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HBO's Sesame Street will premiere Jan. 16 with new theme song, new character

And a brand-new set

HBO's five-year partnership with Sesame Workshop will commence this January, when the historic children's educational show will return for its 46th season on Jan. 16, complete with a new set, a new theme sequence and a new character, the companies announced today.

Sesame Workshop and HBO announced their partnership in August. Under their agreement, HBO will receive first-run distribution rights to new episodes of Sesame Street and two other series for nine months after they debut. For those nine months, episodes will be available only on HBO or its streaming services, HBO Go and HBO Now.

Sesame Workshop, for its part, is using the money from the deal to make up for a decade of decreasing DVD sales — they had been a major source of income for the nonprofit, which historically gets less than 10 percent of its funding from its host network, PBS. The cash will allow Sesame Workshop to produce two new shows and switch from 18 hourlong episodes of Sesame Street to 35 half-hour shows for season 46.

It also seems to have given the show the freedom to update its set. A press release sent out today detailed the changes to the eponymous street, which sound like a mixture of visual and technical improvements. For one thing, the HBO deal will allow some characters, like the trash can-dwelling Oscar the Grouch, to appear with more frequency and variation. Per HBO:

  • Elmo has moved into the 123 Sesame Street brownstone, and his bedroom is the cornerstone of the building. Like many preschoolers, Elmo's room has colorful cubbies for his toys and he proudly displays his crayon drawings on his wall.
  • Cookie Monster has moved above Hooper's Store, and as you can imagine, he always smells something baking.
  • Abby finds inspiration in her new garden, which is full of bright and dazzling flowers and plants.
  • Big Bird has a new nest, and like most of his fowl friends, his beautiful new home is in a tree!
  • Oscar's can has been updated and moved to a more central location, so he can add grouchy commentary to any situation. He'll also be popping up in trash cans, recycling bins and composting receptacles across the street!

HBO also announced a new theme sequence based on the show's classic title tune, "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street" (not unusual, as the song and sequence have received periodic updates since the early '90s), and a brand-new character. Suki Lopez will play Nina, "a young, bilingual, Hispanic woman [who] uses her wit, compassion and charisma to help the furry residents of Sesame Street solve their daily dilemmas." The new addition of a Hispanic woman to the cast follows this summer's announcement of Sonia Manzano's retirement from the show, after playing the character of Maria for 44 years.

Season 46 will feature guest and musical appearances from Gwen Stefani, Pharrell, Nick Jonas, Fifth Harmony, Sara Bareilles, Ne-Yo, Aloe Blacc, Tracee Ellis Ross and Gina Rodriguez, along with Alan Cumming as Mucko Polo, the grouch explorer.

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