April 18, 2024
Local News | The Times

Local News

McGrath carrying on after being released from ‘Sesame Street’

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After 45 years at the same address, Bob McGrath is moving on.

Earlier this year, the 84-year-old Ottawa native was released from the cast of “Sesame Street,” the award-winning children’s television show that premiered in 1969.

McGrath and fellow longtime cast members Emilio Delgado and Roscoe Orman received word over the summer they would not be retained as characters for the show’s 46th season.

The news got out about the departures this summer at a Miami comics convention attended by McGrath and Delgado. Word quickly spread through media reports.

"We were never 'fired,' as much of the media reported. I specifically said we were 'let go,' " McGrath said. None of the three will be back on the regular show, but aren't quite leaving the "Sesame Street" universe.

“Life is about change. Very few things are static,” McGrath said in a phone interview from his New Jersey home, from which he is moving the same year he is departing the landmark show of which he is an original cast member.

About six weeks ago, each of the actors met separately with Jeffrey D. Dunn, Sesame Workshop chief executive officer. McGrath said his meeting went well, and that Dunn told McGrath and other members of the original cast they would be part of an upcoming “Sesame Street” celebration.

“He’s a pleasant and very bright person with a lot of experience. He realizes the responsibility of running the show and is serious about it,” McGrath said of Dunn.

McGrath, Delgado, Orman and other cast members will be involved in the planning process of the show's 50th anniversary celebration.

For nearly five decades, McGrath portrayed Bob, a music teacher who lives on Sesame Street. He will miss not being on the show, but is glad to remain a member of the ‘Sesame Street” family.

“It will be nice to know there’s life after Bob,” said McGrath, who has been thrilled to be part of a show he feels has advanced children’s education around the world.

Time on the show for McGrath and the other cast members had decreased in recent years, especially since “Sesame Street” had been reduced from one hour to 30 minutes.

The new “Sesame Street” segments are aired first on the premium TV channel HBO. All those new episodes later are shown on PBS, the show’s home since its 1969 debut. The show’s 47th season will begin next month on HBO.

According to McGrath, there are thousands of new preschool classrooms being opened around the country. Principals and pre-K teachers have been requesting more help on social skills, to especially help 3 1/2-year-old inner city children be able to assimilate with middle- and upper-income kids.

It was necessary to simplify the format of the show to a half-hour segment, as well as reduce the number of cast members and Muppets, he added.

“We used to gear up for kids in kindergarten to second grade,” McGrath explained. “The live portion of the show with cast and Muppets, is roughly the first 10 minutes, and the next 20 minutes dedicated to Muppets, animation and guest stars.”

Born June 13, 1932, to Edmund and Flo McGrath, Bob McGrath in the early years of his life grew up in a farmhouse without electricity. He attended a one-room schoolhouse between Ottawa and Grand Ridge before graduating in 1950 from Marquette High School.

A singer since age 5, McGrath earned a music degree from the University of Michigan and served two years in the U.S. Army before finishing a master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music. He eventually won the role of the featured tenor soloist in the NBC-TV show “Sing Along With Mitch.”

After a tour of Japan with the Mitch Miller group, McGrath was invited back for nine solo tours for three years, recording nine albums and 25 singles. He returned stateside to be closer to his family and look for singing gigs in New York. A chance meeting with a Michigan fraternity brother led him to “Sesame Street."

Being on the show was his job for four and one-half decades. And except for the anniversary celebration, McGrath’s time on the street has ended.

“We (the cast) are all sad that life can’t continue the way it was. However, we are all proud of our wonderful years on the show. Unhappy because it was a wonderful life and it was more than a television show. It was incredibly rewarding,” he said.