It's always a sunny day on Sesame Street, but for much of the week, things were not A-OK in the land of the Muppets.
On January 24, Big Bird, the show's eight-foot-tall, anthropomorphic canary, stunned fans when he revealed he'd shrunk down to the size of a paper clip, prompting questions about the physical mechanics of his transformation and its impact on his mental health. As his identity crisis worsened, Big Bird — now just "Bird," as he described himself — sought help from his friends, but he was so tiny that they couldn't even see him. He languished in his emotional prison until January 30, when he announced his return to big-dom. "What an adventure the last 7 days have been," he posted on Twitter/X. "I learned so much by seeing the world from a different perspective."
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, didn't provide an explanation for Big Bird's shrinkage — which The A.V. Club noted was a nod to a 2005 storyline involving the Amazing Mumford — but Big Bird’s post suggests it was part of the company's ongoing commitment to teaching children the power of community support. "Thank you to all that checked in to #HelpBigBird. Today and everyday, let's #HelpEachOther," it reads. Replies from the other Muppets echoed that sentiment, with Elmo writing, "Everybody on @SesameStreet is here to help, that is what friends are for!"
Elmo may now be basking in the glow of mutual aid, but he had an existential crisis of his own earlier in the week. On January 29, he posted a seemingly innocent question — "Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?" — that immediately turned into a viral meme as users divulged their deepest traumas and anxieties. The group therapy session continued when Elmo reminded fans that "it is important to ask a friend how they are doing," while Sesame Street encouraged mindfulness and shared a link to additional mental health resources for children and families.
"Elmo is the lovable furry monster audiences have a deep connection with. The power of this tweet is the difference between a coworker asking you 'how are you doing?' and a good friend asking you," Aaron Bisman, VP of Audience Development at Sesame Workshop, told Primetimer in a statement. "Leveraging the interest in Elmo's tweet to posting the quote tweet from Sesame Street with resources is exactly what Sesame Workshop was created to do."
While we now know the reasoning behind Sesame Street's shrinkings — Big Bird's literal one, and Elmo's therapeutic one — the timing proved curious. The weeks before the Super Bowl have become synonymous with large-scale marketing stunts, many of which veer into prank territory, like Planters' decision to "kill" Mr. Peanut in 2020 or Tubi's 2023 commercial that tricked viewers into thinking they sat on their remotes. By this logic, it's entirely possible that the Big Bird debacle and Elmo tweet could have been part of a Super Bowl advertising campaign from Sesame Workshop, particularly as Paramount's investment in kid-friendly NFL programming grows.
Barring any last-minute appearances from the Muppets, Big Bird's return to form severs the potential tie between Sesame Street and Super Bowl LVIII, ensuring that the feel-good, pro-mental health message of the stunt isn't overshadowed by consumerism or any Taylor Swift-related controversies. But that's not the only positive outcome here. With the Sesame Street gang bowing out of the Big Game, Cookie Monster has been spared from suffering a cruel fate at the hands of Kris Jenner and her brood.
Excuse the tinfoil hat, but there was legitimate reason to fear for Cookie Monster's welfare, especially with the rest of the Muppets going through it in such a public fashion this week. In mid-January, Oreo released a teaser for its Super Bowl commercial with Kris Jenner, who is seen standing in her kitchen carefully stacking cookies in a glass jar, a method popularized by Khloé Kardashian years ago on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "How did we get here? Well, to answer that, I'd have to go back to the beginning," she says. As she twists the top off an Oreo, she laughs that she'd "better go warn the kids — of what, she doesn't specify, but given her sly chuckle, it can't be good.
If there's anything the Cookie Monster would hate, it's the Kardashian-Jenners' cookie-stacking technique. Beyond the obvious hygienic concerns (who wants someone else's dirty mitts all over their Oreos?) watching them carefully transfer cookies out of the packaging and into a large glass container — and then closing the jar with a lid and placing it out of sight in the pantry — is the ultimate tease. Doubly so if Jenner plans to tell a long, winding story about why cookies have been so instrumental in her family's rise to fame (or whatever). Though he can be aggressive about his love of sweets, Cookie Monster isn't a violent entity, but being forced to sit through an experience like this just might tip him over the edge.
Would it be thrilling to watch Cookie Monster fight a Kardashian? That's an emphatic "yes." But an Oreo-fueled cage match would also chip away at the notion that the characters of Sesame Street represent the best of humanity, despite not actually being human themselves. As the overwhelming reaction to Big Bird's and Elmo's plights makes clear, the Muppets are a beacon of positivity in a world filled with darkness and trauma. In the interest of our collective emotional wellbeing, it's best they stay that way.
Sesame Street is streaming on Max.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.