Essay: How do Sesame Street and Teletubbies address and construct the child viewer

Paying particular attention to the style and narrative structure of episodes screened in class, compare and contrast the ways in which Sesame Street and Teletubbies address and construct the child viewer.

Sesame Street

Sesame Street is well known for its combination of Jim Henson’s Muppets, animation, short films, humor, and cultural references, which is an American Children’s television series created, by Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett. In addition it was used for educational goals and a curriculum. With a number of 45 seasons the television series has been broadcasted since the television was developed. Sesame Street was shown in more than 140 countries by its 40th anniversary. In United States it was rated as the fifteenth highest children’s television. The educational effects on young children were actually studied and recorded for the first time and also formative research and summative was used to change the content of the show. For young children a new era had been accompanied due to television popularity, this capability gave exact opportunity to investigate in creating mass population changes and Sesame Street. (Gregory, J., 1990).

Goals and making of Sesame Street

Joan Ganz Cooney and her crew began to combine the research needed to plan the show’s development. ‘The CTW model’ was developed by the producers; production, intricate system of planning and evaluation, which did not emerge till the end of the first season. The CTW model contains four parts such as the creation and implementation of a specific age-appropriate curriculum, the interaction between receptive television producers and child experts, independent measurement of each viewers’ learning and , in-depth research to construct the program. (Reiser, A., 1984). One of the main initial goals of the show was to prepare and inspire young children, particularly those from low-income families, to be ready for school. Therefore, it was also used to support older children as well as parents to watch the show with the younger children and consequently changes were made to the show’s content to raise its appeal and the viewers’ attention. Humor, cultural references and celebrity features was achieved. (Levin, R.S., 1976).

Recurring Segments 

Recurring segments such as Word of the Day, Letter of the day, Number of the day, Bert and Ernie’s great adventures and Abby’s flying fairy school all offered a modicum of education through interesting and social interactions are screened in each of the episodes.


Teletubbies is a children’s television series that was broadcasted by BBC from 1997 to 2002 produced by Ragdoll productions. Their main target was a pre school viewers.

Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport who were Ragdolls creative directors created and wrote the entire series. On 31st march 1997 is was aired and the last episode aired on 5th January 2002 with a total number of 365 episodes. It was first broadcasted in Britain and gradually abroad, becoming a critical and commercial success global, Teletubbies especially its creation values which continually revolve around the characters portraying toddlers through their behavior, language and similar body proportions. The characters are actually fictional humanoids called Teletubbies in Teletubbyland.

The show was mainly designed keeping the target audience in mind, the attention span of children, the pace at which the message was conveyed and the manner it was conveyed in. this was successfully accomplished by Davenport by the bright colors and the repletion of key words. (, 2002).

Controversies and Advantages

Several controversies were made about the program teletubbies especially about the characters pictured and the intention of the messages behind it. The main example being that despite its target audience being children aged between 18 months and 4 years, it was followed enthusiastically by older generations, namely university and high school students due to the subtle underline meanings offered by the show. In addition it was criticized due to the fact that toddlers might get affected for displaying homosexual qualities. The accused behavior was due to the claims that Tinky Winky, the biggest teletubby was demonstrated as a homosexual through his performance and his body color being purple ‘was considered in early 2000 as the color of homosexuality. His performance has also been understood in another method, one which views his homosexual character as part of society by not blurring the gender roles and implanting the idea of acceptance into a young child’s mind. This view recommends that the show uphold the distinction of different gender identities. This distinction is characterized by children in Israel who are able to differentiate between male and female characters; Tinky Winky and Dipsy being males, La-la and Po being females regardless of the fact that Tinky Winky carries a handbag while Po drives a scooter (Dafna, L., 2001).

Teletubbies television series is an satisfactory educational program to children for the age group under 3years because differentiate between male and female counterparts and each progressive developmental stage is aided by expressively bright colors reinforced with simple one-word messages (Sagar, L., 1998). The program seeks to improve the understanding of a child’s perception through a display of attractive colors and frequent movement and their cognitive understanding of the world around them and the one they see in Teletubbies, and how they both relate to each other. In addition, the language contains consistent audio breaks supplying children with ample opportunities to hear and practice their language skills, imitate the words spoken on screen as children often do, allowing them to build their vocabulary and construct simple sentences (Roberts, S., 1999).

Comparing Sesame Street and Teletubbies 

It varies from Sesame Street on this aspect by introducing general values and ethics to children rather than preparing children for school as Sesame Street is often seen to do. For instance, in the screened episode of Teletubbies, the word Umbrella is constant each time he picks it up and uses it go protect himself from the sun or the rain. The simple message of how it is used by people and is basically a social skill that young children learn. The focus of Teletubbies is more on showing affection, enjoyment and individuality. The series has been developed based on concepts developed after observing young children, their games and the way they interpret information. This has provided two frameworks for the children to be educated upon. The first being the Teletubbies “baby talk” is 80% adult language and 20% “play language”, the latter reinforcing positive effects and forming a bridge between children who are nearer to being 3 years old and the ones who have just reach one year of age. The second framework lies in the recurrent repetitions, which make the process of learning easier, allowing children to recognize things because of recurrence of words and movements. This also helps build up their self-esteem. The dance sequences performed on the series are meant to be imitated so the young children get involved in physical activity rather than just passively sitting in front of the television in one place (Jonathan, B., 2005).

Effects on Viewers 

Relating to the discussions of the effects television has on children, the difficulty level is often unnoticed on proving these effects indisputably. As it is a television series and viewed as a commercial commodity, there are no established facts about it, rather much of the facts are opinions and theories that experts have come up with. The “experts” who make such assessments of this kind, in fact, take a lot of time and money regarding whether or not a specific television show has had positive or negative effects on children viewers. Yet, discussions pointing towards the validity of these conjectures still prevail. (Palmer, L., 1976).

Critical Acclaim 

On comparing two critically acclaimed shows such as Sesame Street and Teletubbies has always been under a more strict and criticized eye due to it’s incoherent “baby talk”, the poor educational value it has to offer, issues which child experts globally have targeted (Horst, S., 1992). Certainly, the disagreements surrounding the children’s television series stated above does not help in the least bit. On the other hand, Sesame Street has been shown much more appreciation and falls towards the positive end of the comparison due to its popularity among adults and young children alike, its long running time on air due to global critical acclaim for the genre of children’s television series. Most research studies on Sesame Street show the effects on the response generated in the viewers, one that has been exceedingly positive and constructive (Anderson, D., 2008). The show provides several contributing factors that seek to improve a child’s social and physical behavior in public and at home. The effect has been noticed in how regular children viewers are generally more assertive and display better and efficient social behavior than their peers during free play with other young children who have not seen the show on such a regular basis. It has helped ground basic skills and knowledge such as learning the alphabets, numbers, practicing good health habits and on a more general note, appreciating the rich diversity of global cultures and traditions. It captures the attention of young children through humor, a playful tempo, a variety of colorful different looking characters, story arcs and song performances, with a strong emphasis on audience participation and the applause as the reward for learning and/or mastering a new skill (Judith, H.M., 1975).
The two shows appeal in a unique way for each program that express themselves in their own particular style, on a practical level that is reasonable with due respect to the targeted audience’s intelligence. Since both show’s offer a diversity of story arcs and messages, they have proved successful in various countries, with additional focus on enhanced educational results. It has set a benchmark for which all foreign producers and researchers continuously look upon to help create programs that reflect the cultural, social, religious and linguistic diversity of their own respective countries. It also helps in viewing the bigger picture of the world as a young children, by teaching children the importance of universal roles and their practice along side their traditional values and cultural roles (Joan, D, 1971).

Targeted Audiences 

In both the television shows the main difference is the target audience other than that both shows aim to aid in the cognitive development of children. In Teletubbies it targets the age group of children from 12 to 18 months but Sesame Street targets at a slightly older children, who are between the age of 3 and 5, most importantly those who are about to join kindergarten. The main aim of Sesame Street is to prepare young children for school, to subconsciously prep them for the concepts ahead such as introducing numeracy, literacy and spatial skills (Williamson, N., 1988). Whereas, Teletubbies focuses more on 12 to 18 months of age, including toddlers constructing and delivering messages. Their goal is to help develop cognitive abilities such as recognizing corporeal images and linking them with their names and develop basic sensory development. The characters and puppets have been utilized in both shows to help gravitate the attention of young children. The cheerful colors are also an added bonus but again, the difference in their intent behind the costumes is different. Young children are more physically and motivate in the Teletubbies , on the other hand in Sesame Street it gains attention of young children in order to pass on educational values from the show (Goodman, I., 1976).

In conclusion, with all challenges and controversies both shows have been successful and benefited millions of viewers specially children. Most importantly these two shows have become a part of every young child’s childhood and one without either of these shows can be popularly quoted to be incomplete.


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