The Hunger Games is a blood-curdling, violent blockbuster about children forced into a brutal fight to the death by a corrupt and oppressive government. So naturally it’s the basis for a Sesame Street sketch.
Sesame Street may be aimed at preschool-age children, but the PBS show and its characters have a history of brilliantly skewering very adult entertainment. On Tuesday, Cookie Monster and Grover stopped by the offices of Entertainment Weekly not to sing the ABCs, but to parody NSFC (Not Safe for Children) programming like The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and The Newsroom. Though these pop culture pieces aren’t exactly the kid-friendly material you’d expect to be on Cookie Monster’s radar, Sesame Street’s parodies of them are hilarious and spot-on.
So from sexy vampires to philandering physicians, we count down the most seemingly inappropriate Sesame Street spoofs.
‘The Hunger Games’/‘The Avengers’/‘The Newsroom’
Think you can make it through this parody montage without giggling? May the odds be ever in your favor. First up is The Hunger Games, in which Cookie Monster, thankfully, swaps the film’s bloody themes for a more literal take on the title: he gobbles up the “cookie-cocupia.” Not done eating, Cookie plays The Edible Hulk in send-up of The Avengers, followed by Doctor Who, in which Grover and Cookie Monster play a hilarious Doctor and Amy Pond. Finally, Cookie Monster channels Will McAvoy’s curmudgeonly newscaster in The Newsroom: “Me tell the news the way it is! Me media elite!”
The only thing missing from Sesame Street’s bulls-eye parody of True Blood is Muppet boobies. Every signature aspect of the salacious HBO vampire soap is shoplifted for the spoof, from the Muppetizing of Sookie and Bill to the characters’ cartoonish Southern drawls and the veiled racist attitudes toward vampires—in this case, “grouches.” When Muppet Bill orders True Mud from Sookie, the patrons at Merlotte’s wonder if he’s one of “dem grouches.” A characteristically Sesame Street lesson in rhyming follows, as Sookie confuses “mud” with “spud” and characters ramble on about “thuds” and “duds”—though the HBO hit’s ubiquitous special effect, “blood,” receives nary a mention.
‘Law and Order: SVU’
Chung chung. If any child in the Sesame Street demographic caught on to the genius details in the show’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit spoof (titled Law and Order: Special Letters Unit), that would be, well, quite disturbing. But adult fans of the procedural drama can surely appreciate the attention to specifics in the bit, from the “these are their stories” narration in the title sequence to the indelible Law and Order “chung chung” musical interrupters and Detective Munch’s suave sunglasses—though the Benson-Stabler sexual tension is sorely lacking.
As unusual as it is for Cookie Monster to be starring in a parody of one of the most unsettling TV dramas in recent decades, this take on Twin Peaks is certainly a “darn fine” parody (to use Agent Cookie’s sanitized paraphrasing of Agent Cooper’s catchphrase). Of course, Agent Cookie’s investigation isn’t nearly as gruesome as Agent Cooper’s was in the original series. Cookie’s not looking into the murder of Laura Palmer, he just wants to know why the quaint town is called Twin Beaks.
Much like the Emmy-winning drama itself, Sesame Street’s Mad Men parody is an emotional rollercoaster. Don Draper shows up, but in lieu of whiskey-swilling and office trysts, he’s going over a series of pitches for an ad campaign. The first makes the group mad, so they become mad men. Get it? A sad ad then makes them sad men, and finally a happy ad makes them happy men. An elementary take on the complicated series, but bonus points are awarded for the Muppet version of Don’s chiseled chin and manly baritone voice. Zou bisou bisou, indeed.
Where’s the Muppet ghost sex? Sesame Street parodied Grey’s Anatomy in bit meant to teach about words starting with the letter “A.” While the “A”-heavy dialogue certainly could give Grey’s often incomprehensible medical jargon a run for its money—“an amateur acrobat was eating an apple while doing an arabesque and she accidentally landed on me”—any proper spoof of the medical hit should include far more bed-hopping, an angsty soundtrack from The Fray, and at least one cloying McDreamy-like nickname.
Old Spice Commercials
The pre-pubescent preschoolers watching Sesame Street are too young to require the necessary services provided by Old Spice, but the deodorant company’s viral “I’m on a Horse” ad campaign still serves as hysterical fodder for a “Sunny Days” spoof starring Grover. In the clip, titled “Smell Like a Monster,” Grover expertly recreates Isaiah Mustafa’s deadpan delivery of “look at yourself, now back to me, now back at yourself, now BACK to me.” Though the Sesame Street parody could benefit from Mustafa’s admittedly preschool-inappropriate washboard abs, Grover’s spin on the now-iconic kicker from Old Spice ad—“I’m on a Horse”—does earn an extra giggle when his “horse” moos.
Nothing says kid-friendly entertainment like zingers about corporate cable takeovers and women’s struggle to “have it all,” right? Maybe not, but Sesame Street still borrowed heavily from the NBC sitcom 30 Rock for a sketch about counting, well, 30 rocks. The clip nails its portrayal of Tina Fey’s harried Liz Lemon—here, a bespectacled citrus fruit—as well as the precarious friends-but-not-work-equals relationship between Liz and Jack. But does it get 30 Rock’s zany tone right? Call me when a Muppet Jenna Maroney is French-kissing a male Muppet dressed as a drag version of herself. I want to go to there.
There is so much goodness in this groovy parody of Glee, which skewers the Fox song-and-dance soap while teaching about the letter “G.” Muppet Mr. Schuester (Mr. Gooster, for these purposes) has a chin dimple. Muppet Sue fires off cutting one-liners. (“I wasn’t asking you, Gooster, I was asking the funny-shaped kid.”) Muppet Kurt is even fabulous and flamboyant. (“The letter ‘G’ makes a gah sound as in “gasp” and “gorgeoussss!”) But the crowning achievement is the glittery finale performance, “Don’t Stop Your G’ing,” that nearly recreates the goose-bump-inducing magic of the Glee pilot back in the good old days.
Of all the series on this list, The Voice may be the most appropriate viewing for wee ones—though parents should be concerned that Christina Aguilera’s barely there outfits might-fast track their sons' puberty. So the Sesame Street parody of the singing competition is one that the show’s young audience could get. All of the Voice gimmicks are lampooned: the blind auditions, the chair spinning, Carson Daly’s pathetic attempt to grow a mustache. But only three judges sit in their Space Age reality TV thrones in the Sesame Street clip. Adam Levine? Apparently he’s unspoofable.