The writing of Sesame Street as arranged marriage
On the writing process for Sesame Street:
The show’s research team developed an annotated document, or “Writer’s Notebook”, which provided extended and developed definitions of the researchers’ curriculum goals. The notebook assisted the writers and producers in translating their educational goals into televised material. Suggestions in the notebook were free of references to specific characters and contexts on the show so that they could be implemented as openly and flexibly as possible.
After receiving the curriculum focus and goals for the season, the writers met to discuss ideas and story arcs for the characters, and when a script was completed, the show’s research team analyzed it to ensure that the goals were met. Then each production department met to determine what each episode needed in terms of costumes, lights, and sets. The writers were present during the show’s filming, which for the first twenty-four years of the show took place in Manhattan … to make last-minute revisions when necessary.
Joey Mazzarino, head writer in 2008, has described the writing process as a “collaboration.” Cooney has called this collaboration an “arranged marriage.” The show’s staff work to ensure that the relationship between producers and researchers is not adversarial, but that each side contributes “its own unique perspective and expertise.”
Arranged marriage or not, it’s hard work: “Fifteen writers a year worked on the show’s scripts, but very few lasted longer than one season. … most writers ‘burn out’ after writing about a dozen scripts.”
See also, the Sesame Street Writers’ Notebook, 1974.