I have to confess, I don't watch TV much anymore--the antenna on top of my set brings in only about five channels. But the rays I soaked as a chubby kid were a ratio of about nine cathode to one solar: a purer product of '70s boob-tube-feeding you won't find. And perhaps the earliest TV influence of a childhood smorgasbord that included everything from Batman and Night Gallery to Maude and The Carol Burnett Show resonates with me to this day: Sesame Street, which turns 30 this year.
It's easy to ridicule Barney and Friends, but Sesame Street throws the former's crass lack of imagination into harsh relief. The first is a tranquilizer--and an expensive one, if your kid gets hooked--the other a stimulant, even a hallucinogen for kids who really get wrapped up. And don't give me that bullstuff about one's for toddlers, the other's for pre-schoolers. The oft-brilliant writing and production team of the Children's Television Workshop started training me in the whys and wherefores of wit (not to mention the letters W, I, and T, all frequent sponsors) at the age of 3. It also introduced me to the concept that you can argue with others--the denizens of Sesame Street bitch at and about each other a lot--and still live side by side with them. (Not to mention, Bert and Ernie still provide hope that two men really can live together in a long-term monogamous relationship.)
In fact, it's because I revere Sesame Street so much that I almost hesitate to recommend Art From the Fuzzy and the Famous, a 12-city traveling tour that features multimedia depictions of the show by the likes of Julia Roberts, Barbara Bush, Rosie O'Donnell, and Tony Bennett. I would like to see extensive depositions taken under oath with these people demonstrating their knowledge/love/ appreciation of the show. Some celebs groove with the Street vibe when they make appearances; others have their superficial opportunism exposed. I'll never forget watching Kathleen Turner ask in that husky, self-conscious sex-goddess voice, as if she were talking to Michael Douglas or William Hurt: "Why so grouchy today, Oscah?"
Seeing the gang's carpet faces should make it all worthwhile. Plus, after this show moves on to Washington, D.C., and New York, it'll auction at Sotheby's and proceeds go, in part, to The Elisabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Art From the Fuzzy and the Famous runs through November 3 at the African-American Museum in Fair Park. Call (214) 565-9026.