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As 'Sesame Street' debuts on HBO, some ask who the new show is for
Critics are asking if kids without premium cable might know how to get to Sesame Street as the legendary show moves to its new home on HBO. - photo by Chandra Johnson
For almost 50 years, there's been one answer to the iconic question of "Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?": Public television.

But since Big Bird and the gang packed up and moved to HBO this winter, some critics are questioning if the new "Sesame Street" is staying true to its original purpose of wholesome educational entertainment for children.

Although edited versions of new episodes will air on PBS nine months after airing on HBO, Gizmodo worried that the show, once a staple of American childhood, will be less accessible to the average child it was originally designed to nurture and educate for free.

"The new 'Sesame Street' isn't for every child," Gizmodo reported, calling the new show a "Yuppie nightmare." "Now, the beloved show is only for people who can afford to have HBO."

But accessibility isn't the only concern critics had as the show kicked off its 46th season in January on its new channel. Many are concerned that "Sesame Street" has been overly sanitized, reflecting a more upscale view of everyday life that risks alienating lower-income children. New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik bemoaned many of the changes while applauding the show's original grit.

"It was free-range kids TV, experimental, rough and for all its deserved acclaim far removed from later generations of educational TV that was sanitized for our protection," Poniewozik wrote in a review. "This show, which once taught them to find wonder amid the grime, now promises kids that they can uncover dirt in a sanitary, upscaled paradise."

The new show features Oscar the Grouch splitting his time between trash can, compost bin and recycling container. Elmo and Grover have both upgraded from shabby apartments to brownstones, while Abby Caddaby tends a community garden in what the New York Times' Emily Steel dubbed "a Williamsburg (Brooklyn)-like renovation."

Time will tell if this show, once a neighborhood anyone could visit, will soon better resemble a gated community.

"Like the newest digital tablet, the latest 'Sesame Street' isnt an essential," Poniewozik wrote. "But its nice, if your parents happen to have the money."