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Monsterpiece Theater is a recurring Sesame Street sketch hosted by Cookie Monster as Alistair Cookie. The sketch parodies the PBS series Masterpiece Theater, originally hosted by Alistair Cooke.

Similar segments have appeared in recent years sharing certain elements with the "Monsterpiece Theater" segments. In Season 37, "Dinner Theatre" premiered in which food themes are used to parody classic plays and musicals. The following year in Season 38, Cookie Monster bookended a sketch he describes as an "American Monster Classic." In it, Grover plays a monster who has forgotten his keys, in a take on A Streetcar Named Desire.

The Sesame Street CD-ROM games Elmo Through the Looking-Glass and The Three Grouchketeers feature Monsterpiece Theater introductions.

Sketches

Picture Title Earliest Known Appearance Description
Me, Claudius Episode 1576 Bruce, Harvey, Maurice, and the monster who would become Elmo (performed here by Brian Muehl) fight over which one is Claudius. Slimey also makes a cameo.

Inspired by the Masterpiece Theater adaptation of I, Claudius by Robert Graves, with Derek Jacobi, John Hurt, and Tony Haygarth.


Video: Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days

Chariots of Fur Episode 1836 Grover and Herry Monster have a race.

Inspired by the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, with Ian Holm, John Gielgud, Richard Griffiths, Kenneth Branagh, and Stephen Fry.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Episode 2402 The forty thieves insist that they be introduced along with Ali Baba before the story begins, but by the time Alistar Cookie finishes counting them, the show has run out of time. Alistar then announces that next week's story will be "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves". ("Me think me can get that one in.")

Inspired by the story from One Thousand and One Nights.
Gone With the Wind Episode 2480 The household goods and livestock of Tara are being blown away by the wind. Kermit (as Green) and a female frog (Ms. Scarlett) demonstrate subtraction, and are blown away themselves.

Inspired by the 1939 film version of the Margaret Mitchell novel.


Online: Sesamestreet.org (version with remade Alistair Cookie sequences), Hulu

The Sound of Music Episode 2481 Grover is sitting on a hill, which moves to the sound of music. (Look for a vocal cameo by Julie Andrews.)

Inspired by the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical of the same name.
Upstairs, Downstairs Episode 2558 Grover runs up and down a flight of stairs. (Look for a picture of Dr. Teeth on the wall.) This segment features an announcer introducing "Monsterpiece Theater" and a title card for the featured story.

Inspired by the British television series of the same name.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

39 Stairs Episode 2571 Grover climbs 39 stairs to see what is at the top, and ends up being disappointed with the results.

Inspired by the Alfred Hitchcock film The 39 Steps. (When Cookie introduces the film, he says it was "made by guy named Alfred".)


Video: Put Down the Duckie (version with second opening and remade Alistair Cookie sequences), Online: Sesamestreet.org (same as video version but with third opening)

The Taming of the Shoe Episode 2607 In this play by the famous podiatrist William Shoespeare, "Grovero" is accompanied by a talking shoe, whom he convinces to cooperate to take him to the Padua Mall.

Inspired by The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

The King and I Episode 2727 Grover plays a king who dances with the letter I. In A Celebration of Me, Grover, Roger Ebert refers to Grover's role as actually being the King of Siam (now Thailand).

Inspired by the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical of the same name.


Video: A Celebration of Me, Grover (scenes with Alistair Cookie are cut except for an audio version of the introduction), Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days
Special: Big Bird's Birthday
Online: Sesamestreet.org

The 400 Blows Episode 2773 Grover has to blow out the candles on his birthday cake 400 times, but since this is Part 1, he only gets up to 40 before he faints. The conclusion has to wait until next time.

Inspired by François Truffaut's 1959 film Les Quatre Cents Coups.
Twin Beaks Episode 2822 Agent Cookie investigates a mysterious town, trying to discover why the town is called Twin Beaks. Even the Log Bird and David Finch can't explain the secret.

Inspired by the television series Twin Peaks.
Monsters of Venice Episode 2861 The people of Venice (Anything Muppets) get ready for their big party. Grover and the monsters of Venice get upset because they weren't invited. But it turns out to be a surprise party for the monsters of Venice.

Inspired by William Shakespeare's comedy, The Merchant of Venice.
The Old Man and the C Episode 2980 Grover is playing an old man in a rowboat, which is on a giant letter C.

Inspired by The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
Lethal Weapon 3 Episode 3012 Mel Gibson and Danny Glover star in Lethal Weapon 3. Gibson and Glover read a sign that says DANGER. Suddenly, they duck and take cover from a gigantic stone number 3 which falls from the sky.

Inspired by the Richard Donner action movie of the same name, co-starring Joe Pesci and Rene Russo.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Episode 3022 Numbers keep flying over the wrong things, until finally, a number 1 flies over a cuckoo's nest. (The sketch features a brief appearance by The Muppet Show's white chickens.) Coming next week: "Rocky 20".

Inspired by the 1975 film version of Ken Kesey's eponymous novel, with Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, and Anjelica Huston.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

Hamlet Episode 3047 Mel Gibson plays Hamlet, who keeps repeating "words, words, words" -- but Elmo can't read, so he only looks at "pictures, pictures, pictures."

Inspired by the William Shakespeare tragedy of the same name.
Much Ado About Nothing Episode 3112 Waiter Grover laments to Mr. Johnson that the restaurant doesn't have anything he orders.

Inspired by the Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
Cyranose de Bergerac Episode 3113 Cyranose de Bergerac, a poet with a two-foot-long nose, tries to help the queen of France finish her poem. Unfortunately, the word used to finish it is the word he's the most sensitive to: "nose." One mention of that word and he'll go medieval on you!

Inspired by Edmond Rostand's 1897 play, Cyrano de Bergerac.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

Monster in a Box Episode 3117 Spalding Monster is supposed to be in a box, but instead he's on a box, and then under a box.

Inspired by the Spalding Gray monologue. (As an added joke, "Spalding" is gray.)
The Sun Also Rises Episode 3122 An early version of Merry Monster and Grover are worried because their rooster will not crow (he's sick). Merry decides to experiment to see if the sun will rise even if the rooster doesn't crow. It does, but all the animals are asleep -- so Merry crows.

Inspired by the Ernest Hemingway book of the same name.
Guys and Dolls Episode 3131 Herry Monster sings about how he likes to play with dolls, and Ruby sings about how she likes to play with trucks.

Inspired by the Frank Loesser musical of the same name.
Monsters with Dirty Faces Episode 3134 Grover plays a police officer who tries to get Rocky (Dave Goelz) to wash his face.

Inspired by Angels with Dirty Faces.
Room at the Top Episode 3135 Grover, the "little guy," climbs from the bottom of the mountain, all the way to the top, only to find a gang of monsters up there, including Telly. When Grover tries to squeeze in between them, they all fall off the mountain, and land in Alistair Cookie's room.

Inspired by the book and film of the same name.
Inside/Outside Story Episode 3157 Maria is inside; Tony is outside. They sing a song about how they can get together. The cats Chip and Dip are also seen.
Inspired by West Side Story.

Note: In the intro, Alistair Cookie refers to the main characters as monsters, but they are actually Anything Muppets.
12 Angry Men Episode 3196 After going through a situation similar to "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Horse Whisperer", Alistair Cookie announces he's out of time and is confronted by twelve angry men.

Inspired by the 1957 film of the same name, with Henry Fonda and Jack Warden.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

Waiting for Elmo Episode 3480 Telly and Grover wait for Elmo, and experience different emotions while reflecting on what they think is keeping Elmo away. The tree gets disgusted waiting for this modern storyline to make sense, and walks away singing Oklahoma.

Inspired by the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.
Little Red Riding Cookie Episode 3522 Cookie Monster is the star of this adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, in which he eats all the cookies before he gets to his grandma's house.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

Little House on Prairie Episode 3523 Alistair Cookie displays an embarrassed Prairie Dawn with a little house on her head. Cookie then displays "Little House UNDER Prairie," but then when he announces "Little House IN Prairie," she comes into the studio and tells him that would be impossible. He proves her wrong when he eats the little house, calling it 'Little House in Alistair Cookie'! Coming up next week: "The House of Seven Gobbles".

Inspired by the Laura Ingalls Wilder book, Little House on the Prairie.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

Howard's End Episode 3691 A yellow and pink rattlesnake named Howard slithers on a stone wall while he shows his beginning, middle, and end.

Inspired by the 1992 Merchant-Ivory film Howards End, with Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, and James Wilby.
The Horse Whisperer Episode 3848 Farm animals keep whispering wrong sounds, until at last, Fred the Wonder Horse whispers "Neigh, neigh."

Inspired by the 1998 movie of the same name, with Sam Neill and Kristin Scott Thomas.
ABCD Blue Grover and Herry play police officers who help a group of neighborhood kids with the alphabet.

Inspired by the television series NYPD Blue, by Stephen Bochco. After the skit, Cookie remarks "a singing cop show? Who writes this stuff?", in reference to Cop Rock, which Bochco also wrote and produced.
Online: Sesamestreet.org

Anyone's Nose A monster sings a song about various noses and what they do. Next week's show will be "A Nose Blows in Brooklyn".

Inspired by Cole Porter's musical Anything Goes.
Conservations With My Father Alistair Cookie makes a wardrobe change to star as his usual self in a film about conservation. Cookie Monster's Pop teaches his son about saving water by turning the faucet off tightly and saving electrical energy by turning off the TV when nobody is watching it. They spy a plate of cookies and decide that those shouldn't be wasted either, but Chef John and a group of monsters rush in to admonish the pair for eating the cookies which they were saving for themselves.

Inspired by the Broadway play Conversations with My Father (1992), with Tony Shalhoub, Jason Biggs, and Marilyn Sokol.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

Dances With Wolves A female pig is reluctant to dance with a wolf due to their differences, but eventually finds out that it's okay for two people who are different to dance together.

Inspired by the Kevin Costner film of the same name.


Online: Sesamestreet.org

Dr. No James Bond comes to the office of Dr. No because he has trouble reading words. Dr. No tells him to take off his ridiculous glasses. James does so, and he can read again. Next time, another James Bond episode: "The Spy Who Loved Me and Left Me a Plate of Cookies!!"

Inspired by the James Bond film.
Fiddler on the Roof A farmer and town villagers sing about "Addition," which involves putting one fiddler on the roof after another. By the song's end, the roof (under which "Monsterpiece Theater" is filmed) collapses.

Inspired by the musical of the same name. The addition song is based on the opening number called "Tradition".


Online: Sesamestreet.org

The Postman Always Rings Twice Grover is waiting for the postman to deliver his important letter but, while waiting, many other people come to his house.

Inspired by the film noir movie of the same name.

American Monster Classics

Picture Title First Appearance Description

A Streetcar Named Monster Episode 4152 Cookie Monster introduces a spoof of A Streetcar Named Desire in which Grover has left his keys at the bowling alley. Because it's the crack of dawn, he must shout softly up to the window so that Stella may let him in.

Openings

This segment has had at least three different openings, the first two of which specifically reflected the then-current Masterpiece Theater opens.

On one early skit, "Me, Claudius", it featured no title card and opened on the camera panning across various statues before trucking over to Alistair Cookie as the Monsterpiece Theater opening theme music was heard (composed by Sam Pottle).

The first regular opening sequence had the title on a blue background, with a Union Jack flag as the P in "Monsterpiece", with the camera zooming out on the flag. Most of these skits with this opening had Alistair Cookie with a pipe and then usually eating it at the end. A handful of sketches that originally featured this opening ("Upstairs, Downstairs", "Chariots of Fur", "The King and I") also ended with a shot of the title card.

Around Season 20, the library that Alistair Cookie was in was changed, and the pipe was dropped.

In Season 24, this opening was replaced with a longer opening, which panned around a room, showing pictures and books referencing past and then-current segments. The opening theme music was also re-recorded to sound more full and orchestral, though using the same tune, and was also presented in its entirety with Cookie Monster eating cookies (lines taken from a sketch involving eating cookies of various shapes). The name of the skit was also spelled as "Monsterpiece Theatre" in this intro.

In Season 27, another new opening was produced with the title sliding in front of a computer-animated green curtain.

Whenever a new opening was added, that opening would be used in all segments shown in those episodes, even if that particular segment was made years earlier. Skits that originally had Alistair Cookie's pipe had the opening and closing footage with Cookie re-taped,[1] often using the original 1980s voice recordings by Frank Oz.

Sources

  1. Virginia Heffernan, "Sweeping the Clouds Away", New York Times, November 18, 2007.

See also


This article uses material from the "Monsterpiece Theater" article on the Muppet wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.







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