This is a perfectly executed documentary. No matter what street you grew up on, if you were born in the United States in the '60s or later, chances are you grew up on Sesame Street. And, as Marilyn Agrelo's film helps make clear, you -- and the country -- got a lot more out of it than just learning the alphabet. Cooney was a TV producer who realized that kids were consuming vast quantities of television in the medium's early and unregulated days: around half of their waking hours. And she knew it was mostly opportunistic programming that was looking to make a buck, not interested in children's well-being. She saw the opportunity to use children's interest in television to educate them. What started as the hope of giving kids from underserved communities an equal shot at getting an educational foundation became a platform that transformed the way countless kids would see differences in race, gender, age, and ability.
Sesame Street's disparate group of TV producers, puppeteers, musicians, child psychologists, and scriptwriters were each individually good at what they did -- but together, they were pure genius. All of the interviewees in Street Gang show great humility and seem somewhat in awe of one another's abilities. For anyone watching, especially teens, this docu will likely create a hopefulness about what they, too, might accomplish in the world. Viewers will take away the importance of perseverance and of pursuing purpose-driven work, and the idea that your "work family" can deliver a great deal of personal fulfillment. At the same time, the movie doesn't shy away from telling the truth, including the fact that many of the show's male creatives spent more time making children's entertainment than they did with their own children. In less than two hours, there are plenty of takeaways, but the resounding message is the same as Sesame Street: Everyone can be socially valuable. And, just like with the show, you -- and your kids -- will be better for watching.