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'Sesame Street' Was Getting Kind of Old Though

This is no longer your parent’s "Sesame Street," yo. When America’s favorite Muppets moved to HBO last winter, change made its way to the happiest street ever. One of those changes is saying goodbye to three actors who have longstanding ties with the show.

HBO recently announced they would say “adiós” to Bob, Gordon and Luis to the collective sigh of middle-aged Gen X’ers nationwide. Each of the actors (played by Bob McGrath, 84, Roscoe Orman, 72, and Emilio Delgado, age 76, respectively) were quietly phased out when the move to HBO occurred, as announced on Thursday by Sesame Workshop, the independent production company that produces the show.

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When I heard the news myself this afternoon, my first thought was a mournful, “Nooooooooooo!” But then I realized that was just my lost youth heaving a last gasp of air. The thing is, I am the same age as the original show. I made my debut just a few short weeks before "Sesame Street" first aired on November 10, 1969.

And here’s the deal: My childhood was very, very different than that of my two sons, who are 2 and 7. When I was watching "Sesame Street," it was on a 19-inch, black-and-white TV with no remote control. When my family upgraded to a color set, around the time I entered Kindergarten, well, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Yep, research shows that today’s children have increasingly smaller attention spans. Imagine that.

My children navigate a world of technology that is not even something any of us could have imagined when Bob, Gordon and Luis kept us company. I mean, the character of Luis was a handyman called “Mr. Fix It.” Honest to goodness, when was the last time you fixed anything?

It is a different world our kids are living in. Buck up, Gen X'ers and Millennials! It’s a brave new world in educational TV, too.

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In the 1970s, television that exposed children to diversity was groundbreaking, earth shattering stuff. We needed Gordon and Luis at that time. My white bread, white suburban childhood was richer for seeing their faces on a regular basis. But my kids? Every trip to the park is like visiting the United Nations. Words like burqa and sari and horchata are just part of everyday life for them.

Some of the other changes "Sesame Street" has made with the transition to HBO is moving from a 60-minute to 30-minute format. Yep, research shows that today’s children have increasingly smaller attention spans. Imagine that.

Sad, but true. Today’s kids need to learn new rules and methods to better cope with all the technology that surrounds them.

Our kids have needs that are different than ours were. They still require the basics, so numbers, letters, sounds and shapes remain the hook that the show hangs its hat on, no worries there. And things like empathy and conflict resolution were added to the show’s educational goals a few years into its run and are still a heavy focus.

One of the newer focuses of "Sesame Street" is helping kids co-exist with all the technology that surrounds them. Learning when to turn the screens off or how to listen when Mom and Dad say it’s time to turn over the smartphone. Sad, but true. Today’s kids need to learn new rules and methods to better cope with all the technology that surrounds them.

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As for Bob, Gordon and Luis, well, my guess is that most of our kiddos can run rings around them in the technology department. Hence, the need to say goodbye.

It is bittersweet, to be sure—a reflection both on the passage of time and the reality that change is inevitable, even on our beloved Sesame Street.

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