|Premiere||January 8, 1973|
Sesamstrasse has been primarily running on Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) since January 8, 1973; it is currently in its 39th season. Sesamstrasse's 30-minute episodes can also be seen on ARD's children programming affiliate KI.KA. In January 2012, Sesamstrasse stopped airing on ARD, but continues to be broadcast on KI.KA.
- For a list of episodes, see Sesamstrasse Episodes.
The Dubbed Era: 1973-1977
After a short test run of a few original, undubbed Sesame Street episodes from August 1972 onward, the German version of the show premiered on January 8, 1973.
The first three seasons, or 250 episodes of Sesamstrasse consisted of the original American episodes dubbed to German in Hamburg. Merely the opening and closing songs and sequences were changed, featuring new lyrics written by Volker Ludwig and tunes by Ingfried Hoffmann. The title of the German theme song is Der, die, das (wer, wie, was – wieso, weshalb, warum – wer nicht fragt, bleibt dumm!), literally translating to This, this and that (who, how, what - why, why and why - those who don't ask stay dumb!).
The exception to air the program was Germany's most southern state of Bavaria, where the local TV station felt that the Sesame Street set was too gritty to suit German children, and consequently had to develop its own children's programming called Das feuerrote Spielmobil (The fire-red Play-mobile).
Variety shows like Peter Alexander präsentiert Spezialitäten in 1975 promoted the show by stopping by the original US-set, and taping special footage.
Yet from 1976 through 1977 the street scenes were dropped, due in part to a consistent onslaught of protesting parents that were unhappy with the "controversial" character of Oscar the Grouch. Instead a new framing story was created, following the antics of a boy named Bumfidel and his mother. Since these stories did not take place on a street, the show's title was temporarily rendered incomprehensible.
The most controversial moment of this early period was a film showing the unconcealed birth of a human baby.
The Studio Era: 1978-1988
In 1977, a German street set was built at Studio Hamburg for German framing stories. Samson the bear (1978-present) and Tiffy the bird (1978-2005) replaced Big Bird (Bibo) and Oscar the Grouch (Oskar der Griesgram) as main characters, and the new version debuted on January 2, 1978.
Each episode featured the new puppets interacting with a pair of human characters; consistently one male, one female. The individual sketches of Sesame Street's original American inhabitants remained the dubbed main part of the show, but some were edited due to intros that exhibited English words (such as The Adventures of Super Grover, or the Sesame Street News Flash skits).
In the following years more characters were added to the German street scenes, such as the German-built, androgynous Uli von Bödefeld (Uli is short for Ulrich), also called Herr von Bödefeld (1978-1988), and Finchen the Snail (1983, 1989-present).
Just as in its American counterpart, the German characters have been remodeled over the decades. Most obvious were changes in the first main characters Samson and Tiffy (as can be seen here for Samson 1978-2000 and Tiffy Through the Years). Finchen has also had his fair share of fabric surgery.
From 1978 to 1988, the fact that the street stories took place in a studio was never kept a secret. Some parts of the street were simply 'matted in' during an episode, or the characters would ask for help from the studio crew. (One episode about Samson trying to scratch an annoying flea ends with the entire studio crew itching!) The matting also allowed the characters to show up in different locations, like a beach, a small deserted island that would be surrounded by an entire ocean through the snap of one's fingers, a nearby train station, or the roof of the studio.
While Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, both performed by Caroll Spinney, had visited Sesamstrasse for the 10th Anniversary special before, a highlight of this era was the celebration of Sesamstrasse's 1000th episode; the "Sesamelly Zirkusshow," a circus gala performance taped at "Zirkus Althoff" in which Big Bird appeared alongside the German characters one more time.
In the years 1985 and 1986 no new episodes were taped; instead a wild mix of repeats was shown on TV. From 1986 onward new episodes with two new human actors were produced, and while the studio set remained largely the same, a bicycle shop was added, run by the new residents. Tiffy and Samson were slightly remodeled for the first time for these episodes.
In 1988, the studio set and original puppets were destroyed in a fire.
The Bicycle Shop Era: 1989-1999
The puppets were rebuilt in 1989 with significant changes. The new set was centered around the new bicycle shop that was introduced in 1986, but the street stories no longer took place in a studio set.
Instead a courtyard was added, and new characters were introduced: Rumpel the Grouch (1989-present), living inside a water barrel, and Buh the Owl (1989-2002), housed inside a hollow tree. While the set offered Tiffy a new apartment-like living room in the coming years, it still featured Samson's cave in which he had lived in prior to the set change.
Sesamstrasse fans divide the series between the Studio Episodes and the Bicycle Shop Episodes in the same way that American fans talk about the pre-Elmo days. In recent years the courtyard slowly transitioned into an entire marketplace, a common social center for German towns and even city districts.
Leonie Löwenherz (Leonie Lionheart in English), a female lion (1989-early 1990s), was featured for a very short time after the set and puppets were destroyed in the fire. Just like Uli von Bödefeld, she was built by German puppet makers and not the Muppet Workshop. After her short-lived Sesame career, she got her own (ALF-like) show called "Leonie Löwenherz" on ARD, featuring herself, her two lion brothers and a few human characters.
During the early years of this era, older puppets were re-used for new characters such as Simson (on and off in 1989-2000), Samson's cousin; with slight changes being made to his appearance (equipped with a hat, a tie, etc.). For the first few episodes that his name was mentioned, Simson was only imagined by Samson and other characters doubted his existence, similarly to as it happened with Snuffy on Sesame Street when he was only being seen by Big Bird.
The Marketplace Era: 2000-2012
In 2000, the cast expanded anew. The additions to the puppet cast were Feli Filu (2000-2007) the Monster reporter, the comic duo Pferd the horse (2000-present) and Wolle the sheep (2000-present), as well as a few recurring grouches, and some Anything Muppets.
In 2003 the German co-production's 30th anniversary was celebrated with a press conference and boxer Axel Schulz, Ernie, Bert and Elmo (performed by Kevin Clash) in attendance, as the show gave a donation of € 12,271.00 to UNICEF. Ernie and Bert appeared on a regular episode that year, as well as on the show's 30th anniversary TV special.
Since then, Sesamstrasse has been visited by the most diverse cast of supporting Muppets than any other international version. One-shot characters include for example Super Franky, Grouchella, Knut Köffelström, Turbo Theo, as well as a whole slew of wolves, dogs and other creatures.
In 2006, German audience's long-time favorites Ernie and Bert began appearing regularly in newly produced German segments. For the 36th season the two moved into their own apartment on Sesamstrasse, above new human character Frau Kowalski, commenting on the street events from their balcony. As more and more previously used Muppets were borrowed from Sesame Workshop, more secondary characters evolved in their own sketches, such as the green Wolf vom Wörtersee in 2007.
For decades the show used to consist of around 50 percent of American material, like most international co-productions of Sesame Street. But from 2007 onwards, the American material has been used less and less, so that by today an average Sesamstrasse episode only contains one or two American produced sketches. Also, just as it has become common practice on Sesame Street since 2002 to drop the framing story format, Sesamstrasse's street scenes began airing as a whole at the beginning of each episode. Beginning in 2008, the show was shot in high definition.
The Elmo Era: 2012-present
For the show's 40th anniversary, Elmo was introduced as a resident on the street, appearing in a tree house setting as the new host of the show.
New characters include a female friend played by Julia Stinshoff and Susi Schraube, a girl who appears in a series of new stop-motion segments. Established characters such as Samson and Rumpel were retired, while Pferd, Wolle and Finchen remain part of the cast. Established characters such as Cookie Monster and Grover make guest appearances.
The new season debuted on October 1, 2012.
- Samson, a bear (1978-2012)
- Tiffy, pink bird/monster (1978-2005)
- Uli von Bödefeld (1978-1988) (not an official Muppet)
- Finchen, a snail (1983, 1989-present)
- Leonie Löwenherz, a lioness (1989-early 1990s) (not entirely a Muppet)
- Simson, Samson's cousin (on and off in 1989-2000)
- Rumpel, a grouch (1989-2012)
- Buh, a male owl (1989-2002)
- Feli Filu, a blue female monster reporter (2000-2007)
- Pferd, a horse (2000-present)
- Wolle, a sheep (2000-present)
- Gustav, a caterpillar (2003-mid 2000s)
- Moni, an Anything Muppet mom (2005-2007)
- Lena, Moni's monster daughter (2005-2012)
- Wolf vom Wörtersee, a green wolf (2007-present)
- Ernie (2006-present)
- Bert (2006-present)
- Elmo (2012-present)
- Street residents
- Liselotte Pulver as Lilo
(paired with Henning, Uwe, and Manfred, 1978-1983)
- Henning Venske as Henning
(paired with Lilo, 1978-1979)
- Uwe Friedrichsen as Uwe
(paired with Lilo, 1979-1982)
- Horst Janson as Horst
(paired with Ilse, Elisabeth and Ute, 1979-1983)
- Ilse Biberti as Ilse
(paired with Horst, 1980)
- Elisabeth Vitouch as Elisabeth
(paired with Horst, 1981)
- Ute Willing as Ute
(paired with Horst, 1981-1983)
- Manfred Krug as Manfred
(paired with Lilo, 1982-1983)
- Gernot Endemann as Schorsch
(paired with Bettina #1 & #2, 1986-1999)
- Hildegard Krekel as Bettina #1
(paired with Schorsch, 1986-1989)
- Kirsten Spick as Bettina #2
(paired with Schorsch, 1989-1999)
- Gunnar Dressler as Pingel (?) (1989)
- Ferdinand Dux as Opa Brass (1992-2000)
- Wolfgang Gerdes as Mucke (1995-1996)
- Senta Bonneval as Helmi (1995-1999)
- Alexander Geringas as Alex (1995-2000)
- Vijak Bajani as Jivana (1995-2001)
- Nils Julius as Nils (2000-present)
- Caroline Kiesewetter as Caro #1 (2000-2002)
- Miriam Krause as Caro #2 (2002-2006)
- Dirk Bach as Pepe (2000-2007)
- Anke Engelke as Anke (2003-2004)
- Helen Zellweger as Helen (2004-2005)
- Mehmet Yilmaz as Mehmet (2003-present)
- Franziska Troegner as Ella (2003-present)
- Annette Frier as Annette (2005-present)
- Adele Neuhauser as Frau Kowalski (2008-present)
- Horst Pinnow as Detektiv Humphrey Gocard ("Letter Detectives" segments, 1980s)
- Tobias Meister as Ludwig Lupe ("Letter Detectives" segments, 1980s)
- Felicitas Woll as Ragazza, die Wörterfee ("Wolf vom Wörtersee" segments, 2007-present)
- Otto Waalkes as Norbert Neugier ("Ernie & Bert Show" segments, 2007-present)
Character Translations and Voices
- Sesamstrasse Specials
- Sesamstrasse Sketches
- Sesamstrasse Merchandise
- Ernie und Bert im Land der Träume, the German dub of Bert and Ernie's Great Adventures
- Official website
- German site for Fabula Puppet Makers
- The German voiceover cast from 1973
- German fan club site with episode guide
- ↑ Sesamstrasse Fanclub coverage of the second half of Die große Zirkus-Show (Folge 1000) (in German)
- ↑ An employee at NDR