Sesame Street

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Sesame Street

"Sesame Street" has influenced generations of kids. Here, the 1969 cast poses on set.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Placing "Sesame Street" ahead of MTV lets us think that today's youth and tomorrow's leaders have at least a fighting chance of considering Maya Angelou and Al Gore as important as Snookie and whoever replaces Lady Gaga as the pop flavor of the month. Generations of us learned to read with "Sesame Street," and it single-handedly took a left turn from the pure entertainment of previous kids' programming to today's "preschool on television" style kids' shows.

The Street was also the first show to consider children as complex, thoughtful little beasties instead of the one-dimensional, happy-all-the-time automatons of previous, mouse-ear-wearing shows. Life is tough on the Street -- look no further than the decision to take on the death of beloved character Mr. Hooper (Why did he die? Just because …). In addition to its overt cheering up of education, it mirrored young viewers' own complex, deeply felt lives.

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