Kicking off Sesame Street's new DVD series, Play with Me Sesame, the Sesame Street Workshop and Genius Entertainment offer Play with Me Sesame: Playtime with Grover.
The venerable blue Muppet with the disturbingly thin arms takes center stage for this collection of songs, sketches and all-around silliness that adheres to the high standards that parents have come to expect from the long-running PBS show.
Playtime with Grover ostensibly is a chance for preschoolers to engage in some interactive fun with the self-described "cute, furry, dashing star," but, in true Sesame Street fashion, there is a fair amount of learning here masquerading as play. When the overly enthusiastic and eager-to-please Grover is waiting tables or delivering pizzas, you can rest assured that tykes will get a crash course in how much spaghetti is too much or the difference between a saw and sausage. Perhaps the DVD's greatest strength is its encouraging children to test their imaginations and pretend, especially when it comes to Grover's periodic stints as the heroically challenged "Super Grover."
If you are at the 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 Playtime with Grover's 50-minute running time. There is singing. There is dancing. Grover's lovable ineptness is unleashed on the beleaguered bald blue guy with the mustache. While some of the sketches might strike adults as a tad redundant and tedious, there's enough variety to keep the kiddies occupied. And a few shticks, particularly Grover in the Gene Kelly role in Singin' in the Rain, are inspired. While Grover is the unequivocal star here, other Sesame Street favorites appear, including Ernie and Bert, Cookie Monster, Prairie Dawn, Zoe, Elmo, Kermit, Telly and Ernestine.
Play with Me Sesame: Playtime with Grover is pleasant, gentle fun that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Your kids will be intermittently entertained and schooled (albeit deceptively). Still, some audiences might be tougher than others. As with the series' other inaugural disc, Play with Me Sesame: Goodnight Sesame, my 22-month-old daughter had a sole complaint: "Want more Elmo, want more Elmo!"
In fairness, however, my daughter tends to demand "more Elmo" for everything from Entourage to The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Seriously.
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. 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 Playtime with Grover 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. 'Nuff said.