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Sesame Street on HBO: Premiere date, plus new changes announced

Celebrity guests include Gwen Stefani, Pharrell, and Nick Jonas; the show debuts on Jan. 16

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HBO

Sesame Street will return for a 46th season in January with a new home for Big Bird & Co., a slew of changes, and, of course, some high-profile celebrity guests to help usher in this new era.

Kids, can you say the letters H, B, and O? Because that’s where the Emmy-friendly educational children’s show has set up (Sesame Work)shop. The five-season deal, which was announced this summer, moves Sesame Street from public television, which is where it has aired since its debut in 1969, to the premium channel, which will start to unveil new episodes on Jan. 16.

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Two new episodes will premiere that day at 9 a.m. ET. In subsequent weeks, one new episode will air at 9 a.m. while a repeat runs at 9:30 a.m. New episodes, dubbed in Spanish, will be available on HBO Latino. After a nine-month window, these episodes will be available in a familiar place: PBS.

Sesame Street is introducing a new cast member, Nina (played by Suki Lopez), a bilingual Hispanic woman who works at the laundromat and bike store. According to HBO’s press release, Nina will use “her wit, compassion and charisma to help the furry residents of Sesame Street solve their daily dilemmas, providing a positive role model for preschoolers.” 

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There also are more famous faces joining the show for guest spots. Among the celebrities singing songs: Gwen Stefani (“Be a Good Friend”), Pharrell (“B Is for Book”), Nick Jonas (“Check That Shape”) Ne-Yo (“You’ve Got a Body, So Move It!”), Fifth Harmony (“That’s Music”) Sara Bareilles (“Just Like Magic”) and Aloe Blacc (“Everyday Hero”). Gina Rodriguez will croon the ABCs in Spanish, Tracee Ellis Ross will get schooled on bedtime routines, and Alan Cumming will play Mucko Polo, the grouch explorer.

In addition to being shorter in length — 30 minutes instead of the traditional 60 — new episodes will look different, too. The iconic theme song has been updated, and the show opening will be set in the Sesame Street neighborhood. Brace for a new Cookie Monster segment titled Smart Cookies, in which he continues to work on self-restraint while he and some crime-stopping pals try to take down a villain named The Crumb.

The set has been updated as well, with favorite characters moving locations. Elmo has taken up residence in the 123 SESAME STREET brownstone, Cookie Monster has relocated above Hooper’s Store, Big Bird now nests in a tree, Abby “finds inspiration” in her new garden, and Oscar’s can has not only been moved to a better location, it’s been given a makeover. And expect some Oscar sightings in recycling bins and composting receptacles. If you’re going to be green, you have to live the green lifestyle.