Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street — Michael Davis

Complete, and how. Other reviews have called this history exhaustive and meticulous. I will definitely give them the exhaustive.

This was honestly really interesting, not the least of which for also rather providing a history of children’s television overall and a bit of television history in general. I had a conversation with my mother the other day in which we talked about how much progress has occurred in their lifetimes and mine—sometimes it puts into perspective how much we fear things not improving or changing in our own lives.

But I digress, the fundamental problem with this book comes down to a problem of focus. Davis has trouble, as Cherie flippantly put it, telling you how to get to Sesame Street. He spends a great deal of the first third of the book talking in explicit detail about children’s television and the issues and ideas that led to the formation of the Children’s Television Workshop, as well as introducing a huge cast of characters whose importance is never fully explained until they turn up again in the last third of the book working on Sesame Street. Other people are introduced, mentioned frequently, and then given expanded context that isn’t relevant and might have been more interesting when we first read about them 100 pages ago. The best example of this was Tom Whedon, father to Joss of Buffy fame, mentioned multiple times early on for his work on Captain Kangaroo before his role in the Electric Company is brought up—and it’s then that he gets linked to his son’s work.

Davis spent a great deal of time researching this book, and there’s a lot of great information that simply gets lost in an organizational structure and narrative style that simply ends up being confusing. In the end I enjoyed it, and I can’t stop humming the theme tune to myself, but for such an interesting subject, the book is far too much of a slog.