The French are getting their own crop of home-grown Muppets. Sesame Workshop has announced plans to create locally-minded versions of Sesame Street that better reflect the culture of its international audiences. The French version is titled 5, rue Sésame.
The only American character that made the French cut is Elmo. The new cast includes Nac, a Big Bird-type; Griotte, a handicapped version of Prarie Dawn; and Yoyo, a Tellyesque fellow. Maria and Gordon have been replaced by Titouan, a retired grandfatherly type, and Juliette, a young student. Mr. Hooper and his store have been replaced by Baya, a character of Arab descent, and her bakery.
According to the New York Times, these changes were necessary to more accurately impart Sesame Street's message to French youngsters. I have to say that I agree with the changes--if I were a little French girl, I would hate having to watch American shows dubbed into French. Maybe that's why I watched virtually no French television while I was there. (It could also be because I didn't have a TV for most of my stay, but I digress.)
What initially sparked the changes was Elmo's demeanor--His 3-year-old persona lacked "sufficient Gallic irony". And it's true--French shows for kids can't be all sugar and spice. They need to have a grounding element that reflects the culture, good or bad. My suggestion would be to put Elmo on two packs a day and see how it goes.