OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: 'Canadian Sesame Street' Basil Bear now museum memory

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-04-04T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: 'Canadian Sesame Street' Basil Bear now museum memoryBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Editor's Note: Columnist Philip Potempa is reporting from Toronto while traveling in Canada.

Launched Nov. 10, 1969, PBS children's show "Sesame Street" celebrates a 45th anniversary later this year.

But in Canada, the inspired sister show created for the young viewers of the north is no more.

Toronto native Daniel McCarthy, who died last year at age 86, was named the director of the CBC Sesame Street Project to develop "Sesame Street Canada" for CBC Television and the series debuted in 1972. Blending some of the American segments with Canadian themed production segments, McCarthy partnered with the Children's Television Workshop to introduce distinct Canadian themes, set designs and characters for the show. He arranged for Canadian entertainers, like songbird Anne Murray and other noted personalities, to film segments aimed at Canadian children. And while the American run of "Sesame Street" encouraged children to learn both English and Spanish, McCarthy emphasized segments to introduce basic French language words for young viewers.

Jim Henson and his Henson Muppet Shop were also asked to develop characters to populate the show's Canadian community of learning. So rather than Big Bird, it was Basil Bear. Despite his deep voice, Basil was the most child-like of the characters, having difficulty dressing himself, and always curious, though he also struggled to learn French.

And in place of blue furry monster Grover, Basil's pal was Louis the Otter. Henson's favorite creation for the series was a fussy journalist Muppet he named Barbara Plume, in homage to, and inspired by CBC News Anchor Barbara Frume, who died in 1992 at age 54 and was Canada's answer to Barbara Walters.

Another popular character, Beau Beaver, discussed national symbols, particularly those appearing on Canadian money. In 1996, the show's name was changed to "Sesame Park," and Henson's Muppet Shop (Jim Henson died in 1990 at age 53) added a Muppet kitten character named Chaos. An elderly woman Muppet character named Dodi shared favorite stories and also delivered mail by flying her own airplane.

The show was cancelled in 2002. Today, the Muppet characters, including Basil Bear, Louis the Otter, Chaos Kitten and Katie, a little girl Muppet character in a wheelchair, are on display in Toronto in the CBC Museum of Broadcast. FYI: cbc.ca/museum

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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