Several events to mark 50 years of hit German-language Sesame Street

10 January 2023
Pre-school programme from Manhattan takes on new life in Germany

Germany is celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Sesamstraße” – the German spin-off of the cult U.S. pre-school Sesame Street. Set in Hamburg-Tonndorf, the show premiered on NDR on January 8, 1973 after the broadcaster paid USD 700,000 (about DM 2.4 million at the time) to become a licensee four years after its U.S. TV premiere on November 10, 1969. Starring Ernie and Bert and the Cookie Monster, Sesame Street teaches pre-school children how to spell and to count in little sketches and song and dance numbers with celebrity guests. Sesame Street is broadcast in around 150 countries and with its own country-specific focus.

Conveying values in a child-friendly manner

NDR has continuously developed the programme. New characters have long since joined the original Muppet cast by legendary puppet maker Jim Henson. In the late 1970s, the German team consisted of Samson, Henning Venske, Tiffy and Liselotte Pulver and featured appearances by actors Uwe Friedrichsen, Manfred Krug and Annette Friern and Hamburg-based musicians such as Jan Delay and Roger Cicero. Characters such as Wolle, the smart sheep reporter, and his best friend "Pferd" the horse, even had their own segment called "Eine Möhre für Zwei (A Carrot for Two)" in 2010. The German theme song "Der, die, das (wer, wie, was – wieso, weshalb, warum – wer nicht fragt, bleibt dumm!)" translates literally to "this, this and that (who, how, what – why, why and why – those who don't ask stay dumb!)". That line has long since become a catchphrase for conveying values such as fairness, tolerance and respect rather than simply teaching the alphabet. "Sesamstraße" regularly highlights topics such as nature and environmental protection, climate change, diversity and a healthy diet playfully and which still resonates with young viewers.

Jan Delay on Sesamstraße

Successful 50 years

NDR had produced 2,931 episodes of “Sesamstraße” by January 8, 2023 and since 2019 as an in-house programme in close co-operation with the Sesame Workshop in New York, the non-profit educational organisation behind "Sesame Street". In 2021 alone, the German "Sesamstraße" app and notched up nearly than 460,000 views. “Sesamstraße’s” YouTube channel had over 34 million views and more than 470,000 on the children’s KiKA channel alone. Several events are taking place in Hamburg to mark its 50-years of success beginning with an anniversary concert on January 28, 2023 in the Elbphilharmonie. The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg is hosting a special exhibition focusing on the design and crafts behind the hit programme through January 7, 2024. On February 17, 2023, the BallinStadt Emigration Museum will open a special exhibition entitled "50 Years of Sesame Street - More than a TV Show" with objects, props and costumes from five decades of “Sesamstraße” and under the auspices of Dr Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg.


Sources and further information

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