One reason Sesame Street continues to seem fresh after 22 seasons is that old characters are always being given new, funny things to do. For example, halfway through this celebration of Big Bird’s birthday (he’s always 6!), Cookie Monster appears in his latest guise as Alistair Cookie, host of — what else? — Monsterpiece Theatre. Sporting an ascot and smoking jacket, Cookie guides us through a gleefully pun-filled production of The King and I — the letter ”i,” that is, complete with an educational lesson in the use of this important vowel.
Big Bird’s Birthday — the first Sesame Street special since Muppet master Jim Henson died last year — is mainly an excuse to gather all the show’s familiar characters, including humans like Bob McGrath and Roscoe Orman’s Gordon, and to showcase many guest stars. One musical production number, ”Monster in the Mirror,” features cameos by 25 celebs, including Julia Roberts, the Simpsons (”Happy birthday, bird-dude”), Candice Bergen, and Ray Charles (”Hey, it’s the Pepsi man!” my 5-year-old shouted).
Blissfully free of sticky sentiment, full of honest emotion, this is the best sort of birthday party.