Sesame Street episode 847 (lost "Wicked Witch of the West" episode; 1976)
|Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, alongside Oscar the Grouch in a still from the episode.|
On February 10, 1976, one of Sesame Street’s most controversial episodes to date aired for the first and only time. Episode 847 starred Margaret Hamilton, reprising her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
The central plot of the episode involves the witch losing her magic broom whilst flying over Sesame Street, only to have it wind up in the hands of David, who refuses to return it, skeptical towards the witch's intentions. As a result, she threatens to turn both Big Bird and David into inanimate objects (a feather duster and a basketball, respectively), also suggesting that she would make it rain inside Mr Hooper's Store if the broom was not returned. Out of all the Sesame Street residents, the only one to react favorably towards the witch is Oscar, even to the point of developing a crush on her, although Big Bird also eventually warms to the witch and is saddened when she leaves, comically dropping her broom for a second time as the episode ends.
In the days following the episode's airing, a barrage of complaints were received by the Children's Television Workshop, the majority of which were from angered parents whose children had been traumatized by Hamilton's frightening guest appearance. Due to the episode's overwhelmingly poor reception, several additional test screenings were held the following month, although the results were generally inconclusive, with a large portion of the test audience appearing fascinated by the witch, rather than scared, on account of her green face (as, during this period, most families didn't have access to a color TV). Despite the tests' inconclusive results, the initial complaints were enough for Anna Herera (of the CTW Research Department) to declare the episode unsuitable for re-airing. It has not been aired or shown publicly in any form since.
Notably, Hamilton had made appearances a year earlier on both Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (as herself) and "The Paul Lynde Halloween Special" (as the witch), dressing up in her witch costume at the end of the Mister Rogers segment, in order to reassure children that the Wicked Witch of the West didn't actually exist and was simply a character, and acting more fun-loving in the Paul Lynde special, and both were not met with any controversy and were generally well received.
- Wikipedia article on Margaret Hamilton. Last retrieved 28 Sep 2014.
- Muppet Wiki article on Margaret Hamilton. Last retrieved 28 Sep 2014.
- Scan of a newspaper article on the then-upcoming episode; 08 Feb 1976. Last retrieved 03 Oct 2014.
- Muppet Wiki article on Episode 847. Last retrieved 28 Sep 2014.