Here are some discussion questions for book clubs.
1. Some television shows don’t last 40 days, never mind 40 years. Why has Sesame Street defied the odds?
2. Given the show’s success and television’s penchant for copycat programming, why hasn’t there been another series quite like Sesame Street?
3. Joan Ganz Cooney made a point of hiring great people and then stepping out of the way, a laissez faire management style that reaped huge rewards. Creative people often thrive under this hands-off approach, but few corporate environments offer it. For every Pixar there are 100 boxy corporations that stifle creativity and perpetuate mediocrity. Why?
4. A timely course of antibiotics likely would have prevented Jim Henson’s death, but he made a choice not to seek medical help when he was so critically ill. How would you characterize that choice? Should someone have saved Jim Henson from himself?
5. The book’s overarching question asks whether the confluence of genius that gave rise to Sesame Street was a matter of luck and exquisite timing. Might something greater have been at play?
6. Given the quality and quantity of preschool programming available on broadcast and cable, are we now living in the golden age of children’s television?
7. Are today’s preschoolers really all that different from the children who first watched Sesame Street in 1969? Or is it that our expectations for them are different?
8. Did Sesame Street play a role in preparing an electorate to consider a black candidate for president and a woman for vice president?
9. So many of the Muppets of Sesame Street represent obvious archetypes (Bert the fussbudget, Oscar the contrarian). Grover, on the other hand, is a bit harder to pin down. Some believe he speaks for the second-born child, the one who needs to work a little harder to attention and acclaim. What do you think?
10. Why has there never been a female Muppet to reach the heights of popularity enjoyed by Big Bird and Grover?