Lighten Up, ‘Sesame Street’

What's the big deal about a pop star faux-singing to a puppet in a make-believe neighborhood on a network that nobody watches?

PBS or bust.

Apparently, those were the only options available in the “Sesame Street” neighborhood last week for the music video of Katy Perry and Elmo. Rather than face parental wrath over Miss Katy’s décolletage, “Sesame” producers pulled the video from a future show.

Too late, boys and girls. The clip hit YouTube and went viral faster than you can say, “This episode is brought to you by the letters H and O.”

Plenty of parents were steamed about Miss Katy’s outfit, anyway, as she lip-synched a parody of her hit “Hot ‘N’ Cold” in a low-cut, form-fitting lime frock with a pronounced bustier for her golden globes.

Caving Responding to the backlash, “Sesame” — which launched its 41st season on Monday — said in a statement it would not air the video. Katy Perry fans, however, could catch it on YouTube or, it helpfully added.

For the second time in recent weeks, the media was in a mammary frenzy. (The Ines Sainz-New York Jets controversy being the first, earlier this month.)

In his Friday column, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler said it would have been OK to run the video and take “a little heat from some segments of the audience.”

What was not OK with Getler was how “Sesame” producers at the shoot could not have recognized the potential landmine in Miss Katy’s cleavage and called in a seamstress to cover up those puppies.

Frankly, I’m puzzled by all the hoopla. Toddlers see women in scantier tops at the local mall or on video games. Closer to home, they breastfeed and share baths with their mothers. To a toddler, breasts represent warmth, love, nourishment. If that’s not “Sesame Street,” what is?

By contemporary standards, the video is beyond benign. Miss Katy doesn’t expose her nipples. Elmo doesn’t bury his furry little head between her breasts. Let’s not lose sight of what this is: A pop star faux-singing to a puppet in a make-believe neighborhood on a network that nobody watches.

The cherry on the PBS’s embarrassment sundae came on “Saturday Night Live,” when musical guest – who else? – Miss Katy popped up, literally, in a sketch wearing a skin-tight, Elmo T-shirt cut practically to her naval.  Good times.

Elmo like Miss Katy. We do, too. Lighten up, “Sesame Street.”

GAIL SHISTER, TV columnist for the Inquirer for 25 years, teaches writing at Penn and is a columnist for She writes for The Philly Post on Tuesdays.