To kick off Sesame Street's new DVD series, Play with Me Sesame, the Sesame Street Workshop and Genius Entertainment offer Play with Me Sesame: Goodnight Sesame. This snappy 50-minute collection of songs, sketches, lullabies and jokes about night-night time is aimed squarely at preschoolers, and it adheres to the high standards that parents have come to expect from the venerable PBS show.
Goodnight Sesame thematically revolves around napping, sleeping and the rituals that surround them. The Sesame Street characters who take center stage here are Ernie and Bert, Cookie Monster, Grover and Prairie Dawn, although Telly, Elmo and Big Bird also make brief appearances.
If you are at least marginally familiar with Sesame Street -- and if you're reading this review, that's a safe bet -- you know what good-natured hijinks to expect in Goodnight Sesame. Ernie gets on Bert's nerves, Grover warbles through a few spastic renditions of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and Cookie Monster goes bonkers over, well, cookies, of course. The humor is sly and hip without being caustic, and the Muppets are endearing without being annoying -- for the most part, anyway. A little Grover can go a long way, but hey, we all have our personal preferences. The songs are especially impressive, ranging from lilting lullabies to a wry number in which sheep croon about being the rigors of shearing.
Play with Me Sesame: Goodnight Sesame is pleasant, gentle fun that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Your kids will be entertained and even learn that perhaps bedtime isn't some insidious torture devised by scheming adults. Still, some audiences might be tougher nuts to crack than others. For a true expert opinion, I have to defer to my 22-month-old daughter. Her sole reaction to the DVD: "Want more Elmo, more Elmo!" So ... maybe it needed a little more of that furry red monster.
In fairness, however, my daughter tends to demand "more Elmo" for everything from Entourage to The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Both the DVD and CD-ROM come housed in a yellow plastic keepcase with a big handle perfect for lugging by small hands.
The fullscreen 133:1 picture is fine, if unremarkable, quality -- clean, clear and free of noticeable defects.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 is perfectly suitable for Bert's nasally complaining and Ernie's sandpapery laugh. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Other than previews, the primary bonus materials come in the form of a 60-minute interactive CD-ROM. It includes games and other activities from www.sesamestreet.org.
Sesame Street is a titan of children's television programming, deservedly so, and Goodnight Sesame is representative of what you get in the TV show. There are a few mild laughs, some lovable characters and a generous portion of learning disguised as kiddie entertainment. Mission accomplished.