Mr. Hooper, RIP.

Mr. Rilch and I looooove to watch “Sesame Street” late at night on Noggin. As I think I’ve mentioned. Last night, we saw a sketch where Big Bird gave everyone pictures he’d drawn of them. The last one was of Mr. Hooper. “I can’t wait to give it to him!” he declared.


“Oh my god,” said Mr. Rilch. “I never saw this.”

It wasn’t the scene I remember, the one for which my mom woke me up early when I was 13. That one took place in the ice cream shop, with Big saying “Wh-what? He’s not coming back?” and Maria (I think) saying, “He is gone. And we will miss him.” This one apparently took place after the first discussion: Susan said “Don’t you remember? We told you; he’s not coming back.” They went over it again very delicately: no one’s really gone if you remember them, and what’s important is that they were loved while they were here.

I guess they wanted to go over it a second time, for people who didn’t see the first one, and to emphasize the fact that Big, like all small children, has a short-term memory and doesn’t always fully comprehend what he does remember.

Needless to say, it was very touching. And, like the first sketch, a real pin-drop moment. I think Bob was tearing up for real; after all, he was talking about someone he worked with for twenty years! This time, as an adult, I sensed how difficult it was for them to give an explanation without saying “God” or “heaven” or anything religious. And without saying “We’re born; we live a little while; and we die.” Which is true, but can sound callous to a child.


I guess you were the wrong age to see this when it first came out, Rilchiam. Will “Mr. Hooper” Lee died in 1982, and this episode was broadcast in November 1983. The makers of Sesame Street were greatly praised for their handling of this sensitive issue.

Crimeny, I knew someone would misinterpret this. I said in the OP that I was 13 when the historic episode was broadcast; my mom woke me up early for it. Mr. Rilch did not see that episode, and neither of us saw this follow-up until just now.

This particular event was probably one of the best-handled and best-presented in the history of children’s television programming. Touching and real (I agree that Bob’s emotions were genuine) and superb on so many, many levels. One of television’s finest moments, really.

I was about, oh, say, five? Yes, that sounds about right-or maybe even four.

I remember, that was the first time I learned that death WAS permanent. Yinz are going to laugh at me, but prior to that, I believed that everyone would come back later on, when I got older. It made perfect sense to me-Jesus rose from the dead, I was told, and I figured that all of my older relatives-like my great-grandparents-would come back and I would get to meet them.