An earnest but lopsided Christian reading of the birth and growth of Sesame Street.


The Gospel According to Sesame Street


A revisionary, religious analysis of a beloved children’s TV show.

Over the course of 46 seasons on the air, the popular PBS (and now HBO) show Sesame Street has imparted gentle lessons about tolerance, patience, and optimism to countless children and given great help to parents and teachers along the way. In this often engaging nonfiction debut, Dreibelbis refers to it as “one of the most significant television programs of all time,” and aims to make the case that the core teachings of Sesame Street map onto those of Christianity with nearly one-to-one fidelity. He takes readers through a lucid, engaging recounting of the show’s origins as the “brainchild” of educational-TV documentary producer Joan Ganz Cooney; her husband, Tim Cooney; and Lloyd Morrisett, the vice president of the Carnegie Corporation. He tells with understated skill how Joan Ganz Cooney learned about Jim Henson and worked to sell him on the idea of lending his talents to the new show. After relating humorous details of the first meeting between the laid-back Henson and corporate network representatives, Dreibelbis quotes a Cooney interview in which she flatly admitted: “We would not be around if not for the Muppets.” All of this makes for a very enjoyable entertainment-industry history along the lines of Michael Davis’ Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street (2008). However, Dreibelbis puts his own spin on the story by overlaying some biblical parallels that might have surprised the Cooneys and their colleagues (such as “There may be a parallel between Doubting Thomas and Sesame Street’s Big Bird and his good friend Snuffleupagus”). At one point, for example, the author unconvincingly links the concept of targeting the show at economically disadvantaged children to a biblical reading that asserts that “Jesus Didn’t Hang Around With the Cool Kids”; he also tries to compare the show’s emphasis on healthy living to dietary discussions in the Book of Daniel, and so on. Readers who come to the book for an anecdote-rich history of their favorite TV show will find it more rewarding reading than those who come to the book looking for religious inspiration.

An earnest but lopsided Christian reading of the birth and growth of Sesame Street.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-5113-0

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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