The new half-hour format is a change from the hourlong episodes on PBS, which HBO cites as enabling pre-schoolers to focus their attention and engage more with each story. Following the Jan. 16 premiere, each Saturday morning will kick off with one new episode, followed by a repeat.
Aside from length, HBO’s new “Sesame Street” will also feature a new segment from Cookie Monster called “Smart Cookies,” new preschool-relevant themes, new opening and closing songs, an updated set and a new cast member, Nina — a young, bilingual, Hispanic woman, who will continue the series’ mission of modeling diversity.
Nina is described as a witty, compassionate and charismatic role model who comes up with out-of-the-box solutions to Elmo and the gang’s problems. She will be played by Suki Lopez.
“Smart Cookies,” Cookie Monster’s all-new segment, features the blue furry friend and a team of crime-fighting cookie friends who are on-call day and night to thwart the continued efforts of The Crumb, a villain with many tricks up his sleeve. The all-star team is aided by its Smart Cookie car and fancy gadgets, but their brains always turn out to be their most impressive gizmo.
“Families will see fun and fresh changes to ‘Sesame Street’ and can depend on their favorite Muppet friends to provide them with engaging and educational content,” says Brown Johnson, EVP and creative director of Sesame Workshop. “We’re excited to bring the timeless lessons of ‘Sesame Street’ to HBO viewers, like learning numbers from The Count, inner strength from Elmo and kindness from Abby.”
“Sesame Street’s” exec produce Carol-Lynn Parente commented on the show’s new set, which has a new brownstone for Elmo, a new home for Cookie Monster, a new garden for Abby, a new nest for Big Bird and a new central location for Oscar. “I am so excited for kids to explore our updated neighborhood and discover where their favorite characters live. ‘Sesame Street’ has always been the ideal play date for preschoolers. Now, that play date is focused on topics and themes that are very engaging to kids, with our signature educational messages embedded into laughter and music.”
Per usual, the new season will welcome many celebrity guest stars, including Gwen Stefani, Pharrell, Nick Jonas, Sara Bareilles, Alan Cumming, Ne-Yo, Tracee Ellis Ross, Aloe Blacc and “Jane the Virgin’s” Gina Rodriguez, who will sing the ABCs in Spanish.
Though HBO is the new official home for “Sesame Street,” the show will continue to air weekdays and Sundays on PBS Kids and on the respective app, but Season 46 will not air on PBS Kids until fall 2016.
With the original Saturday morning HBO airing, episodes dubbed in Spanish will also debut simultaneously on HBO Latino. HBO Family will air new and past seasons of “Sesame Street” daily, while HBO Now and HBO Go will have five years of library episodes for streaming, in addition to episodes being available on HBO On Demand.