|Network|| STV & TVBS (initially)|
Sesame English is a television/video series developed as a collaboration between Sesame Workshop and Berlitz International. Launched in 1999, with Taiwan and China as the debut markets, the series differs from the typical international versions of Sesame Street in that it was devised as a supplement to ESL instruction, that is, teaching English as a second language. The target age group is children from 4 to 7 years old.
The project includes fifty-two 13-minute episodes for TV, along with instructional materials for print, audio, video, and CD-ROMs. Dr. Lewis Bernstein, producer and key developer of the series, explained that "The aim is to introduce English phrases and vocabulary in an entertaining way, using conversational language along with repetition, rhythm and rhyme, cool music styles, and lots of humor—much the way we do on Sesame Street." Each quarter-hour episode combines new framing footage with Sesame Street inserts and clips.
The series stars a new Muppet character, Tingo, a multilingual "international cat." Though all of the new footage was filmed in New York studios, 30 to 50 percent of Tingo's dialogue is dubbed into the native language of the target country. Tingo addresses viewers directly in the region specific language, but all other dialogue is in English. Tingo's explanations thus provide a bridge for native speakers to adjust to English.
On STV and TVBS, the series aired daily, showing two different episodes each week. On Fridays, the show would instead be replaced by Are You Ready? and Sesame English Made in Taiwan, a variety show that would reinforce the English lessons from the week's two shows.
In 2003, Sesame Workshop announced a new variation, using the same footage, Sesame Español. Intended for viewing at Berlitz Language Centers, the variation used the same approach, only with Spanish as Tingo's secondary language, and with the aim now being instruction in Spanish for English-only speakers.
DVD releases of the series, available in the U.S., include five available audio languages for Tingo's dialogue: Spanish, Hmong, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, and Vietnamese. An English only track is included for more advanced ESL students.
Characters and Cast
Tingo, the only new Muppet character, is an exchange student living in America with his best friend, Niki. Teenaged Niki lives in the basement of her parents' home, and has an extended circle of family and friends, including grandparents, siblings Katie and Kevin, baby Jake (played by an adult actor), and the members of her band. Niki's band, Children at Play, includes Mike, Sam (Samantha), and Tom. Stage actors Roger Bart and Jonathan Freeman play various members of Niki's circle, as well as episodic roles. Plots center around sports activities, music, and family get-together and social events.
- Two scenes in the series' opening sequence featuring the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City were altered subsequent to the attacks on September 11, 2001. An animated shot of Tingo's flight flying into New York City, with prominent visible landmarks the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Twin Towers, was replaced with a shot of Tingo's passport being stamped. Another scene showed Niki chasing Tingo past a skyline with the towers visible, later changed to an ordinary city block.
- John Tartaglia as Tingo
- Lara MacLean as puppet wrangler and the right hand for Tingo
- Alice Dinnean as Izzy
- Stephanie D'Abruzzo
- Eric Jacobson
- Matt Vogel
- Kelly Karbacz as Niki
- Roger Bart as Jake, Jenny, Kevin and others
- Vivian Bayubay as Ms. Huong and others
- Amy Carickhoff as Katie
- Derek Contreras
- Wali Collins as Mike
- Jonathan Freeman as Niki's Dad, Grandpa, and others
- Karen Murphy as Niki's Mom, Grandma, and others
- Selena Nelson as Annie and others
- Tom Plotkin as Tom and others
- Shannon Walker Williams as Samantha
- Executive Producer: Dr. Lewis Bernstein
- Supervising Producer: Jill R. Gluckson
- Directors: Dana Calderwood, Richard A. Fernandes, Greg Lehane, Jim Martin, Emily Squires, Leslie Williams
- Head Writer: Louise Gikow
- Writers: Billy Aronson, Pam Benson, Scott Cameron, Rick Gitelson, Brian Meehl, Chris Nee, Cathi Turow, Ellis Weiner
- Music Directors: Joe Carroll, Peter Thom
- Art Director: David B. Ellis