Sesame Street "Episode 847" (partially found "Wicked Witch of the West" episode of children’s educational TV series; 1976)
Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, alongside Oscar the Grouch in a still from the episode.
Status: Partially Found
On February 10th, 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 was 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, some 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 Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (as herself) 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. She also appeared months after her Sesame Street appearance on "The Paul Lynde Halloween Special" (as the witch), acting more fun-loving and wacky. Both were not met with any controversy and were generally well-received.
In February 2019, it was announced that over 4500 episodes of Sesame Street over its 49 seasons would be archived in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. It is possible that "Episode 847" could be included in the episodes being archived, but this is not confirmed.
Jim Henson Legacy president Craig Shemin hosted a screening of clips from the episode at The Museum of the Moving Image in New York City on November 24th, 2019, as part of a "Lost and Found" event celebrating Sesame Street's 50th anniversary. The screening was also accompanied by an unaired segment from "Snuffy's Parents Get a Divorce", and a discussion panel with puppeteer Stephanie D'Abruzzo, former Sesame Street head writer Norman Stiles, and Sesame Workshop's Rosemarie Truglio.
- Muppet Wiki article on "Episode 847". Retrieved 27 Sep '14
- A scan of a newspaper article on the then-upcoming episode; 08 Feb 1976. Retrieved 03 Oct '14
- MeTV article on Hamilton’s appearance on Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood. Retrieved 15 Feb '19
- The announcement of the archiving of Sesame Street episodes. Retrieved 15 Feb '19
- The Museum of the Moving Image's official website where it announces "Sesame Street Lost and Found." Retrieved 02 Oct '19