''Sesame Street'': 38 years -- and counting!
Season premieres Aug. 13 on PBS Kids; check local listings
Even as the show enters its 38th(!) season, Sesame Street remains (thankfully) true to its roots. Sure, there have been a few tweaks necessitated by changing times: You might notice that the famous theme song (''Come and play...'') has been given hip-hop and jazzy under-rhythms. But the show's core mission introducing (and making familiar) to children the educational building blocks of letters, words, and numbers is alive and well, accomplished in a way that never talks down to children and still manages to amuse their parents. A Muppet with an uncanny likeness to David Caruso leads the ''RSI: Rhyme Scene Investigation'' skit, and viewers are encouraged to test their own rhyming abilities.
Street also continues its tradition of attracting a sturdy roster of stars (after all, who wouldn't want to hang with Elmo?), upping the show's cool factor (while never making these guests appear silly). This season, 30 Rock's Tina Fey takes her turn, playing a swashbuckler intent on commandeering Elmo's favorite book he can only have it back if he passes a challenge that involves finding clues and letters in the neighborhood. The wry and gently acerbic Fey is a natural, getting an impressive amount of comedic mileage from the phrase ''Bookaneer's test.'' A giant squid later makes an appearance squid being one of the new words introduced but seeing the CG creature is a bit jarring next to all the felt and flesh (even with news anchor Brian Williams providing relevant factoids).
Chris Brown lends his considerable singing skills to a piece in which he walks down the street, discovering all sorts of signs (and reading them) with Elmo. Even Oscar is shown getting down with learning. The ol' grouch's choice of reading material? Rotten Eggs & Jam, of course, by one Dr. Sewage. A-
Recommended ages: 1-5
Emily's First 100 Days of School…and More Great School Time Stories
74 mins.; 2007
Based on Rosemary Wells' children's book, this DVD celebrates numbers 100 of them, in fact. Emily learns that 4 is the perfect number for square dancing; she collects 25 Japanese beetles in the garden; fellow bunny Felix must visit the school nurse after eating 48 candy corns; etc. It takes a while to get to 100, so you may have to watch this in chunks, unless you have some real number lovers. There's another charming story by Wells, Reading to Your Bunny, in which Freddy is more interested in his GameBunny than his books that is, until a trip to the library ignites a passion for words. Pretty soon, Freddy needs two branches on his book tree for all the titles he's read. In David Schwartz's If You Made a Million, Marvelosissimo the Magician explains all about money, perfect for those who still need a primer on basic monetary concepts. B+
Recommended ages: 3-7