoolers, some of whom didn't speak English at home. In Japan, the equivalent audience was junior high-school students, according to a retired NHK producer quoted in news stories last week.

    Things did not go precisely as planned, however. The language level, while fairly rudimentary, proved too challenging for beginning students of English, and after 1995 NHK aired "Sesame Street" in dual-language broadcasts. But this only caused fresh difficulties.

    In English, the show may have been too hard for the target Japanese audience to follow; in Japanese, it was too easy. It was, after all, a show originally designed for preschoolers. Gradually, it settled into its niche as a show for younger Japanese viewers, helped along by the insertion of Japanese-language narration. Even so, ratings dwindled, averaging just 1.3 percent between April 2003 and early March of this year.

    Surprisingly, NHK was not the primary force behind the move to jettison the show in Japan. The program's U.S. distributor reportedly pressured NHK to broadcast a Japanese-language version of "Sesame Street" in place of the English original. When NHK balked, distribution rights were canceled, according to news accounts.

    This may look like just one more example of the clash between ideals and the bottom line, with the bottom line -- profitability -- winning out as usual. But that doesn't appear to be the case. Sesame Workshop, the U.S. distributor, is a nonprofit organization. Instead, the fate of "Sesame Street" in Japan seems to have resulted from a clash between two sets of ideals, two visions of what a show such as this can and should accomplish.

    For NHK, the priority has been language acquisition. Sesame Workshop, by contrast, is more interested in using the show as a vehicle for cultural and ideological education, necessarily conducted in a child's own language. Its Web site approvingly cites the case of Egypt, where the show, known as "Alam Simsim," focuses on girls' education, and of South Africa, where this season "Takalani Sesame" has introduced a Muppet living with HIV.

    It is not clear what local causes the Workshop would have wanted a Japanese-language production to focus on, but this much is clear: Buttoning buttons, crossing the street and learning a little English are quite enough for small children to worry about. We are sorry to see the old "Sesame Street" go. We are not sorry that NHK has apparently declined to broadcast the new.

    The Japan Times: March 21, 2004

  2. zanimum

    zanimum New Member

    Reminds me of another state broadcaster, CBC, cancelling Sesame Park, up here in Canada.
  3. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    This is bad... but it could be good...

    Somehow somewhere along the line there could be a possibility of a Japanese co Production. But what the heck could have downed it in the ratings? I would like to know. If it's another YUGIOH ripoff coming to America, I'd like to be warned..

    If it was Kinnikuman reruns... oh well... thems the breaks I suppose. (Curse my knowledge of Obscure japanese Ultraman parodies..)
  4. Klonoa

    Klonoa New Member

    Kinnikuman were those dumb plastic pink MUSCLE toys if I'm not mistaken.

    And there's an old and new cartoon about them, too.
  5. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    the old show is Much better I hear... I've only read the comics. At least SOMEONE knows whay I'm talking about.
  6. muppet maniac

    muppet maniac Well-Known Member

    This..is bad.

    Will they still make Sesame merchandise in Japan?

    And what about the Sesame Street 4-D Movie at Universal Studios Japan? Will it have to go or will it stay? :cry:
  7. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I guess as a cultural icon, SS will still live on in the big J... but we're gonna have to wait and see if it makes a comeback on TV over there...

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