'Sesame Street' keeps surprises coming

Show's 34th season continues exploring important lessons for children

The new season of "Sesame Street" will show how a 3-year-old monster/Muppet learns about the different kinds of love after he gets a crush on Gina, the very human veterinarian.

The PBS series began its 34th season April 7 with new features, including one showing Grover traveling around the world and one starring "Global Thingy," a friendly globe who teaches other Thingies about sharing, cooperation and empathy.

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Scripps Howard News Service Photo

"Journey To Ernie" is a problem-solving game of hide-and-seek. Viewers accompany Big Bird on an adventurous search for Ernie in the series "Sesame Street." The show started its 34th season April 7, tackling new lessons for its young audience.

This story, by the way, is brought to you by the number 7 . . . Actually, here's an update for baby boomers: "Sesame Street" no longer has imaginary commercials and fast cuts back and forth between stories. That worked back in the time of "Laugh-In," but the emphasis today is on uninterrupted narratives for children accustomed to watching the same video repeatedly.

But the most important things about the show haven't changed. "Sesame Street" is still working to make children more aware of the entire world, executive producer Lewis Bernstein said in a phone interview.

The new "Global Grover" feature was designed to show children from around the world, and it will be shown on both the American and various foreign versions of "Sesame Street," Bernstein said.

Another segment featuring Big Bird emphasizes the importance of standing up for those who are different. Big Bird's friend, a bird, won't play with the Bird's best pal, Aloysius Snuffleupagus, aka Snuffy, because he's not a bird.

"Big Bird says, 'If you can't play with my friend, I can't play with you.' We wanted to teach accountability; you have to make a stand," Bernstein said.

He talked about the upcoming Elmo story in which he tries everything to get Gina's attention.

Gina, played with a lot of heart and humor by Alison Bartlett O'Reilly, helps Elmo to get past the crush in a way that's honest but kind and gentle. In fact, the episode might teach adults something about dealing with children.

Human guest stars continue to sing and interact with the Muppets.

"Whose Line Is It Anyway?" star Wayne Brady is on the show this season to demonstrate what the word "between" means.

He's sandwiched between large slices of bread.

"Star Wars" star Natalie Portman appears on "Sesame Street" with a new twist for the actress known as Queen Padme Amidala. "She's someone who doesn't want to be a princess; she wants to play an elephant," Bernstein said.

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