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Sesame Workshop CEO Weighs in on ‘Sesame Street’ Cast Departure Backlash

The brouhaha over three longtime “Sesame Street” actors leaving the show last week led to a lot of finger pointing. PBS pointed to Sesame Workshop, the production company that actually makes the show — PBS merely airs episodes six months after they appear on HBO, who acquired first-run rights in 2015. Some on social media looked suspiciously at HBO, despite Sesame Workshop denying interference from their new distributor. Tuesday, Sesame Workshop CEO Jeffrey Dunn took to the “Sesame Street” Facebook page to attempt to clear the air:

“We apologize for the misunderstandings around the changing cast roles at ‘Sesame Street.’ Over more than 40 seasons, Bob McGrath, Emilio Delgado, and Roscoe Orman have made enormous contributions to both television, and to the lives of preschoolers. They are, and always will be, a key part of the Sesame family.

As always, our curriculum and educational goals drive our story lines and character appearances. These change season-to-season. In 2014, when we first began producing the current half-hour show format, we let all of our cast members know of the shorter story lines and, therefore, reduced appearances. However, our production team also intentionally left the door open for all actors to continue to appear, based on the story lines that were written in any future season. In our latest season, the story lines written did not include appearances by these three actors and we certainly could have done a better job of communicating with them about our ongoing episode plans.

I have been in touch with each of them to meet in person about how we best adapt their talents to the current content needs and preschool media landscape, in a way that honors their historic contributions. We are very grateful for the many loyal fans of Sesame who continue to care so deeply about the show and what it means to them.”

McGrath has been on the show since it began in 1969; Delgado first appeared in 1971, and Orman in 1974. Orman gave a statement to the “Today” show Monday that would seem to corroborate Dunn’s post: “Due to your overwhelming reaction regarding the status of myself and others on the show, the new producers of ‘Sesame Street’ have reached out to us with an expressed desire to continue our longstanding relationship, to be initiated with a meeting in September,” Orman told “Today.”

The cast member changes are just a few of many that have been implemented over the last couple years. Most noticeably, the show shifted from an hourlong to a half-hour format. The only characters guaranteed to appear in every episode are Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Abby Cadabby. The set now suggests a less isolated neighborhood, and Big Bird somehow manages to haul himself into a tree to live.

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