For the past 45 seasons, fans of Sesame Street have sung along to the show's classic theme song: "Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?" But when Season 46 premieres in January—on the show's new home, HBO—audiences might be asking a different question: Can you tell me what happened to Sesame Street?
HBO announced today that Sesame Street will make its HBO debut on Sat., Jan. 16, at 9 a.m. The premium cable network also unveiled what it called "the boldest changes to the Street to date." The episodes will now be 30 minutes each (down from 60 minutes), the show will feature new opening and closing songs, and the Sesame Street set has been updated, with new homes for beloved characters Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Elmo.
Two episodes will premiere on Jan. 16 on HBO, with a new episode airing each subsequent Saturday, followed by a repeat. Those new episodes will also debut simultaneously on HBO Latino, dubbed in Spanish. Current and past Sesame Street seasons will also air daily on HBO Family at 8 a.m., while five years of past episodes will be available to stream on HBO Now, HBO Go and HBO On Demand.
In Sesame Street and HBO's five-year partnership, announced last August, all new episodes of Sesame Street will air first on HBO and its related channels and platforms. After nine months, those episodes will then be made available to PBS, which will air Season 46 next September.
As HBO revamps the show for its audience, the iconic Sesame Street theme song has "a new upbeat update," the network said in a release, and the opening credits now take place in the Sesame Street neighborhood, instead of other New York City locals. (The classic melody, however, will remain the same.)
The season's biggest change will include a new set, which will emphasize the characters' homes. Elmo has moved into the 123 Sesame Street brownstone, and his bedroom "is the cornerstone of the building," said HBO. Cookie Monster now resides above Hooper's Store, Abby Cadabby has a new garden, and Big Bird lives in a new nest—located (gasp!) in a tree. Oscar the Grouch has also relocated to "a more central location," and will also make appearances in trash cans, recycling bins and composting receptacles up and down the street.
Among the other Season 46 additions, Cookie Monster will star in a new segment, "Smart Cookies," where he and his team try to stop a villain, The Crumb, using self-control and critical thinking. The new episodes will also introduce a new human cast member, Nina (played by Suki Lopez), a bilingual, Hispanic woman who has moved to Sesame Street and works at the laundromat and bike store.
"I am so excited for kids to explore our updated neighborhood and discover where their favorite characters live," said Carol-Lynn Parente, executive producer of Sesame Street, in a statement. "Sesame Street has always been the ideal play date for preschoolers. Now, that play date is focused on topics and themes that are very engaging to kids, with our signature educational messages embedded into laughter and music."
One thing that won't change in Season 46: Sesame Street's usual array of celeb guest stars. This season's lineup includes Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Alan Cumming and Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez.