This week my place of employment afforded me an opportunity of a lifetime – to visit the set of an iconic children’s television program.
Let’s back this up a bit – when I was a child, pay-television was on the cusp of the tipping point where it would spill into our homes and lives and become a “necessity” not a luxury. My parents decided not to pay for television, so we only had broadcast stations – the local affiliates, PBS, and a handful of other channels. “Television is a thief – it steals your time”. My sisters and I were allowed to watch three out of four programs in the afternoon – Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, and Reading Rainbow. Pick three, but never all four. Often, Reading Rainbow was the one cut – not because we didn’t love it but because we would tune in right away to Mr Roger’s Neighborhood.
Never mind that I have fond memories of watching Dr. Who with my dad on PBS or being scared watching “Jaws” on the local affiliate. Cheers and Hill Street Blues were some of my favorite evening programs growing up – I got none of the jokes but thought the theme songs were so cool. Imagine my amusement years later when I went to college, got cable TV and binged for the first couple months. Wait – there’s SOMETHING ELSE that is TOTALLY AWESOME coming on next? Why yes, I’d be happy to watch more television!
Television truly is a thief – it stole a LOT of my time in college.
Anyway – I used to watch Sesame Street all the time. As a suburban kid, the concept of the urban neighborhood was foreign and exotic. I wanted so badly to go to Sesame Street. Even though the end credits said it was in New York, NY what that really meant was I was nowhere close to ever getting to Sesame Street.
My junior year in high school I took a media class and learned about radio and television. I loved the radio portion of the class but really loved the television part more. So much so that I volunteered to be the student producer/director on the program about the new high school being built for the school district’s television station. I produced two broadcast-half-hour shows and loved every minute of it. Looking back now, the shows are terribly amateur - but at the time I was very proud of my work.
Naturally I majored in television production in college. I’m one of the “lucky” people who then found a job in my industry. I have worked my way up from being a tape jockey – pushing huge carts of tapes from the library to the control rooms at a massive operations facility – to where I am today - analyzing ratings to drive changes to our schedule that will increase and retain viewership, plan special programming, figure out the promotional plans for network priorities, and manage a team that does the day-to-day work necessary to keep a cable network on the air.
Not ironic or anything that the girl who hardly watched television now makes a living working in television.
Anyway – back to the point. I am finally able to tick the box next to “Get To Sesame Street” on my list of lifelong dreams. Being on set is somewhat magical – children everywhere watch this program. And here they are … making the program! The iconic steps, the street sign. Mr Hooper’s Store. Big Bird’s nest. And I had the opportunity to meet Cookie Monster and have my photo taken with him. The four and five year old me was giddy with excitement!
But it doesn’t escape my thoughts that for these people working on the production – the puppeteers, the cameramen, the directors, editors and puppet wranglers – this is just what they do every day.
And in that, I became very aware and thankful for the opportunities – the ups and down – that have led me to this place my life. That something we take for granted may be someone else’s magical moment.
Take that with you, meditate on it. There is beauty in the routine, the mundane, the things you move through in your everyday life.
See you on the road.