Sesame Park (partially found Canadian co-production of Sesame Street; 1972-2001)
The Sesame Park logo as shown on the series' website, featuring Basil & Louis.
Status: Partially Found
Sesame Street Canada, later known as Sesame Park, was a children's television show that ran on CBC. It was originally (from 1972 to 1996) comprised of Canadian-made content mixed into the iconic American original before transitioning to the fully Canadian-made Sesame Park, which ran from 1996 until 2001. Both shows ran on weekdays at 11:00 AM, in keeping with the target audience of preschool children. Much of the material from both series is now considered lost.
National public broadcaster CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) bought the rights to the beloved American children's series Sesame Street in 1972, just as federal regulations were being introduced mandating that a certain percentage of the country's TV programming be actually Canadian-made. To ensure compliance, the CBC opted to modify Sesame Street with original segments surrounding bilingualism, multiculturalism, and Canadian history.
Each episode kept the original "street" segments that progressed the plot of the episodes, with some non-street shorts and skits being replaced with Canadian content - often at the expense of more familiar American characters and scenes. The CanCon from this era ranged from 12 to 20 minutes of an hour long episode, increasing to approximately 30 minutes by 1981.
All this caused some protest, with children being photographed holding signs saying "Bring Back Bert!" Many contemporary debates around Canadian media content regulations centred around Sesame Street. The issue was however not as controversial as it might have been, inasmuch as most Canadian households also had access to the original American PBS broadcasts thanks to border stations (notably WNED Buffalo, which is available across most of Ontario). The CBC edition was thus generally seen as a novelty rather than a deprivation.
In 1987, the CBC added original Canadian Muppet characters, including Basil the sweet-but-dim polar bear (a rough analogue of Big Bird), Louis the much sharper (and French-speaking) otter, Dodi the elderly bush pilot and Katie, a little girl whose big imagination transcended her wheelchair. In addition, the Henson workshop provided some Anything Muppets which - as per the name - could be adapted to portray various other characters as needed, including reporter Barbara Plum (a parody of CBC News's legendary anchorwoman Barbara Frum). The new Muppet cast appeared in the opening credits and in short skits that eventually replaced even some American street segments.
Beginning in 1996, the show was revamped to be a solely Canadian production, with Basil, Louis and the rest becoming the core cast, joined by a new character, Chaos the cat. Episodes were shortened to 30 minutes, featured entirely original street segments, and only occasionally included American content. The "street" segments were located in a park, giving the show the name Sesame Park. This edition was discontinued in 2001, for reasons that have never been disclosed but were probably budget-related, in combination with the fact that PBS had recently lost the rights to the original Sesame Street.
It is unknown exactly how many episodes were made of the 1972-1996 edition, due to it lagging about a year behind the original Sesame Street broadcasts. Thanks to archives of the CBC Kids website, Sesame Park's website is still available, confirming the number of episodes made plus episode names and segment titles.
Many clips of the Canadian segments are available online, and six full episodes from the two series are available. More are probably held in the CBC archives, but unlikely to be released at this point, as demand would not overcome costly and complicated rights issues.
- Wikipedia page on Sesame Park.
- IMDB link, lots of missing info
- Muppet Fandom Wiki on Sesame Park detailing episode lists.